Ukraine war: Russia pours in troops as new offensive in the east of Ukraine ramps up

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Ukraine war: Russia pours in troops as new offensive in the east of Ukraine ramps up

Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 19, 2022.   —  

Russian forces have continued their new offensive in the east of Ukraine, assaulting cities and towns along a front hundreds of kilometres long.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian military was throwing everything it has into the battle, which could be pivotal for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Read more about Wednesday’s events as they unfold in our blog below, or follow our live coverage in the video player above.

07:31

Wednesday’s key points:

    Russian troops have poured into eastern Ukraine in what both sides describe as a new phase of the war, a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s industrial heartland.

    A humanitarian corridor has been agreed to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukraine hopes to send 90 buses to Mariupol on Wednesday to evacuate about 6,000 women, children and elderly people.

    The Russian military has made fresh demands for the defenders of Mariupol to lay down their arms by 2pm today.

10:53

Norway donates Mistral short-range missile systems to Ukraine

Norway is donating about 100 air defence systems to Ukraine, with the Scandinavian country’s defence minister saying that “the country is depending on international support to resist Russian aggression.”

Bjørn Arild Gram said Norway had donated French-made Mistral short-range missile systems which currently are being 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 left Norway which previously has donated 4,000 anti-tank missiles, protective equipment and other military equipment to Ukraine, he added.

(AP)

10:17

90 buses set to head to Mariupol to evacuate civilians

Ukraine hopes to send 90 buses to Mariupol on Wednesday to evacuate about 6,000 women, children and elderly people, the city’s mayor Vadym Boichenko said, according to Reuters.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced earlier today that Ukraine had reached a preliminary agreement with Russia on establishing a humanitarian corridor to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged city of Mariupol, with the attempted evacuation set to start at 2pm (1100 GMT).

According to Boichenko, about 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which has become a major battleground in the fight to control eastern Ukraine.

09:37

European Council president arrives in Kyiv

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday in an unexpected visit to the city, as Russia continued its new offensive in the east of the country.

«In Kyiv today. In the heart of a free and democratic Europe,» Michel wrote, in a tweet accompanying a photograph of him at a train station. 

Michel has been vocal against Russian aggression in the country. Earlier this month he expressed his outrage at «crimes against humanity» in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.

He also said European Union countries should think about ways to offer asylum to Russian soldiers willing to desert the war in Ukraine.

09:21

Russia forces mounting offensives at various locations in the east

The Ukrainian General Staff said Wednesday in a statement on Facebook that Russia is continuing to mount offensives at various locations in the east as its forces probe for weak points in the Ukrainian lines.

The General Staff adds that defeating the last resistance in the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol remains Russia’s top priority.

(AP)

08:49

Humanitarian corridor agreed in Mariupol

Ukraine has reached a preliminary agreement with Russia on establishing a humanitarian corridor to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged city of Mariupol on Wednesday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, according to Reuters.

«Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today,» Vereshchuk wrote in a message on Facebook.

Vereshchuk said the attempted evacuation would start at 2pm (1100 GMT).

«Given the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor action. So, please follow the relevant official messages,» she wrote.

08:13

Desperate plea from Mariupol: We are «maybe facing our last days, if not hours»

A commander in the besieged Azovstal power plant in Mariupol has issued a desperate plea for help, saying his marines were «maybe facing our last days, if not hours».

«The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,» Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said.

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

Thousands of troops and civilians remain holed up in the plant.

An advisor to the mayor of Mariupol described a «horrible situation» in the encircled complex and reported that up to 2,000 people — mostly women and children — are without «normal» supplies of drinking water, food, and fresh air.

(AFP)

08:03

Russia issues new 2pm deadline for surrender of fighters in Mariupol

The Russian military has made fresh demands for the Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol to lay down their arms.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement that its forces had opened a humanitarian corridor “for the withdrawal of Ukrainian servicemen and militants of nationalist formations” from the Azovstal plant, which covers about 11 square kilometres and is the last major Ukrainian pocket of resistance in Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov.

Those withdrawing would need to be fighters ready to voluntarily lay down their arms, as well as civilians, it said.

The ministry added that as of 22:00 Moscow time on April 19, 2022, no one had used the specified corridor.

Further, the statement said that Russia would “once again” offer those fighting the option to lay down their weapons from 2pm (Moscow time) on Wednesday, 20 April.

07:16

Ukraine receives fighter planes and spare parts: Pentagon

Ukraine has received fighter planes and aircraft parts to bolster its air force in the face of Russia’s invasion, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, declining to specify the number of aircraft or their origin.

The announcement comes a week after US President Joe Biden unveiled an $800 million military aid package for Kyiv, including heavier equipment such as howitzers, as fighting escalates in eastern Ukraine.

The moves indicate a change in attitude in the West, which had initially refused to provide Ukraine with heavy armaments to avoid action Russia could consider direct involvement in the conflict.

Ukrainian forces «right now have available to them more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago,» Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

(AFP)

07:04

Google denies reports it has made Russian military facilities visible on Maps

Misleading rumours spread on social media that Google Maps had revealed satellite images of Russia’s military infrastructure.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces had claimed on Twitter that «everyone can now see a variety of Russian launchers» after Google «opened access». The rumours were also widely shared by Ukrainian media organisations and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s former spokesperson Iuliia Mendel.

However, a Google spokesperson told Euronews. that they «haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia».

Satellite images of military facilities around the world are occasionally blurred or displayed in a lower quality on Google Maps to protect their classified status.

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