Ukraine War: Pentagon Details Phoenix Ghost Drones Sent to Ukraine

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Pentagon Details Phoenix Ghost Drones Sent to Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will host a group of his counterparts to discuss Ukraine's ongoing defense needs.

During a daily press briefing Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin and his foreign counterparts will meet next week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This "Ukraine Defense Consultative Group" will include countries other than NATO partners.

Part of the agenda will be to discuss Ukraine's long-term defense and security needs in a post-war environment, Kirby said.

Kirby also detailed the new drones the U.S. sent to Ukraine as part of the latest security assistance package.

The Phoenix Ghost drone is comparable to the Switchblade drone, Kirby said, describing it as a "one-way drone" that's " principal focus is attack"

He added that the Phoenix Ghost "closely matches" requirements to fight in the terrain of the Donbas. Kirby said Russia will use long-range artillery in the flat, open region.

Kirby said the development of the drone was done before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and is already in U.S. Air Force stocks.

The Phoenix drones will require some training, similar to the training needed for the Switchblade drones. A small group of Ukrainians began received training on operating Howitzers which are already arriving to the region, Kirby said.

Ukraine Prime Minister Met With U.S. Officials in Washington

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met with several U.S. officials in Washington Thursday.

Before President Biden gave an update on new U.S. support to Ukraine in the morning, he met with Shmyhal to preview the new security and economic assistance packages.

The leaders discussed recent developments in Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and President Biden conveyed the continued commitment of the United States to support the people of Ukraine and to impose costs on Russia, according to a readout from the White House.

Shmyhal said he was "grateful for this friendly move."

Shmyhal also discussed the new assistance packages and new sanctions against Russia with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

"I shared with [Shmyhal] our continued, firm stance alongside Ukraine as they defend their lives and their country," Yellen said. "I am committed to working with our partners and allies to support Ukraine's economic needs."

Shmyhal met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of Congress

"On behalf of the Congress, I expressed our immense admiration and respect for the courage of the Ukrainian people as they defend democracy in the face of Russia's cruel aggression," Pelosi said.

During a press conference with Shmyhal, Pelosi said what Russia is doing in Ukraine is "outside the circle of civilized human behavior."

Shmyhal said Ukraine feels the "great support" from the United States

Finally, Shmyhal met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.

"There is no doubt that we will win this fight," Shmyhal said at the. "But to end it sooner, more powerful and modern weapons are needed."

Austin said the world is inspired by the courage of Ukraine and its continued fight for independence and democracy.

 Lloyd Austin and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (R) and Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal stand for their national anthems during a honor cordon at the Pentagon on April 21, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. Shmyhal is meeting with Austin to discuss military aid as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Ukraine is Ready to Use Weapons if Diplomacy Fails in Mariupol

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants to liberate civilians in Mariupol diplomatically but is ready to take military means.

"There is a diplomatic way and a military way," he said during a press conference Thursday.

Zelensky said people can be liberated more quickly through diplomacy. He noted that Ukraine tried to take a diplomatic path during negotiations with Russia, but that has not happened yet.

"We have offered all options to Russia," he said. "We are waiting for a response."

Zelensky said the military path requires weapons, which Ukraine needs from partners and allies.

"We really want to save lives, to this end we need this equipment, which is lacking," he said.

He added that he is aware Russia has captured most of Mariupol, but said a group of Ukraine forces remain stationed in the city.

"It's hard to say how it's possible to negotiate with people who don't care [for the people trapped in the Azovstal steel plant]," Zelensky said.

Four Evacuation Buses Were Able to Leave Mariupol, Official Says

Civilians were able to evacuate Mariupol for the first time Thursday, according to a regional official.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk regional military administrator, said in a Telegram post that four buses managed to carry 79 residents out of the city to Zaproizhzhia "in an organized manner."

After several attempts to open evacuation corridors, Kyrylenko said "this is the first time since the beginning of the blockade of Mariupol by the Russian occupation forces, we managed to evacuate local residents in an organized manner and take them to safety."

