Ukraine War Day 55: Russia Strikes Fiercely Again in Donbas, Mariupol Areas

Live Updates
  • A Ukrainian marine commander said his brigade was facing its "last days, if not hours," defending the strategically significant city of Mariupol. A European official expressed fear over possible civilian casualties in the city that's expected to fall to Russian forces.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia wants to "literally finish off and destroy Donbas" as well cities in the Donestsk and Luhansk regions and in the southern city of Mariupol.
  • Residents in the Luhanks region were told to evacuate as the town of Kreminna was "lost" to the Russians. Residents of Mykolaiv were put on alert. Deadly Russian airstrikes also hit the western city of Lviv, killing at least seven people Monday.
  • Despite earlier setbacks, the Pentagon says Russia still has "a lot of combat capability" as it launches new offensives.
Ukraine School Blast
A heavily damaged playground is seen outside of a kindergarten that was bombed during the Russian invasion west of Kyiv on April 19, 2022 in Makariv, Ukraine. Neighbors said a single bomb struck the Barvinok kindergarten at 5am on March 7 as Russian forces attacked the town, destroying much of the structure. No one was reported killed in the blast. Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Marine in Mariupol Pleads to the World for Help

A Ukrainian Marine commander posted a dire plea to Facebook saying he and his brigade were facing their "last days, if not hours."

Serhiy Volyna, of Ukraine's 36th Separate Marine Brigade, posted a video from Mariupol, an embattled city in the southern of the country that Russian forces have prioritized capturing.

"The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one," Volyna said in the video from the Azovstal factory, which he said was sheltering civilians.

He described how Ukrainian defense forces holding the strategically important city are outgunned by the Russian military, which he said has air, artillery and tanks.

"We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us," he said. "We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state."

The post tagged President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ukraine to Receive 100 Intelligence-Gathering Drones

A U.S. defense company said it will donate more than 100 of its unmanned aircraft systems to Ukraine's military to help fight against Russian forces.

AeroVironment, an Arlington, Virginia-based company, will provide Ukraine with its Quantix Recon unmanned aircraft systems that are designed to remotely capture video of territory or enemy locations. The aircrafts can fly undetected by enemy forces and are unaffected by radio frequency jammers, the company said in a statement.

While the U.S. and other western powers have provided Ukraine with military aide, Ukrainian officials have asked for drones, artillery and other weapons.

"Using the actionable intelligence gathered by the Quantix Recon, operators can conduct quick mission planning and verification to help keep Ukrainian ground forces out of harm's way," Wahid Nawabi, president and CEO of AeroVironment, said in a statement.

The unmanned aircraft systems will be delivered this week and the company will provide training on how to use them.

Mykolaiv Mayor Tells Residents to Seek Shelter

The mayor of Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine near the Black Sea, has told residents to take cover in preparation for a possible attack from Russian troops.

Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich had advised residents to stay away from windows and to make their way to their nearest shelters, The Kyiv Independent reported in a tweet. The paper also reported that explosions have been heard in Mykolaiv.

The city is located near Russian-occupied territories in southern Ukraine, which have seen heavy fighting. A Russian military offensive is expected in eastern Ukraine as well as the southern cities of Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny and Mykolaiv.

'Stench of Burning Bodies' in Bucha Frazzles Irish Minister

Ireland's foreign affairs minister told the United Nations Security Council how the Ukrainian town of Bucha "lies in ruins with the stench of burning buildings and bodies in the air."

Simon Coveney described his desolate observations from a trip he took to Ukraine last week to get a first-hand view of the conflict. He described what he found as "profoundly shocking."

"Hundreds of family homes, shops and other civilian infrastructure blackened burnt, looted, damaged and in some cases completely destroyed," Coveney said. "Family cars riddled with bullets, windshields smashed, bloodstains still evident."

Russian forces have been accused of committing war crimes in the small city outside of Kyiv after withdrawing troops from the area. Russia has denied committing war crimes and accused Ukraine of spreading disinformation.

"I've been around long enough to know the difference between truth and staged propaganda when I see it," Coveney said. "There was nothing fabricated about what I witnessed."

Coveney described standing at the edge of a mass grave where the work of exhuming bodies remains ongoing. So far, he said just four soldiers and over 500 civilians have been identified, some who appeared to have been tortured and killed in a "brutal manner."

Russians Seize Kreminna for First Takeover in Donbas Blitz

A regional governor says he's struggling to evacuate people from a city in eastern Ukraine that's been captured by Russian armed forces.

