Ukraine War: Mariupol Evacuation Efforts Fail, Russia Unable to Ensure Ceasefire

Live Updates
  • The war in Ukraine has entered a new phase as Russia focuses its new offense in the eastern Donbas region.
  • As Russian shelling and airstrikes continues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insists that the Kremlin will not use nuclear weapons.
  • The mayor of Mariupol is urging residents to evacuate as conditions worsen. He said the besieged southern city is facing its "last days" as Russian forces continue to encircle Ukraine forces.
  • President Joe Biden is expected to announce new security assistance package for Ukraine in the coming days.
  • More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine, the United Nations estimates.
Moshchun aeriel
This aerial view shows a destroyed residential area in the village of Moshchun, northwest of Kyiv, on April 20, 2022, as more than five million Ukrainians have now fled their country following the Russian invasion, the United Nations says. GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

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Mariupol Evacuation Efforts Fail, Russia Unable to Ensure Ceasefire

Efforts to open a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol "did not work as planned" Wednesday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Due to the lack of control over their own military at the place, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire," Vereshchuk explained. "Also due to own un-organization and negligence, the occupiers could not provide timely transport of people to the point where dozens of our buses and ambulances were waiting."

Efforts to reopen evacuation routes from the besieged city will continue Thursday. Wednesday marks the fourth day of failed attempts to open humanitarian corridors in several locations. Previous efforts were thwarted as Russian forces attacked and blocked routes along with failed negotiations, Vereshchuk said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Russia to unblock the city Wednesday, saying the situation is "deteriorating."

"Ukraine is ready to resolve the issue of unblocking Mariupol and evacuating civilians through diplomacy, but Russia has not yet shown readiness to take such a step," Zelensky said Wednesday, adding that hundreds of soldiers are wounded.

Zelensky addressed the dire situation following talks with the President of the European Council Charles Michel in Kyiv. Zelensky said Ukraine is "constantly" offering Russia options to organize humanitarian corridors.

"Tens of thousands of civilians were evacuated from Mariupol thanks to this work," Zelensky said. "Unfortunately, several thousand people believed the Russian occupiers and went to the occupied parts of our state, as well as to the Russian Federation. And we do not know the fate of these thousands of peaceful people."

Zelensky said there are two ways to unblock the city-- through diplomacy or providing heavy weaponry to the Ukrainian military in Mariupol. Diplomatic efforts have failed, he said, as Russia continues "to play." Zelensky said he is ready for any format of exchange.

"And whether I like it or not, in the course of the remaining three years that the people have given me, I am ready to hold a dialogue with the President of Russia on the end of the war," Zelensky said.

Zelensky, Michel meeting
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Council Charles Michel meet in Kyiv on April 20 2022. President of Ukraine website

Situation Remains 'Difficult' Around Chernobyl

After more than one month, direct communication has been restored between the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and national regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tuesday. However, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said the situation in the area remains "difficult."

Destroyed bridges and demining activities in the area are creating difficult conditions, Ukraine told the IAEA Wednesday. The national regulator has additionally not had an opportunity to inspect the facility, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Russian forces took control of the site on the first day of the invasion, February 24, and held it for five weeks. Ukraine said it lost communication with Chernobyl on March 10, it was restored April 19.

Rotating staff members has been an ongoing issue at the site since the invasion began, first as Russia seized the plant. Once those staff members were finally able to rotate, issues continued for the next group in late March due to shelling in nearby Slavutych, where many staff members live. As of Wednesday, staff members were able to rotate for the first time in three weeks.

"Since Russian forces withdrew from Chernobyl on 31 March after five weeks, Ukraine has taken significant steps for the safe and secure operation of the site of the 1986 accident, carrying out the first rotation of staff in three weeks by boat from the nearby city of Slavutych and earlier this week re-establishing direct communications between the [Chernobyl] NPP and the regulator that had been down for more than a month," Grossi said.

However, Grossi said "much work remains" to restore normal operations on site. He and a team of IAEA experts plan to visit the site later this month to conduct assessments, including radiological, and deliver vital equipment.

Chernobyl NPP engineer
Valerii Semenov, main security engineer at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, poses for a photo in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 18, 2022. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

Russian Cyber Attacks on Ukraine Tripled in 2022, Ukraine Says

Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine have tripled in 2022, according to a Ukrainian official.

Since the war in Ukraine began, however, Russia's cyberattacks have diminished in complexity as Ukraine's cyber response has forced Russia on the defense, Foreign Policy's Jack Detsch reported.

Yurii Shchyol, head of Ukraine's State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection, said Russia is "mainly spending all time on their defense."

"As it turns out, its system's vulnerabilities are known to exist," he said.

Shchyol added that Russian cyber attacks target media outlets, energy, and logistics, as well as launching spam campaigns to steal Ukrainian information.