"It is much less than agreed, but we still rejoice in every life saved," he said."

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said earlier on Thursday that more than 100,000 residents remained trapped in Mariupol as hundreds waited for evacuation buses.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said efforts would resume Thursday to evacuate women, children and the elderly.

Evacuation buses were scheduled to arrive on Shevchenko Boulevard near the Port City shopping center at 2 p.m. She said about 1,000 civilians and 500 injured military members need to evacuate from the steel plant. Evacuees were reportedly given an order to which they will board buses.

"Women with children first, then women without children then elderly," Boichenko said via translation. "They lined up already, waiting for evacuation, but there are still no coaches as of 3:05 [p.m.]. Unfortunately, we don't see any coaches in the location we identified."

Some 100,000 Mariupol residents have been evacuated from the besieged city since Russia began its invasion nearly two months ago, Boichenko said.

Earlier this week, humanitarian corridors were unable to open for three days straight, from Mariupol and other locations. Yesterday, four evacuation buses were able to leave Mariupol, but those efforts also did not "go as planned."

Over 5,200 Civilian Casualties, Most Caused by Explosive Weapons

The United Nations has recorded more than 5,200 civilian casualties in Ukraine, warning actual figures are "considerably higher."

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports at least 2,345 civilians have been killed and 2,919 injured.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," OHCHR said.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office reports more than 584 child casualties, as of Thursday. Juvenile prosecutors have recorded 208 child deaths and 376 injuries of "varying severity."

Both agencies continue to preface reports by stating numbers are not final, and do not include full reports from areas of "active hostilities." Those areas include Mariupol and Izium where numerous civilian casualties are suspected.

Kramatorsk residents board windows
Local residents cover windows with wooden boards to protect them from Russian shelling in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 21, 2022. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Another Russian Gas Oligarch, Family Found Dead

An investigation is underway after a Russian gas oligarch and his family were found dead inside their Spanish mansion earlier this week.

Sergey Protosenya, his wife and daughter were found Tuesday afternoon at their home in Lloret de Mar, located in Spain's Catalonia region, Spanish news website El Punt Avui reported.

The mother and daughter had stab wounds and Protosenya reportedly hanged himself, the outlet said. Officials were alerted to the oligarch's home after Protosenya's son was unable to reach the family, El Punt Avui said. Outlets report their daughter just turned 18, both parents are in their 50s. Protosenya was estimated to be worth $440 million, according to El Punt Avui.

There are many questions surrounding the discovery, including if the deaths were an organized hit or possible murder-suicide.

Sergey Protosenya
Sergey Protosenya, 55, who was found dead on Tuesday, along with his wife Natalya, 53, and their 18-year-old daughter. Facebook

Another Russian gas oligarch and his family were found dead in Moscow, just one day earlier. Monday, 51-year-old Vladislav Avayev, Vice President of Gazprombank, was found dead in his luxury Moscow apartment. The bodies of his wife and 13-year-old daughter were also found. Police said Avayev's 26-year-old daughter made the gruesome discovery on Monday. All three had gunshot wounds and police are investigating if the case is a murder-suicide.

Spain, Demark Pledge More Weapons to Ukraine

The Prime Ministers of Spain and Demark met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv Thursday.

The leaders discussed the military needs of Ukraine, financial support for reconstruction, increased pressure on Russian and the future of Ukraine's membership in the European Union.

"Ukraine, we believe, deserves faster accession to the EU," Zelensky said during a joint press conference. "We really count on your support. We consider ourselves equal, not better than you, but definitely equal. And we really want to be in alliance with partners and friends who are here today and who help us."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez shared Spain's support to Ukraine.

"We support, Mr. President, your intention to join the European family," he said. "You have the right to choose your destiny and you have a very legitimate reason to do so by joining the common European home."

Zelensky also stressed the importance of weapons.