Serhiy Haida, head of Ukraine's Luhansk region, said that constant shelling from Russian forces of the city of Kreminna has made it difficult to help civilian flee, reports Ukrayinska Pravda.

"We haven't stopped evacuating people, it takes place daily," he told the paper. "We get more than 100 people out every day."

After failing to take its capital, Russian forces have pivoted to Ukraine's eastern regions where pro-Russia separatists have declared breakaway republics.

Haida said that Rubizhne and Popasna have been evacuated but there are still 70,000 people still in the Luhansk region, many of them elderly.

Earlier Haida told the paper that Russian military used a large number of armored vehicles to take control of the city on Monday after three days of fighting.

Zoo Workers Who Stayed to Feed Animals Found Shot Dead

Feldman Ecopark, a zoo in the northeast Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said the bodies of two of its missing employees had been found shot dead by the Russian military.

The zoo announced the grim news in a Facebook post on Tuesday, stating that the two men opted to stay in Eco Park after the war broke out to help feed the animals. But other employees who later arrived at the zoo on March 7 couldn't find the men and alerted law enforcement.

"Until the last, we had been hoping that nothing irremediable had happened, and they were able to survive," reads the Facebook post. "But yesterday we received confirmation that their bodies had been found. Our guys were shot by the enemies, and their bodies had been barricaded in the back room."

In its post, the zoo called the unnamed employees "wonderful and courageous people."

Lithuania Prohibits Display of Russian Military 'Z' Symbol

Lithuania's parliament on Tuesday voted to ban the public display of the "Z" and "V" symbols that have been used to show support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Baltic country's legislature announced the ban on Twitter against what it called "symbols promoting military aggression" by Russia. Additionally, it banned display of the black and orange Georgian ribbon, which has long been used by Russian governments.

The letter "Z" does not exist in the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia. But it's been placed on the back of Russian military vehicles, billboards and politicians have worn clothing with the logo to show support for the military operation.

The "Z" is supposed to represent two 7s, with one upside down, symbolizing 77 years since the end of World War II.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, last month called on all governments to criminalize the use of "Z" to show support for Russia.

"'Z' means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians," he said on Twitter. "Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden."

Zelensky: Ukraine Would have Already Ended War with Right Weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that if his country's allies had given it all the weapons it needs the war with Russia would be over by now.

Zelensky made the remarks in a national address, where he described how the seven-week-old conflict was entering a new phase as Russia's military has pivoted to its border with Ukraine. He boasted about how Ukraine's armed forces have proven formidable by beating back Russia's military, one of the world's largest.

"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," said Zelensky. "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."

The U.S. has given Ukraine $2 billion in security assistance since President Joe Biden took office. Recently, Biden signed off $800 million in assistance including Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Javelin anti-tank systems and others.

But Zelensky has asked for other weapons such as drones, rocket artillery and others. He said some countries have been reluctant to provide it out of concerns Ukraine's troops don't have the technical skills to use it.

Russia Accuses West of Using Ukraine as a 'Pawn'

Russia, during the U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday, accused the West of hypocrisy for overlooking wrongdoings of Ukraine rewriting history against Russia .

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the U.N., said his Western colleagues choose to overlook "staggering" corruption, political murders and repression against opposition leaders and media outlets in Ukraine since 2014.

He said those who call out human rights abuses "fail to recall the unprecedented persecution of the Russian language" in Ukraine while portraying Ukraine as a "pure, innocent, white lamb."

Polyanskiy added that the West wants to "rewrite history" with an anti-Russian slant while ignoring the "nazificaiton" of Ukraine and sweeping Ukraine's aggression under the rug.

The concerns of the West over Ukraine are "shortsighted and egotistical in nature," he said, calling it "cannon fodder" in the direct war against the Russian Federation.

Polyanskiy added that the West has only their own interests at the top of mind.

"The weapons producers in western countries and eagerly rubbing their hands, calculating their profits from increased demand on military products," he said.

He accused the U.S. of pressuring other nations to follow its sanctions on Russia, while Washington itself "suffers the least" from the economic impacts, and said the U.S. wants other countries to be "addicted" to their gas products as Europe aims to become dependent from Russian energy.

"The Russian economy, as is known, is doing fine under circumstances of sanctions" with "new areas of development and new reliable partners," Polyanskiy said. "The only country that is losing in all respects as a result of the situation is Ukraine."

