Russia intensifies attacks in western, central Ukraine

  • Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin promise Ukraine $322m in military aid, after meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
  • They also say US diplomats will start returning to the western city of Lviv in the coming week.
  • Several locations in central and western Ukraine have been hit by Russian shelling, including five railway stations and two towns in Vinnytsia region, local authorities have said.
  • Ukraine will try to establish humanitarian routes out of the besieged port city of Mariupol on Monday, says Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has called for the release of members detained in separatist-held Ukraine.
  • The British defence ministry says Russia is planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson to justify the invasion.

Here are the latest updates:

Germany to decide on fighting vehicle deliveries to Ukraine ‘soon’

The German government will make a decision on the delivery of 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine “soon,” has said a German government spokesperson.

German defence company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export the vehicles to Ukraine, a defence source told Reuters, in what would be the first heavy weapons shipment from Germany to Ukraine.


Soldier downs three Russian helicopters: Ukraine military

Ukraine has claimed that a new recruit shot down three Russian helicopters in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on April 21, using a portable Igla (Needle) infrared homing surface-to-air missile.

Ukraine’s general staff of armed forces posted a video on Facebook showing the debris of a Ka-52 helicopter that Moscow hails as “the pride and joy of Russia’s air forces.”

There were no reports of lost helicopters from the Russian side.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Russians shell towns in central Ukraine: governor

Russian cruise missiles hit two towns in the southwestern Ukrainian region of Vinnytsia, its governor said, adding that “sites of critical infrastructure” were hit in the towns of Zhmerynka and Kozyatin.

There are “dead and wounded”, Serhiy Borzov said on Telegram without providing further details.


Russia warned US against sending more arms to Ukraine

Russia has warned the US 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.

An official diplomatic note had been sent to Washington expressing Russia’s concerns, he said, adding that such arms supplies would further aggravate the situation.


Five railway stations hit

Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit by Russian forces early morning, the country’s railway service’s chief Oleksandr Kamyshin has said.

“There are victims, we are finding out the details,” he said in an online post, adding that at least 16 trains have been delayed.


Where are people flying to?

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 61 April 25 6GMT


Russia strikes Ukrainian oil depot and military installations

Russia has struck and destroyed the Kremenchug oil refinery and Ukrainian military installations, the defence ministry said, TASS news agency has reported. The governor of the Poltava region said one person was killed and seven were wounded in the refinery attack.

Russian air defense systems shot down a dozen Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles in the areas in the Kharkiv region, it added.


Rescue operations ongoing in Luhansk

Following Russian shelling in the east of Luhansk region, rescuers are working to extinguish fires in Lysychansk and pulling bodies from the rubble in Severodonetsk, the country’s emergency service has said on its Telegram channel.

“Rescuers are constantly performing their professional duties, eliminating fires despite the high risk of shelling,” it added.

A new cemetery near a local church is pictured in the town of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine,
A recent cemetery near a local church is pictured in the town of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

Heavy shelling in Lyman: Al Jazeera correspondent

As Russian forces are pressing into the eastern city of Slovyansk, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said that the nearby town of Lyman was already under heavy attack.

“The shelling was too heavy,” Stratford said as he tried to access the city. Families are sheltering in bunkers and a crater was seen in the center of the town, Stratford reported citing people fleeing Lyman.

But there are also those trying to enter the town despite Russian attacks: “We have no choice, our home is there and we can’t afford to live in Dnipro,” a family told Stratford, highlighting the amount of challenges displaced people are facing.


Azovstal under fire: Ukraine’s military

Russian forces hit the Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine’s military says.

The steelworks is the last remaining pocket of resistance in southern Mariupol, and hundreds of Ukrainian fighters and some 1,000 civilians are estimated to be hiding in underground tunnels there.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Russia storms eastern town of Popasna

Russian forces stormed Popasna, a town of 20,000 in the southeastern Luhansk region, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces has said.

Its takeover could ease the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk as the city sits on a hill near a key transport hub.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Ukraine can win with ‘right equipment’: Austin

The US defence chief says Ukrainians can win against Russia with the right equipment and support.

“The first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so they believe that [they] can win,” Austin said in a news briefing on the Polish-Ukraine border.

“We believe that they can win. They can win if they have the right equipment, the right support. And we’re going to do everything we can, continue to do everything we had to ensure that they get it.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv [Alex Brandon/Pool via Reuters]

Russia ‘failing’ in its Ukraine war aims: Blinken

After a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv, the US Secretary of State has said that Russia is failing in its war aims in Ukraine.