"The issue of weaponry is the most important. Yes, we also talked about finances that can support our pensioners, about social support where partners can help us," he said. "But without weapons there will be nothing: no economy, no pensions, no salaries. Because there will be no one to protect."

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark will provide more humanitarian aid and will more than double the amount of aid to Ukraine for weapons.

She said Demark will donate an additional 600 million kroner, about $87 million, to Ukraine, bringing the total Danish military contribution is now 1 billion kroner.

Spain will also continue to send support Ukraine, including a new cargo shipment of 200 tons of ammunition and other material, Sánchez said.

Before meeting with President Zelensky, the leaders also toured the streets of Borodyanka where they witnessed "atrocities" first-hand.

"Shocked to witness the horror and atrocities of Putin's war on the streets of Borodyanka," Sánchez said. "We will not leave the Ukrainian people alone."

Both Sánchez and Frederiksen pledged to support the International Criminal Court's investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine to hold those responsible accountable.

"We want Putin to bear responsibility for his crimes, for the crimes of his country. We will help Ukraine, the Ukrainian people until we achieve our goal; freedom and peace for Ukraine," Sánchez said.

Zelensky Met With Foreign Leaders
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (R) listen as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) delivers a speech during their press conference in Kyiv on April 21, 2022. GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Residents Can Apply to Sponsor Displaced Ukrainians

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shared the requirements for Ukrainians to be part of the new program to streamline migration to the United States.

In order to be eligible for the Uniting for Ukraine program, Ukrainians must:

  • have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022
  • have a sponsor in the United States
  • have complete vaccinations and other public health requirement
  • pass "rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks"

Once approved for this visa, Ukrainians will be authorized to travel to the United States and will be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for up to two years, the DHS said. After that, Ukrainians will be eligible for work authorizations.

"The Ukrainian people continue to suffer immense tragedy and loss as a result of Putin's unprovoked and unjustified attack on their country," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "DHS will continue to provide relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have shouldered so much as the result of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine."

U.S. residents can apply to sponsor displaced Ukrainian citizens through this program starting Monday, April 25, 2022.

Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants, DPH said. Sponsors will be required to declare their financial support and pass security background security and health checks "to protect against exploitation and abuse."

The U.S. "strongly encourages" Ukrainians seeking refuge in the U.S. who are do not have visa to seek entry through Uniting for Ukraine from Europe.

"This will be the safest and most efficient way to pursue temporary refuge in the United States," DHP said.

Ukrainians should not travel to Mexico to pursue entry into the United States. After the launch of the Uniting for Ukraine program, DPH said Ukrainians at land ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through the program will be denied entry.

The U.S. is also announcing new measures to expand access to existing legal pathways for Ukrainian citizens, including an expansion of U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) operations in Europe to resettle Ukrainians.

Azovstal Situation Is 'Desperate,' as Hundreds Remain Trapped

Ukrainian officials call the situation in giant steel plant Azovstal, the last stronghold in Mariupol, "desperate," as hundreds remain trapped inside.

"Hundreds of civilians, children, injured Ukrainian defenders are trapped in plantʼs shelters," Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya said Thursday. "They have almost no food, water, essential medicine. Azovstal is being constantly bombarded by Russia, despite large number of civilians sheltering there. Ukrainians donʼt trust Russian troops, are afraid of being deported, killed. Russia ruined Mariupol. The invaders killed and tortured thousands of civilians."

Steel plant
UKR Mission to UN/Twitter

The city of Mariupol is devastated following several weeks of heavy bombardment. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said nearly every building in the besieged city is destroyed. Efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate civilians have been repeatedly blocked or otherwise compromised by Russian troops.

Thursday, President Joe Biden pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims of victory in Mariupol.

"There is no evidence, yet that Mariupol is completely fallen," Biden said Thursday, as he announced hundreds of millions of dollars in additional security and economic assistance to Ukraine. He called for humanitarian corridors from Azovstal to allow safe evacuations.