Polyanskiy reiterated accusation that Ukraine is shelling its own cities as a provocation to blame Russia. He accused Ukraine of using banned cluster munition and using civilians as human shields in places like Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

"It is not possible to sweep the truth of this under the rug," he said, calling out the West's unwillingness to condemn Ukraine's crimes.

He said it would be naive for Russia to trust on Western support for its special military operation and accused the West of using Ukraine as a "pawn" in its geopolitical game and its "dirty tricks" to forge a "so-called" rules-based world order.

Finally, he said calls for peace and ceasefire sound "mendacious and insincere."

The goal of a ceasefire to merely provide Ukraine "breathing room" to receive more weapons to "stage more inhuman provocations" and introduce more "fakes about the alleged actions of Russian soldiers," he said.

He said the Russian goals of de-nazifying Ukraine and stopping threats coming from Ukraine will be achieved through this special military operation.

World Leaders Discuss Sanctions, Security Assistance

World leaders discussed further sanctions against Russia as well as future security, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine Tuesday, as Russia begins its new offensive in the Donbas.

U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the call with Allies and partners, including several European leaders, Canada and Japan. Leaders "agreed on the importance of imposing even higher costs on Moscow" until Russian President Vladimir Putin stops the war, NATO said. Biden later told reporters that the U.S. will send more artillery to Ukraine.

"The leaders affirmed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion," according to the White House.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also provided an update on efforts to reinforce the Alliance's deterrence and defense posture.

"[Stoltenberg] Stressing that NATO will do whatever is necessary to protect and defend all Allies," NATO said. "He also briefed the other leaders on Allies' work to provide Ukraine with further military, economic and humanitarian aid."

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, as well as the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council Charles Michel and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also participated in the call.

Biden in NH
President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure agenda at the New Hampshire Port Authority in Portsmouth, N.H. on April 19, 2022. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Putin Still Has 'A Lot' of Inventory, Pentagon Says

Amid widespread destruction and upwards of 100,000 people remaining in Mariupol, the Pentagon assesses that the besieged city remains contested.

'We're not willing to accept what some critics say is the inevitability of it [Mariupol] falling," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing Tuesday. "They [Russia] didn't take Kyiv either. They didn't take Chernihiv, and the Ukrainians continue to fight over Mariupol."

Russia has said seizing Mariupol is one of its goals, as forces now begin a new offensive in the east and south.

"Russia wants a "land bridge to Crimea from the Donbas down to Crimea, as well as the ability to close off Ukrainian forces in the Donbas," Kirby said.

Russia is familiar with the terrain across the Donbas, where fighting has been ongoing for the past eight years. During a video address Monday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had begun its battle for the Donbas. The Pentagon has previously warned that the new geographically-focused offensive could result in a prolonged battle.

"But this is not a part of Ukraine that's alien to them [Russia], the way the north part of Ukraine, around Chernihiv and Kyiv was, in terms of operational maneuver," Kirby said. "This is a part of Ukraine that they understand well."

At the end of March, Russia began "repositioning" from Kyiv into Belarus to refit and resupply units for the new offensive. Kirby said that Russian President Vladimir Putin still has "a lot" of his inventory available to him.

"Some of it's been depleted, some of it's been destroyed, some of it's been captured, but he still has a lot of combat capability available to him," Kirby said. "And I think it's important for us to just remember that."

Kirby briefing
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on April 19, 2022. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Nearly 5 Million Refugee Have Fled Ukraine, U.N. Reports

The United Nations Security Council is holding a meeting Tuesday on "Maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine."

At the top of the meeting, representatives from U.N. refugee agency provided an update on the experiences of the nearly 5 million people fleeing their homes in Ukraine.

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHRC), a total of 4,980,589 people have left Ukraine since Russia began its invasion in February.

Poland has accepted more than 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees, the most of any border country.

Kelly Clements, the Deputy High Commissioner for the UNHRC, called for solidarity and compassion of all nations to support Ukrainian refugees.

"We ask this Council to continue, even as we focus today on Ukraine, to consider the needs of all refugees from all corners of the globe," she told the Council. "All those uprooted from their homes need the same solidarity. The same compassion. The same protection."

She shared that UNHRC partnered with the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to establish "Blue Dot" hubs along border crossings in countries around Ukraine.

These safe spaces are meant to prevent human trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence Ukrainian refugees may face.

Blue Dot hubs have been established at refugee entry points and urban centers across Poland, Moldova, Romania, Belarus, Hungary and Slovakia and offer mothers, children and families critical information and services.