"In cyberspace, they are targeting the same purposes as their wretched warrior marauders – to inflict as much damage on the state," he said, noting the Kremlin wants to hit civilian infrastructure.

Wimbledon Bans Players From Russia and Belarus

Wimbledon will not allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in this year's tournament amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, organizers announced Wednesday.

"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," the All England Club said. "It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

The club made the decision after "carefully" considering alternative measures.

"But, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships," All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt said.

"We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime."

The ATP called the ban "unfair," with the "potential to set a damaging precedent for the game."

"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings," ATP said Wednesday. "It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis."

If the situation changes "materially" before June, the All England Club said it would "reconsider" and "respond accordingly." The Championships are scheduled to begin June 27.

Wimbledon
Russia's Daniil Medvedev plays a return to Spain's Carlos Alcaraz during the men's singles second round match on day four of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on July 1, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo

Russia Notified U.S. Before Missile Test Launch

Russia launched an intercontinental ballistic missile test Wednesday, according to the Russia Defense Ministry.

The Sarmat missile landed in the target area at Kura training ground on Kamchatka Peninsula in the eastern part of Russia.

Russia said this new missile is capable of hitting targets at long ranges using a variety of flight trajectories and has unique characteristics that allow it to overcome any existing and promising anti-missile defense systems.

"The Sarmat is the most powerful missile with the world's longest distance to hit targets, which will significantly enhance the combat power of our country's strategic nuclear forces," Russia said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the test and congratulated the military on the successful launch. He said this test would make Russia's enemies "think twice."

Russia provided advanced notice of the test to the United States, in accordance with its New START treaty obligations, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Wednesday.

The Pentagon characterized the test as "routine" and not a threat to the United States or its allies.

"The timing and the scope of Russia's missile tests do not influence our approach to countering Russia's further invasion of Ukraine," Psaki added.

This test comes after the U.S. canceled its own ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) test in April.

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Russia Builds Military Presence on Eastern Border

Russia continues to build its military presence on Ukraine's eastern border amid a new focused offensive in the Donbas, according to the latest British intelligence.

"While fighting in the Donbas is intensifying as Russian forces seek to break through Ukrainian Defences," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Wednesday. "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."

The ministry's Wednesday intelligence update says Russian air activity will likely remain low in northern Ukraine, following troop withdrawal from Kyiv. The Pentagon said those troops moved into Belarus and Russia in late March to refit and resupply. They would then redeploy for the next phase of Russia's war, concentrating on eastern and southern Ukraine. British intelligence warns of a risk of "precision strikes against priority targets" throughout Ukraine.

Tuesday, the ministry said Ukrainians repelled "numerous attempted advances" by Russian forces along the line of control in the Donbas. Russia intensified its attacks in the area Tuesday, with shelling and strikes.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence shows areas in eastern and southern Ukraine under Russian control and the locations still contested, including Mariupol. It depicts five likely axis of advance into eastern Ukraine and three into southern Ukraine. Two of those point to Mariupol and Berdiansk.

UK Ministry of Defence map
UK Ministry of Defence/Twitter
Kramatorsk bombing
An injured man walks in the debris of a factory following a Russian bombing in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, on April 19, 2022. Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo

U.S. Announces New Sanctions Against Russia

The U.S. has announced the newest set of sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

This round of sanctions will target "a global network of more than 40 individuals and entities led by U.S.-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev."

The "malign" influence network is accused of evading global sanctions and said Malofeyev is responsible for or complicit in actions that "threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine."

The U.S. Treasury Department is also targeting companies operating in Russia's virtual currency mining industry. This is the first time the department has "designated a virtual currency mining company."

"Treasury can and will target those who evade, attempt to evade, or aid the evasion of U.S. sanctions against Russia, as they are helping support Putin's brutal war of choice," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement.

He added that the U.S. will work to ensure sanctions it imposed "degrade the Kremlin's ability to project power and fund its invasion."

The U.S. is also imposing visa restrictions on 635 Russian nationals who are "involved in suppressing dissent in Russia and abroad, who have been involved in activities that threaten the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and who have been involved in human rights abuses in prison facilities and places of unofficial detention in Russia-controlled areas of the Donbas region of Ukraine."

Three Russian officials will also face visa restrictions for "involvement in gross violations of human rights, and on 17 individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus."

EU to Consider Ukraine Membership by June, Official Says

European Council President Charles Michel said he witnessed war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Borodyanka "with his own eyes."

"There are no words to explain what I feel," he said during a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "These are atrocities, these are war crimes."

"It must be punished. It will be punished," he added. "They must pay for what they have done there any in many other cities in Ukraine," including Mariupol and cities in the Donbas.

Michel said the EU will continue to provide humanitarian support and ensure "justice will prevail" to hold those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine accountable.