“We’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed,” Blinken told reporters in Poland.

“It sought to assert the power of its military and its economy. We, of course, are seeing just the opposite. The military that is dramatically under-performing, an economy as a result of sanctions, as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles. And it sought to divide the West and NATO. Of course, we’re seeing exactly the opposite.”


German company seeks approval to send military vehicles to Ukraine

The German defence company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, a defence source told Reuters on Monday, confirming an earlier report by Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The company is seeking an export licence for the vehicles in their current state for now, aiming to restore them over the coming months before shipping them to Ukraine, the source said.

The deal will have to be approved by Germany’s national security council, a committee chaired by Chancellor Olaf Scholz that meets in secret session.


Russia downs two Ukrainian drones in Kursk: Governor

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.


US aid taking Ukraine’s defence to ‘new level’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says the $3.4bn in military assistance from the US is “already” helping bring Ukraine’s defence capabilities to a “qualitatively new level”, according to a statement from his office.

“We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine,” he said following Blinken and Austin visits to Kyiv.

“I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position. To thank all the American people, as well as the Congress for their bicameral and bipartisan support. We see it. We feel it,” he said.

The statement noted the president’s discussions with the US delegation included “current priorities for the belligerent state”, strengthening sanctions on Russia, financial support for Ukraine and security guarantees.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, April 24, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

One dead and seven injured in Kremenchuk: Governor

One person has died and seven have been injured in missile attacks in the city of Kremenchuk, governor of the Poltava region, Dmytro Lunin, confirmed on Telegram on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, Lunin had written of attacks on infrastructure but said details were being clarified.

“Nine enemy missiles the day before hit the Kremenchuk thermal power plant and the Kremenchuk oil refinery,” Lunin said in a post, adding the hit to the power plant meant most of the city’s districts were without hot water.

He also said that the shelling on Sunday evening was the largest in the Poltava region since Russia’s invasion began.


Explosions reported in Lviv as air raid sirens blare across Ukraine

Several explosions have been reported in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, with a large plume of smoke cited in an unknown location. Reports are being confirmed.

Air sirens were activated across Ukraine overnight, including in the Chernihiv, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk regions.

Explosions were also reported in Vinnytsia.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a warehouse amid Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a warehouse amid Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 23, 2022 [Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

Russia trying to hide true death toll in Ukraine: UK

Russia’s defence ministry has proposed that compensation for families of deceased military personnel will be overseen by military rather than civilian officials, the latest briefing of the United Kingdom defence ministry says.

“This likely reflects a desire to hide the true scale of Russia’s losses from the domestic population,” the ministry adds.

It also noted that Russia had made only “minor advances” in some areas since it shifted its focus to occupying the eastern region of the Donbas.

“Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” it said.


Russia tells US to stop giving Ukraine weapons

Moscow sent a note to Washington demanding it stop supplying weapons to Kyiv, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said in an interview with the Russia-24 TV channel, state news agency TASS reported.

“$800 million, for this [amount of] weapons will be supplied to Kyiv from Washington. This is a huge figure, it does not contribute to finding a diplomatic solution, resolving the situation,” Antonov said.

“Did we pass a note – yes, we emphasised the unacceptability of the situation when the United States are stuffing Ukraine with weapons, we demanded an end to this practice,” he said.

Antonov added that the US was “trying to raise the stakes even more and aggravate the situation”.


Entire region under heavy shelling: Luhansk governor

The entire Luhansk region is under “heavy shelling” on Easter Sunday, the region’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said in a post on Telegram, adding that three high-rise buildings and four houses had burned down as a result.

He said several vehicles, including trucks, were involved in accidents. “Therefore, people were saved not only by sorting out the rubble, but also from under beaten vehicles.

“The Russian army has hit the oil refinery in Lisichansk for the third time,” he added without mentioning any casualties.


Russia attempting to save parts of sunken Moskva: Reports

Russia is using a special rescue ship to lift its sunken warship Moskva from the seabed, Ukraine’s news channel Espreso reported, citing the German newspaper Bild.

“Due to the size of the Moskva [187 metres in length], the 110-year-old Kommuna is unlikely to be able to lift the sunken cruiser from the depths completely, but there will be attempts to save the ship’s anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as secret documents and military equipment,” the Bild reportedly noted.

Other publications such as Forbes said the Kommuna is attempting to rescue only sensitive materials from the ship.