This includes identifying and registering unaccompanied or separated children and counseling services for both children and adults who face extreme trauma from their experiences.

They also provide child-friendly spaces for kids to rest, play and receive psychosocial support from trained staff.

Antonio Vitorino, the Director General of the U.N. Office of Migration (IOM), also shared an update, noting his concerns for the safety of refugees.

He said more than 12 million people have been forcibly displaced by the war in Ukraine and outlined three main objectives of the IOM to support these refugees.

First, he said the U.N. has established resources to treat the psychosocial and mental health issues these adults and children faces. He said the psychosocial needs will increase in Ukraine and neighboring countries as Russia escalates its attacks.

Second, Vitorino reiterated the importance of protecting women and children from trafficking, abuse and sexual and gender-based violence. He said more than half of children in Ukraine have been displaced and called on countries to help identify and register separated or unaccompanied children crossing Ukraine's border and reunite them with their parents and caregivers.

Finally, Vitorino called for an end to discrimination against refugees.

"Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality or migration status is not acceptable," he said.

He called on states to ensure the protection and assistance in a nondiscriminatory manner at border crossing points.

Pentagon Says Ukraine Recently Received Aircraft Shipment

Additional aircraft and aircraft parts have recently been delivered to Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Tuesday.

The U.S. has helped with the trans-shipment of additional spare parts, but has not transported the "whole" aircraft, Kirby said. He did not specify what country/countries provided the aircraft.

As Russia's launches a new offense in the Donbas, the U.S. will train Ukrainians on howitzer artillery systems "very, very soon," in a "matter of days," Kirby said. A limited number of Ukrainian trainers will learn how to operate the system and then train their own colleagues. The system and its ammunition will also move from the U.S. to Ukraine "very, very soon," Kirby said.

The U.S. announced 18 howitzers would be sent to Ukraine last week as part of the latest $800 million security assistance package. That assistance has been flowing in for weeks. However, Kirby said its successful delivery on the ground in Ukraine has been a "concern" from the beginning, which is why routes and shipment delivery locations are not disclosed.

Kirby presser
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on April 19, 2022. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

European Official Says Mariupol Will Fall in Days

Russia will take control of Mariupol within days, a European official said, warning civilian casualties will be "worse than Bucha," The Hill reports.

"Mariupol will be controlled in the coming days," the official said, according to the outlet. "The Russians will continue to use artillery and bombings, and at the same time they will push civilians out of the city. So at the end of the day, we do expect a complete destruction of the city and many civilian casualties in Mariupol. My fear is that it's going to be worse than Bucha."

Last week, Bucha's mayor said more than 400 bodies were found in the city, along with mass graves. The atrocities in the city prompted the U.S. and E.U. to slap another round of economic sanctions on Russia.

It's estimated some 100,000 remain in Mariupol, without food, water, electricity and heat. Humanitarian corridors have been repeatedly blocked or attacked, hampering efforts to evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian aid. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said nearly every building in the besieged city is destroyed.

The European official called Mariupol a "main objective" for Russia, saying Putin wants to take control before Russia's Victory Day on May 9, according to The Hill. Putin's new objectives include taking control of the Donbas, including Donetsk and Luhansk, in the east, and Mariupol and the Kherson region in the south, the official said. The official predicts the new offensive in the east and south will continue for four to six months.

"Before this summer we're going to have a stalemate," the official said, according to the outlet. "They will start the negotiation once the stalemate would be obtained."

Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant
Servicemen of the Donetsk People's Republic militia look at bodies of Ukrainian soldiers placed in plastic bags in a tunnel, 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 18, 2022. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo

Luhansk Official Urges Residents to Evacuate

Over 200,000 people have evacuated Luhansk since Russia began its invasion in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian military official said the invasion has forced 28,000 people out of Luhansk. About 70,000 people remain in Luhansk.

Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai told those remaining residents to leave immediately to avoid being taken captive or killed by Russian forces.

"There is no time for reflection. Decisions should be taken quickly," he said in a Telegram post.

Haidai said Ukrainian officials have evacuated 40,000 of the people who left since Feb. 24.

"Now the evacuation is slower, there are people who do not want to go ... they are sure that the threat will pass" he said.

Finland to Send Defense Aid to Ukraine Ahead of NATO Vote

Finland announced it will send more defensive assistance to Ukraine.

The Finish Ministry of Defense said in a statement Tuesday that it will send more defense material assistance to Ukraine.