"There is no peace without justice," he said.

He said the EU is determined to do everything it can to support Ukraine because "we want the victory of Ukraine."

Michel said the Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund established by the EU weeks ago will launch on May 5 and said the EU will work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to provide necessary funds to Ukraine.

Besides economic support to fund its defense and rebuild its country, Michel promised to continue military support to Ukraine.

The EU will provide an addition 1.5 billion Euros of military equipment to Ukraine, Michel said.

In terms of political support, Michel said he feels "strong support" for Ukraine's request to join the EU.

"You don't fight only for the future of Ukraine children, you fight for the European fundamental principles and values," he said.

He said the EC began considering Ukraine's request for EU membership immediately, a process that usually takes eight months. The Commission will consider Ukraine's application by June, Michel added.

Michel also promised to put maximum pressure on Russia and thanked Zelensky for his impressive personal leadership amid this conflict.

Charles Michel and Volodymyr Zelensky
President of the European Council Charles Michel (L) gestures past Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference following their talks in Kyiv on April 20, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Russia Plans to Force Mobilization in Occupied Areas, Ukraine Says

Russia is planning the "compulsive mobilization" in Zaporizhzhya and Kherson, according to Ukrainian intelligence.

The main department of intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Russia will announced the forced mobilizations of residents in the occupied territories into the most dangerous areas of the fight after holding pseudo-referendums.

"The Russian Federation plans to throw 'mobilized' Ukrainians to the hottest areas of the front on the assault position of the Armed Forces under the control of barriers," the department said in a Telegram post. "In fact, this is an attempt to destroy Ukraine with the hands of Ukrainians themselves."

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Ukraine officials said the main goals of Russia's so-called "special operation" included the destruction of the Ukrainian ethnos and conduct propaganda measures on the Russian population and advance the "myth" of liberation from Nazis and nationalists in Ukraine.

"This is another felony of the Putin regime against Ukraine and the proof of genocide, which is conducted against the Ukrainian nation," the post said.

U.N. Secretary-General Asks to Meet With Putin, Zelensky

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has requested to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, separately, to discuss "urgent" steps to end the war and bring peace to Ukraine.

Guterres asked Putin to receive him in Moscow and Zelensky to receive him in Kyiv, the U.N. said. The request was made in separate letters, delivered to the Permanent Missions of the Russian Federation and Ukraine Tuesday afternoon.

"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," Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.

"He noted that both Ukraine and the Russian Federation are founding members of the United Nations and have always been strong supporters of this Organization."

Ukraine Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya shared a photo of the letter, saying the Russian Federation is not a founding U.N. member.

"Ooops! What a blooper!" Kyslytsya said. "Let it be remembered: Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic that maintained its MFA in 1945, nor RF was present in San Francisco or signed Charter. If Dujarric's office shows a RSFSR signature in SF I call it forgery. RF is not a founding member!"

No Heat, Water in Parts of Luhansk Until War Ends

Electricity, gas and water will not be restored in parts of Ukraine's Luhansk region until the war ends, the region's governor said Wednesday.

Light, gas and water cannot be restored in areas including Popasna and Rubizhne as the infrastructure is nearly destroyed, according to Luhansk Regional Military Administrator Serhiy Haidai.

"Do not repair until the end of hostilities," Haidai said Wednesday. "The Russians are destroying substations and pumping stations, seizing settlements, and then they can't repair anything there."

"'Russian Peace' deprives locals of gas, water and light," he said. "They live these months and a half, like most Russians all their lives. So, yesterday the enemy damaged a high-voltage line with a voltage of 300 kV. The accident is quite serious, the light disappeared in more than 200 settlements, temporarily occupied."

Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for a four-day pause in fighting, to coincide with Holy Week, to allow humanitarian corridors in Ukraine. Along with evacuating civilians, the pause would allow teams to deliver humanitarian aid to areas in desperate need, including Luhansk. Guterres said the U.N. has submitted plans and is ready to send humanitarian aid convoy during the period, from Thursday to Sunday.

Lysychansk blast
This photograph taken in Lysychansk in the Luhansk region on April 13, 2022 shows a shell crater next to a multi-story building. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

Zelensky Says EU Sanctions are 'Empty' Without Energy Embargo

Zelensky called on European countries to ensure "strengthen to the maximum" the pressure on Russia amid the ongoing invasion in Ukraine.

During a joint news conference with European Council President Charles Michel, Zelensky said the EU must do everything it can to "deprive Russia of any funding for this war."

"Russia is not stopping in its blood-thirsty wish to destroy Ukraine," he said, as Russia begins its new offence in the Donbas region.

Zelensky Meets with EC President
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference following his talks with President of the European Council in Kyiv on April 20, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

As the EU prepares to issue a sixth sanctions package against the Kremlin, Zelensky said he hopes it will include a "complete energy embargo."