The United Nations also called for a four-day "pause" beginning today through Sunday to open humanitarian corridors to the hardest-hit areas, including Mariupol.

Over 7.7 Million Internally Displaced in Ukraine

More than 7.7 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, in less than two months of Russia's invasion, International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Thursday.

The figure represents about 17% of Ukraine's population, or one-in-six people.

More than 60% of those displaced are women. More than half overall reported a lack of food to the IOM, mostly in eastern Ukraine. Cash, financial support and medicine are among the most pressing needs for those forced to flee their homes.

"Women and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected as they all represent a highly vulnerable group of people," IOM Director General António Vitorino said. "Our work in support of those forced to flee their homes and all vulnerable populations affected by the war continues, but a humanitarian ceasefire is crucial to allow for aid delivery and access to hard-to-reach communities."

IOM staff
IOM staff conducting a monitoring visit to Irpin and Hostomel to understand the needs of those affected by the war. Viktoriia Zhabokrytska/IOM

As of Thursday, more than 5 million others have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries, according to U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. The vast majority, over 2.8 million, have entered Poland.

Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski said the number of Ukrainian refugees entering Poland is "much smaller" now than the beginning of Russia's invasion. However, he said preparations must be made for any potential new waves of refugees in light of the situation in eastern Ukraine.

"One thing remains unchanged, we still do not have system solutions, for which we have been calling for two months," Trzaskowski said Thursday, via translation. "Poland received €559 million in advance payments from the EU-React fund to help refugees from Ukraine. However, we still have no information from the government on how they will be shared. And time is running out.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  1. Poland: 2.8 million
  2. Romania: 763,769
  3. Russia: 563,266
  4. Hungary: 476,213
  5. Moldova: 428,577
  6. Slovakia: 346,175
  7. Belarus: 23,900

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 4/20

Refugees in Romania
Children who fled the war from neighboring Ukraine paint Easter eggs next to an entertainer dressed in a rabbit costume during an event for Ukrainian refugee children on Maundy Thursday in a center for refugees in Bucharest, Romania on April 21, 2022. Andreea Alexandru/AP Photo

Humanitarian Corridor 'Urgently' Needed From Azovstal

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister is demanding an "urgent" humanitarian corridor from Azovstal Thursday, a giant steel plant in Mariupol where hundreds are injured.

"There are about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded military," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. "They all need to be pulled out of Azovstal today!"

"I urge world leaders and the international community to focus now their efforts exactly on Azovstal. Now this is a key point and a key moment for humanitarian efforts!!!"

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly canceled an attack on the plant Thursday to avoid losing more of his troops, according to the Associated Press. The last remaining Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol are in the plant along with hundreds of civilians who were sheltering inside. As he claimed victory of Mariupol, Putin ordered his troops to seal off the plant "so that not even a fly comes through," AP reported.

Azovstal map
AP Photo

Humanitarian corridors planned from Mariupol did not go "as planned" Wednesday, as Russia was unable to ensure a "proper" ceasefire, Vereshchuk said. Four evacuation buses did leave Mariupol Wednesday. The group stayed in Berdiansk and are headed to Zaporizhzhia. The amount of people evacuated on this group of buses was not immediately specified.

Another effort is underway Thursday afternoon in Mariupol to evacuate women, children and the elderly. Vereshchuk said the "security situation is difficult."

A humanitarian corridor will also be attempted Thursday from three villages in the Kherson region.

Mariupol map
AP Photo

Biden Calls Battle of Kyiv a 'Historic Victory' for Ukraine

During his remarks on the situation in Ukraine Thursday, President Biden said the new security assistance will go "directly to the front line of freedom" in Ukraine.

He added that he is amazed at the courage and resolve of the Ukrainian military and average citizens who continue to defend their country.

Biden also thanked the journalists on the ground in Ukraine, saying "we owe them."