Finland will not provide any further details about the content, manner of delivery or schedule of assistance to "ensure that the assistance reaches its destination."

"Both Ukraine's needs and the resources of the Defence Forces have been taken into account when deciding on Finland's additional assistance," the statement said.

This is the third round of military aid Finland has sent to Ukraine.

Finland also plans to vote on seeking NATO membership within the coming weeks. Russia threatened to deploy nuclear weapons if Finland and Sweden join the alliance.

Russia Denies Claims It Plans to Use Nuclear Weapons

Russia claims it will not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and it launches a new offense in the Donbas.

In an interview with India Today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian forces "never mentioned" using tactical nuclear weapons, dismissing claims from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia does plan to use nuclear weapons.

"He says many things depends on what he drinks or what he smokes," Lavrov said of Zelensky.

Lavrov said Russia will honor its commitment as a P5 nation to avoid nuclear war.

"At this stage, we are considering the option of conventional weapons only," he said.

The five nuclear-weapon states who are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council include Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom. These nations agreed earlier this year to prevent nuclear war.

A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Tuesday that the United States has seen no indication of an imminent Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine.

Lavrov also continued to deny claims of Russia carrying out genocide and war crimes in Ukrainian cities, calling the atrocities in Bucha "staged."

"We have been targeting only military structure," he said, accusing Ukrainian forces of using human shields and invoking Nazi symbols.

He added that the West created a "springboard" for Russia's invasion in Ukraine by expanding NATO and supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Russia's goal is to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine by liberating the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, Lavrov said.

30 Percent of Crops May Not Be Harvested in 2022 Due to War

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called for millions in funding to support Ukrainian farmers, warning that one‑third of crops and agricultural land may not be harvested or cultivated this year due to Russia's invasion.

"The forced displacement of civilian populations fleeing the war and the conscription of men into territorial defense forces is resulting in labor shortages and an increased burden on women," FAO said Tuesday. "This situation is exacerbated by a decrease in the access and availability of crucial agricultural inputs."

Tuesday, FAO called for more than $115 million to support Ukrainian farmers for the rest of 2022.

"There is urgency to support Ukrainian farmers in planting vegetables and potatoes during this spring season, and farmers should be allowed and supported to go to their fields and save the winter wheat harvest," FAO said. "The vast destruction of crops and infrastructure due to the war jeopardizes food production and food security."

Global agencies warned of food security concerns when Russia's invasion began, especially in areas like the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Combined, Russia and Ukraine produce about 30% of the world's wheat and 20% of the world's corn. Exports have been blocked for weeks as fighting continues in the Black Sea.

Global food commodity prices hit a new record in March -- up nearly 13% from February, which was a then-record high. Grain prices jumped 17% from February to March and the price of vegetable oil rose 23%.

"FAO's immediate concern is to support the ongoing spring planting season and to prevent the disruption of the upcoming winter crop harvesting, which typically occurs in June-July, and could severely threaten food security in the country," FAO Director of Emergencies and Resilience Rein Paulse said.

"Agriculture depends on seasons. There is no time to waste to get ready for the upcoming fall season."

Ukraine wheat
Farmers load oat in the seeding-machine to sow in a field east of Kyiv on April 16, 2022. GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

Over 2,100 Civilians Killed, U.N. Says Numbers Are Much Higher

The United Nations has recorded nearly 5,000 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 2,104 civilians have been killed and another 2,862 have been injured since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office reports 205 children have been killed.

"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.

Reports are still pending from areas where "numerous" civilian casualties are suspected, including Mariupol, Izium and Borodianka.

OHCHR reports the following:

  • 2,104 killed, including: 556 men, 333 women, 39 girls, and 60 boys, as well as 71 children and 1,045 adults whose sex is unknown
  • 2,862 injured, including: 331 men, 264 women, 59 girls, and 63 boys, as well as 155 children and 1,990 adults whose sex is unknown
Kharkiv building
A woman walks next to a damaged building after a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine on April 19, 2022. Felipe Dana/AP Photo

U.N. Calls for 4-Day Pause to Open Humanitarian Corridors

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a four-day pause to allow humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, coinciding with Holy Week.

"This year, Orthodox Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message," Guterres said during a briefing Tuesday.

"Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine," he said. "The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive. The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead."

Guterres called on both sides to "silence the guns" and allow a "series" of corridors to open from Holy Thursday, April 21 through Easter Sunday, April 24. The corridors would allow the safe passage of civilians with the coordination of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid. Aid would be sent to the hardest-hit areas, including Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.

