UN chief warned that Putin will ‘manipulate’ Russia visit
US says Russia is ‘failing in its war aims’
Russian soldiers write ‘Christ is risen’ on Easter missiles
Don’t ban Russian energy, Gerhard Schroder tells Germany
Explosions have broken out at a Russian fuel depot and logistics hub near the Ukrainian border, in a reported missile strike.
Emergency services said the large fire began at around 2am Moscow time (11pm GMT) at the Transneft Bryansk-Druzhba facility in Bryansk, owned by the oil pipeline company Transneft.
No injuries have been reported and the cause has not yet been established. The depot is being used to shore up Vladimir Putin’s forces, and early reports claimed a missile may have struck up to two facilities in the city.
Bryansk is a strategic administrative centre 154 km (96 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border, and Russian officials said last week that Ukrainian helicopters had hit residential buildings and injured seven people in the area.
It comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his defence secretary pledged additional military aid to Ukraine in the first official US visit to Kyiv since the invasion, including advanced weapons, and a return of US envoys to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia has made minor advances since shifting to the Donbas, but its decision to besiege rather than attack Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant has “exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness”.
Follow the latest updates below.
Germany to decide on heavy weapons for Ukraine ‘soon’
The German government will make a decision on the delivery of 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine “soon,” said a German government spokesman on Monday.
German defence company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export the vehicles to Ukraine, a defence source told Reuters on Monday, in what would be the first heavy weapons shipment from Germany to the country.
Breaking: Russia announces ceasefire around Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant
Russia’s defence ministry on Monday announced a ceasefire around the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to allow a civilian evacuation from the industrial area that has been sheltering the port city’s remaining defenders.
Russian troops “from 14:00 Moscow time (1100 GMT) on April 25, 2022, will unilaterally stop any hostilities, withdraw units to a safe distance and ensure the withdrawal” of civilians, the defence ministry said in a statement.
It follows multiple pleas from the Ukrainian president and the UN over the weekend to cease fighting in the area, where an estimated 1,000 civilians are located along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.
The destroyed city’s last Ukrainian defenders have already rejected Vladimir Putin’s call for them to surrender, instead warning Moscow that peace talks would be called off if any of them were killed.
Russia has claimed victory in the city, however the steel plant has remained a stubborn pocket of resistance. The city is crucial to the Kremlin’s new aim of occupying the south of the country and establishing a land route to Crimea.
Russia warns US against sending more arms to Ukraine
Russia has warned the United States against sending more arms to Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington told Russian state television.
“We stressed the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America pours weapons into Ukraine, and we demanded an end to this practice,” Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Antonov said an official diplomatic note had been sent to Washington expressing Russia’s concerns. He said such arms supplies from the US would further aggravate the situation and raised the stakes of the conflict.
It comes hours after Washington’s top diplomat met Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky in Kyiv, pledging new assistance worth $713 million (£560m) for him and allies fearing Russian aggression.
In video: Fires rage at Russian logistical hub near Ukrainian border
Dramatic videos show the moment large fires erupted early on Monday morning at an oil storage facility in the Russian city of Bryansk, used as a logistics base for Moscow’s forces.
Russian officials said the blaze broke out at a facility owned by oil pipeline company Transneft at 2am Moscow time (11pm GMT), and there had been no need to evacuate any parts of the city of 400,000 people.
Russia’s investigative committee said in a separate statement that its head, Alexander Bastrykin, has ordered a probe into the incident. Ukrainian officials have so far made no comment on the fire and its possible cause.
Unconfirmed reports on social media suggested a missile strike may have hit the facilities. No injuries have been reported. Footage online appeared to show a second large fire had broken out in the city.
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Five things you may have missed
Good morning, if you’re just joining us, here are five Ukraine developments from the weekend to get you up to speed. Scroll down in this blog for latest and breaking news.
Blinken says US diplomats will return to Ukraine ‘this week’: the US Secretary of State expressed solidarity with Volodymyr Zelensky and announced the gradual return of US diplomats to Ukraine.
Zelensky says the Easter holiday doesn’t bring any joy: “The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win,” Mr Zelensky said from Kyiv’s ancient St Sophia Cathedral.
Ukraine proposes talks with Russia next to Mariupol steel plant: Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.
UN chief warned that Putin will ‘manipulate’ Russia visit: Boris Johnson has warned that Vladimir Putin will try to “manipulate” a visit by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, to Moscow.
Russia has made ‘minor advances’: Russia has made minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday.
More on each of these here.
Mother killed with 3-month old baby in missile attack on Odesa
Russia ‘strikes Ukrainian oil depot and military installations’
Russia struck Ukraine’s Kremenchuk oil refinery with long-range missiles and hit military installations in its former Soviet neighbour, the Russian defence ministry reported this morning.
The ministry said it hit Ukrainian military installations and the Kremenchuk oil refinery near the Dnipro River, which the governor of the Poltava region had said was destroyed earlier this month.