While he does not know how long this war will last, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to fail to achieve his grand ambition on the battlefield.

Biden called the battle of Kyiv during the first phase of the war a "historic victory" for Ukraine.

"After weeks of shelling Kyiv, Kyiv still stands," Biden said. "President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and his democratically-elected government still remain in power and the Ukraine armed forces have thwarted Russia's conquest of its country."

When asked about the state of the besieged city of Mariupol, Biden said it is "questionable" if Russian forces now control the city. He said there is "no evidence" the southern port city has completely fallen.

This comes after reports from Russian officials that they have taken control, amid continued Russian bombardment and a lack of humanitarian corridors in the city.

Biden called on Putin to allow humanitarian aide to enter the city and to allow civilians to evacuate.

"That's what any head of state would do in any circumstance," he said.

Biden also added that the unity among the U.S. and its NATO and European partners and allies remains strong.

"We will not lessen our resolve," he said. "We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny."

Biden Bans Russian-linked Ships From U.S. Ports

The U.S. will ban Russian-affiliated ships from its ports amid its renewed aggression in eastern Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

"That means no ship, no ship, that sails under the Russian flag or that is owned or operated by a Russian interest will be allowed to dock in a United States port or access our shores," Biden said. "None."

Biden called the ban another "critical" step taken in concert with U.S. partners to "deny Russia the benefits of international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past."

A similar ban is already in place in Europe.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Biden Announces Program to Streamline Ukraine Migration to U.S.

President Biden announced a new program to help streamline the process for Ukrainians seeking to enter the United States.

"Today, I'm announcing a program, 'Unite for Ukraine,' a new program to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States," he said.

This humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, Biden added, including immigrant visas and refugee processing.

The program will provide "an expedient channel for secure, legal migration" from Europe to the United States, bypassing the southern U.S. border, for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor, such as a family or an NGO.

"This program will be fast, it will be streamlined, and it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to the people of Ukraine," Biden said.

Last month, Biden announced the U.S. would welcome 100,000 Ukrainians to "share in the responsibility" of supporting Ukrainians fleeing the war. He said Thursday that the U.S. has already welcomed "tens of thousands" of Ukrainians.

Biden Announces 500M in Economic Assistance

In addition to more military assistance, President Joe Biden also announced another economic assistance package for Ukraine Thursday.

Biden said the U.S. will provide an additional $500 million in direct assistance to the Ukrainian government, bringing the total amount of economic assistance to Ukraine to more than $1 billion over the past two months.

The funding will help the Ukrainian government stabilize its economy, support communities that have been "devastated by the Russian onslaught" and pay "brave" workers who continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine, Biden said.

Amid the ongoing efforts to support Ukraine, Biden said he has almost exhausted the drawdown authority from Congress.

"Next week, I'm going to have to be sending to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption," Biden said.

U.S. Announces Another $800M in Security Assistance

President Joe Biden announced another $800 million dollars in security assistance for Ukraine Thursday, as Russia begins its new offensive in the Donbas region.

This package will include heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers along with 144,000 rounds of ammunition and more tactical drones. This package was "tailored" to support intensified fighting in the Donbas region, Biden said. The fight in the Donbas is different topographically, the terrain is flat, not in the mountains, and requires different weapons to be more effective.

"We're in a critical window now of time where they're gonna set the stage for the next phase of this war," Biden said.

Thursday's announcement follows another $800 million dollars in security assistance Biden announced just last week.

"We're not sitting on the funding that Congress has provided for Ukraine, we're sending it directly to the front lines of freedom," Biden said.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Biden to Provide Update on War in Ukraine

President Biden is set to provide an update on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Biden is expected to announce a new security assistance package similar in since to the previous $800 million package announced last week.

The president is also expected to outline a new program for streamlining Ukrainian refugees seeking to come to the United States.

The remarks will begin soon and will stream live on the White House website and YouTube channel.