He said a ban on Russian oil should be a part of the package, or else this round of sanctions will be "empty" and "not powerful enough" to stop Russia from funding its war.

Zelensky also called for all Russian banks to be disconnected from SWIFT and blockage of all business with Russian companies and officials. That money, he said, should be instead put into the reconstruction of Ukraine.

"Every Russian official and their families should feel the actions of sanctions and the consequence of their support for the war on Ukraine," he said.

Zelensky also called for reconstruction efforts in Ukraine to start immediately, not at the end of the war.

"People are living in Ukraine now and need to use this infrastructure today," he said.

He added that "difficult challenges require immediate action without delay."

Zelensky thanked Michel for a "meaningful" meeting in Kyiv and for the EU's solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Over 5,000 Civilian Casualties, Including 578 Children

The United Nations estimates more than 2,220 civilians have been killed in the first two months of Russia's invasion, but warns the actual number is "considerably higher."

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 5,121 civilian casualties, including 2,224 deaths and 2,897 injuries.

"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.

"OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration," the agency continues to warn. Numerous casualties are suspected in areas including Mariupol, Izium, Popasna and Borodianka.

As of Wednesday, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office reports more than 578 child casualties. At least 205 children have been killed and 373 wounded.

Bucha
Vova, 10, and his father, Ivan Drahun, look at the grave of his mother, Maryna, during her funeral in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on , April 20, 202. Vova's mother died while they sheltered in a cold basement for more than a month during the Russian military's occupation. Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo

Biden Blames Putin for 70 Percent Inflation Hike

President Joe Biden continues to blame high gas prices and inflation in the U.S. on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a speech at the New Hampshire Port Authority Tuesday, Biden said Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas and food prices around the world.

"Last month, about 70 percent of the increase in inflation was a consequence of Putin's price hike because of the impact on gas and energy prices," Biden said.

Biden promised to do everything he can to bring down prices, including the authorization of the release from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve.

He added that he was able to get other countries to agree to release petroleum from their oil reserves as well.

"We worked with the U.S. oil producers to ramp up the production and we coordinated this release with partners and allies around the world," Biden said. "And shortly after I made the announcement, another 30 countries agreed to 60 million additional barrels a day on the market."

Biden said there is now 240 million barrels available per day for the next six months, calling it "the largest collective reserve release in history."

"Nations coming together to help deny Putin the ability to weaponize his energy resources against American families and families in Europe and around the world," he said.

While his administration is taking steps to reduce prices and inflation, Biden admitted that the ongoing war in Ukraine "is going to continue to take its toll on the world economy."

"It's going to take its toll on energy, and it's going to take its toll relative to food," he said, adding that Ukraine and Russia are two major breadbaskets of wheat in the world.

Humanitarian Corridor to Open in Mariupol Wednesday

After three straight days of no humanitarian corridors, an evacuation route will open Wednesday in Mariupol, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today," Vereshchuk said.

The corridor will open for women, children and the elderly Wednesday afternoon. The column is planned to leave Mariupol, travel through Berdiansk and arrive in Zaporizhzhia.

"Given the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor action," she said. "We will put our best effort to make everything work as it should."

Corridors were not opened earlier this week as Russian forces continued to attack and block routes and negotiations failed, Vereshchuk said. Monday, she appealed to Russian leadership to open a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol as an estimated 100,000 remain in the besieged city. Russia has said seizing Mariupol is one of its goals, to secure a land bridge between Crimea and the Donbas.

Mariupol steel plant
A view of destroyed during a heavy fighting part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, the second largest metallurgical enterprise in Ukraine, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine on April 16, 2022. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo
Mariupol
Servicemen of Donetsk People's Republic militia walk past damaged vehicles during a heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine on April 19, 2022. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo

Mariupol is 'Facing Our Last Days,' Mayor Says

The besieged southern city of Mariupol made what may be its final appeal to foreign allies for support as Russian forces continue to encircle the city.

"This is our appeal to the world. This could be the last appeal of our lives," Mariupol Major Serhiy Volyna, the commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, said in a video address posted to Facebook Wednesday. "We are probably facing our last days, if not hours."

Volyna said Russian forces are outnumbering Ukraine 10 to one, as Russia has the advantage in the air and with artillery on the ground.

"We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us," he said, asking to procure an "extraction" to the territory of a third-party state.

Ukraine continues to defend the city and the thousands of civilians that remain, include those in the Azovstal steel plant. Volyna said there are about 500 wounded troops and hundreds of other civilians at the plants.

"We will not lay down our weapons," he said.

Volyna made a last-ditch effort for weapons and aid days ago, claiming Russian did not hold up its part of agreements to ensure safe corridors for civilians to evacuate the city.