"The U.N. is ready to send humanitarian aid convoys during this period to these locations," Guterres said, adding detailed plans are being submitted.

The need for humanitarian aid is dire for millions remaining in Ukraine and the U.N. expects the situation will only exacerbate in the weeks ahead.

"More than 12 million people need humanitarian assistance in Ukraine today," he said. "Of those, more than 1/3 are in Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk. We anticipate that this figure will increase to 15.7 million – that's about 40% of all Ukrainians still left in the country."

"For all these life-or-death reasons, I call on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk. The 4-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in Ukraine."

U.K. Intelligence Shows Russia Refocusing in Donbas, Mariupol

British intelligence shows Russia is focusing its new offense in the eastern Donbas region, as well as around the southern city of Mariupol.

Russian forces appear to be focused on an assault on Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas as they continue to encircle the heavily besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

Mariupol remains contested as Ukrainians forces continue to defend the city.

A senior U.K. national security official briefed the Cabinet Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The officials told ministers that Russia's greater number of troops was "unlikely to be decisive on its own" against fierce Ukrainian resistance and that Russia has not learned its lessons from previous setbacks in northern Ukraine.

Ukraine's position remains "perilous," the official said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin "angered by defeats but determined to claim some sort of victory regardless of the human cost."

Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian shelling near the towns Marinka and Avdiivka, killing at least one civilian and damaging several homes.

Kyrylenko told BBC that Russian forces are advancing in north of the region, from the Kharkiv region and the Luhansk directions towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Zelensky Asks Parliament to Extend Martial Law in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has submitted a proposal to extend martial law in Ukraine.

Zelensky imposed martial law on February 24, when the Russian invasion began. Marital law is typically declared during a state of emergency in response to a crisis, like a war or foreign occupation. This puts the military in control over civilians' government agencies.

In March, Zelensky submitted an extension of martial law until April 25.

As this deadline approaches, Russian forces are beginning a new offense in the east and south of Ukraine.

Zelensky asked the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian Parliament, Tuesday to extend martial law another 30 days until May 25.

According to the Kyiv Independent, Zelensky may seek to extend martial law until June 24.

No Humanitarian Corridors for Third Day in a Row

No humanitarian corridors will open for the third day in a row as "difficult negotiations" continue, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Tuesday.

"According to Mariupol, Russians refuse to provide a corridor for the exit of civilians in the direction of Berdiansk," Vereshchuk said. "We continue difficult negotiations on the opening of humanitarian corridors in Kherson region and Kharkiv region."

An estimated 100,000 people remain in Mariupol, which continues to be bombarded.

"In connection with the escalation of the situation in Mariupol, I appeal to the military-political leadership of the Russian Federation," she wrote Monday. "We demand the opening of a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Berdiansk for civilians."

Russian forces were blocking and shelling humanitarian routes Monday, Vereshchuk said.

Russia dropped bunker-buster bombs on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainians refused to surrender, Commander of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Denys Prokopenko said, according to the Associated Press.

Prokopenko made the comments in a video message Monday, saying fighters and civilians were sheltering in the plant's tunnels. Vereshchuk demanded an evacuation route from the area, which has yet to be agreed upon.

"We separately demand an urgent humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal combi for women, children and other civilians," Vereshchuk said. "Your refusal to open these humanitarian corridors will in the future be a basis for bringing all involved to prosecute for war crimes."

She also demanded a special corridor be opened from Mariupol on Monday to allow wounded military to evacuate. Tuesday's corridor closure announcement comes as intensive shelling in the Donbas region Tuesday, where Russia began its new offensive.

Azovstal damage
Damaged and burned vehicles are seen at a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine on April 18, 2022. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo

Russia Begins New Offense in the Donbas Region

A new phase of Russia's invasion into Ukraine has begun, as Russian forces start a new offense in the Donbas region.

"It can now be stated that Russian troops have begun the battle for Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Monday night. "A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive."

Zelensky added that the Russian attacks in the east and the south are "a little more thought-out manner than before," but said Ukraine is prepared to defend itself.

"No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this is a "very import moment for this entire special operation."

"This operation in the east of Ukraine is aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics," Lavrov said in an interview with India Today. "Another stage of this operation is beginning and I'm sure this will be a very import moment of this entire special operation."

British officials said that this next phase of the war in Ukraine is likely to be "an attritional conflict: that could last several months, the Associated Press reported.