Kommuna, a submarine-salvage ship, was placed into active service in July 1915. It has served in the Russian Imperial, Soviet and Russian Federation navies, through the Russian Revolution and both world wars.


Pentagon chief headed to Germany for talks with NATO ministers

After his trip to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy, Austin, the Pentagon chief, will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a meeting of NATO defence ministers and other donor countries, The Associated Press news agency reported.

The discussion on Tuesday will look at battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine and longer-term defence needs in Europe, including how to step up military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials told the AP.

More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.


Blinken and Austin pledge more aid, return of US diplomats

The US has announced new military aid for Ukraine and promised that its diplomats will return to Lviv in the coming week, as its top diplomat and defence chief completed a secretive trip to the Ukrainian capital.

Blinken and Austin told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300m in foreign military financing and had approved a $165m sale of ammunition.

They also said US President Joe Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that US diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week.

The US embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, U.S., April 23, 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, US, April 23, 2022 [Alex Brandon/Pool via Reuters]

Russia may be preparing for renewed assaults on Azovstal: Think-tank

Russian forces have continued to bombard the remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant and may be preparing for renewed assaults on the facility, according to a US-based think-tank.

The Institute for the Study of War said its latest analysis showed that the storming of the vast steelworks would likely lead to high Russian casualties.

The institute also noted that Russian forces had secured limited gains northwest of the city of Severodonetsk, which is in the Luhansk region, but remained “unlikely to be able to launch massive offensive operations”.

It added Russia was deploying additional forces to “reinforce unsuccessful attacks on the Izyum front”.


Zelenskyy praises Ukraine’s resistance, thanks US for support

Ukraine’s president has praised his people for two months of bravely resisting Russian forces since Moscow’s invasion on February 24, and thanked the US for its support.

“Two months of heroic nationwide resistance of Ukraine to the Russian aggression have passed. I am grateful to @POTUS and the people of the US for leadership in supporting Ukraine,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

He was responding to Biden’s tweet which honoured Ukraine’s resolve.

“Two months after [Russian President Vladimir] Putin launched an unprovoked and justified attack on Ukraine, Kyiv still stands,” Biden wrote, promising to continue to support Ukraine “in their right to defend their homeland”.


Kyiv and Hamburg now ‘strategic partners’

Ukraine’s Kyiv and Germany’s Hamburg have become strategic partner cities through a pact stipulating support in times of crisis.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his Hamburg counterpart, Peter Tschentscher, signed the agreement on Sunday.

It lays down “effective cooperation between our cities” including “the provision of assistance by Hamburg for the restoration of Kyiv”, Klitschko wrote on Telegram. He added Hamburg will increase its humanitarian assistance efforts.

Tschentscher said Kyiv “is of particular importance in the fight against Russian aggression, as well as in the fight for peace and freedom in Europe”, Interfax reported.


Sanctions won’t ‘strangle’ economy: Russian senator

A Russian senator says Western sanctions against Moscow will not “strangle” its economy and that the European Union has revealed its inability to function without Russia’s fossil fuels.

Aleksey Pushkov told state newspaper Izvestia that the EU’s plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels by 2027 “is a recognition of the impossibility of ensuring the functioning of the economy of Germany and a number of other European countries without supplies from Russia”.

He said there were two reasons why Western sanctions will not work.

“The first is rise of hydrocarbon prices which will provide Russia with a record budget surplus. The second is the long-term nature of restrictions, which gives Russia enough time to adapt to new conditions. All this makes it impossible for the Russian economy to collapse.”


US House to vote on Ukraine lend-lease act

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 “this week”, according to Congressman Charlie Christ.

The Act would expedite the transfer of critical military equipment and other critical supplies to Ukraine by cutting bureaucratic red tape. The lend-lease programme was created during World War II to allow Washington to quickly resupply allies without procedural hurdles.


Russian missiles hit infrastructure in Poltava: Governor

Nine Russian missiles have hit infrastructure facilities in the city of Kremenchuk in the eastern Poltava region, according to its governor.

Dmytro Lunin said the attacks took place on Sunday evening.

“We are clarifying the information about the victims and the destruction,” he wrote on Telegram.


Russia blocking locals from leaving occupied territories: Military

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are restricting “the rights and freedoms of civilians” in temporarily occupied territories, “in particular freedom of movement”.

It said in a Facebook post that the “settlements that are preparing for holding pseudo-referendums are closed for entry and exit”.