“High-precision long-range weapons destroyed fuel production facilities at an oil refinery on the northern outskirts of the city of Kremenchuk, as well as petroleum products storage facilities which fuelled military equipment for Ukrainian troops,” the ministry said, though this has not been independently verified.
It comes as a Russian oil depot in Bryansk, near the Ukraine border and used as a logistical hub for troops, was ablaze overnight. The cause has not yet been determined.
Russian soldiers write ‘Christ is risen’ on Easter missiles
Russian soldiers wrote “Christ is risen” on missiles fired into Ukraine over the Orthodox Easter weekend as Vladimir Putin spoke about “neighbourly love” at a Moscow cathedral service.
At least a dozen people died in the Russian missile attacks exactly two months after Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has used the Russian Orthodox Church in its propaganda machine.
Over the weekend, Russian forces described missiles as “Easter eggs” being sent to Ukraine.
“The tankmen wrote ‘Christ is risen’ on their missiles,” a Russian soldier told a chuckling woman in a phone recording released by Ukraine’s SBU. “So we are having some fun in any way we can.”
More details on this here
Ukraine ‘can win the war with right equipment’
The US wants Russia “weakened” so it cannot invade again and Ukraine can win the war if it has the right equipment, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Monday on returning from a trip to Kyiv.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so they believe that we can win,” Austin told a group of journalists after the visit with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The pair met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, were the first high-profile US officials to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.
“We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” Austin said. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
Putin congratulates Macron and wishes him ‘success’
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his re-election and defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, the Kremlin said Monday, as tensions remain over the Ukraine conflict.
“I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well-being,” Putin said in a telegram to Macron, according to a statement from the Kremlin.
Mr Macron has liaised with Putin several times during the two months of conflict and attempted – unsuccessfully – to mediate between the sides at several points.
What was agreed on the US visit to Ukraine?
It was a visit mired in secrecy and only confirmed by the White House after it had taken place, but Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin agreed several measures while meeting Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv at the weekend.
US officials said the cabinet secretaries pledged new assistance worth $713 million (£560m) for Mr Zelensky’s government and 15 allied, Nato and partner countries in the region that are fearful of further Russian aggression.
This includes more than $300 million (£235m) in foreign military financing for Kyiv and $165 million (£130m) in sales of non-US made ammunition, compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use.
Such financing is different from previous US military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down US Defence Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies.
US diplomats will return to Ukraine in the coming weeks, with Washington announcing a new ambassador to the country, Budget Brink, a veteran official. Staff from Kyiv’s US Embassy had been relocated to Poland.
Ahead of the visit by Blinken and Austin, Ukrainian officials drew up a list of weapons urgently needed from the United States, including anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armoured vehicles and tanks.
It comes as the US and Nato allies have shown growing readiness to supply heavier equipment and more advanced weapons systems. Britain has promised to send military vehicles and is considering supplying British tanks to Poland to free up Warsaw’s Russian-designed T-72s for Ukraine.
Breaking: Five railway stations come under fire in Ukraine
Five railway stations came under fire in western and central Ukraine on Monday, causing an unspecified number of casualties, Ukrainian television quoted state-run Ukrainian Railways as saying.
Oleksander Kamyshin, the company’s chief, said the attacks took place in the space of an hour and details were being checked.
We’ll bring you more details on this when we have it.
In pictures: Fire rages at strategic fuel depot for Russian forces
Russia ‘made minor advances in Ukraine’ in shift to Donbas
Russia has made “minor advances” in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
The ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing that Moscow is still “yet to achieve a significant breakthrough” and that its decision to besiege rather than attack Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant has “exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness”.
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US envoys to resume diplomatic presence in Kyiv
United States diplomats will begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week, Washington’s secretary of state and defence chief have announced, in a further signal to Russia that its war is failing.
The trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin – which the US confirmed only after the two had left Ukrainian territory – came as the invasion enters its third month, with thousands dead and millions displaced.
Washington ordered the withdrawal of its diplomats in the weeks prior to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.
“Starting this week, members of that team will be able to do day trips instead into Ukraine,” a US official said. “Ultimately, (they will) resume presence in Kyiv.”
Britain and a host of European capitals are also reopening their embassies in Ukraine’s capital in the coming days.
Russia ‘downs two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Kursk region’
Russian air defence systems shot down two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Kursk region which borders Ukraine, regional governor Roman Starovoyt wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday.
He said there were no casualties. The report could not be immediately verified.
Blinken: Russia is failing in war aims and Ukraine ‘succeeding’
After a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv, US Secretary of State Blinken said Russia is failing in its war aims and “Ukraine is succeeding.”
The trip by Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, though Washington refused to confirm any travel plans.
They told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition.
“We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there to have face-to-face conversations in detail,” Mr Blinken told reporters Monday near the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Mr Austin said Zelensky’s response to the aid was deep appreciation for what was being given but “he has the mindset that they want to win and we have the mindset that we want to help them win.”