Ukrainian officials have warned of Russian plans to hold referendums for independence in the occupied southern city of Kherson, similar to the one held in annexed Crimea in 2014.

Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha.
Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, April 24, 2022 [Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo]

Russia reports fire at oil depot in Bryansk

Russia’s TASS news agency has reported a fire at an oil depot in Bryansk, a city that lies 400km (248 miles) southwest of Moscow and borders Ukraine’s Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

“Tanks caught fire at an oil depot in Bryansk,” TASS said, citing city authorities as well as the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Earlier in the night, residents had reported hearing explosions and posted videos of a fire on the outskirts of Bryansk.

Russia has previously accused Ukraine of shelling the town of Klimovo in the Bryansk region and causing casualties.


EU readying ‘some form of an oil embargo’ on Russia

The EU is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, The Times has reported, quoting the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.

“We are working on a sixth sanctions package and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo,” Dombrovskis told the London-based newspaper.

“When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximises pressure on Russia while minimising collateral damage on ourselves.”


Putin’s actions in Ukraine ‘nauseating’: Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “nauseating” during a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Johnson told Guterres on Sunday afternoon that the actions were a “blatant aggression, which is having devastating consequences for Ukraine’s people”, according to a statement from his office.

“They discussed their shared concerns on attacks in areas besieged by Russian forces, such as Mariupol and Kherson, and the need to secure a ceasefire, facilitate humanitarian efforts and allow civilians to leave,” the statement added.


Current Russia sanctions ‘insufficient’: Ukrainian official

Andriy Yermak, an aide to Ukraine’s president, has said the continuation of the war and the killing of civilians and children “make it clear that the current sanctions policy is insufficient”.

“It needs to be strengthened. It needs to be updated, new sanctions need to be developed constantly,” he said on French TV.

Yermak touted a sanctions action plan developed by an international group of experts that he and former US diplomat Michael McFaul led. The plan lays out further steps countries should take to pressure Russia, including a full EU embargo on Russian gas and oil and “recognising Russia as a country that sponsors terrorism”.


Ukraine to try to establish Mariupol humanitarian route

Ukraine will try to establish a humanitarian evacuation corridor out of Mariupol on Monday after attempts failed on Sunday, Ukraine’s Deputy PM Vereshchuk has said, blaming Russian forces for not holding their fire.


Russia plans ‘staged referendum’ in Kherson: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia is “planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation”.

Russian forces seized the strategically important city in southern Ukraine in early March.

“The city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine,” the defence ministry wrote on Twitter.


Civilians in Mariupol steelworks beg for aid

Ukraine’s Azov Battalion has released a new video showing Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.

One of the women in the video begs for help from world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, constant air strikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” she says.

Another woman says there are 600 civilians sheltering under the plant, without food and water.

Sviatoslav Palamar, the Azov Battalion’s deputy commander, said the video was shot on Sunday at the plant. Members of the militia are among hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal plant, the last remaining pocket of resistance in Mariupol.

Al Jazeera could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians gather on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant.
Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant, where soldiers are holding out and civilians sheltering, amid Russia’s siege of Mariupol. April 24, 2022. Azov/Handout via Reuters

Zelenskyy welcomes Macron’s election victory

Ukraine’s president has congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff.

Writing on Twitter, Zelenskyy described Macron as a “true friend of Ukraine” and said he was convinced that they are “moving forward together towards new common victories. Towards a strong and united Europe!”


OSCE calls for release of members in separatist-held Ukraine

The OSCE has called for the “immediate release” of four of its Ukrainian members detained in pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, said the detention of four members “for engaging in administrative activities that fall within their official functions as OSCE staff” was “unacceptable”.

“We call for their immediate release,” he said. “They have been held without charge for a period of time now and the OSCE and their families have not been sufficiently informed of the situation.”

Earlier, the OSCE wrote on Twitter it was “extremely concerned” that several members had been “deprived of their liberty”, following Russian media reports they had been arrested.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 60


Zelenskyy meets Blinken and Austin in Kyiv: Official

An adviser to Zelenskyy says the US secretaries of state and defence were meeting with the Ukrainian leader, in the highest-level visit to Kyiv by a US delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Oleksiy Arestovych said in an interview on Ukrainian TV that the talks with Blinken and Austin were taking place late on Sunday. There was no immediate comment from the US.

Prior to the meeting, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the US to bolster its arms shipments to Kyiv.


Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

These were the updates on April 24.

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