Russia-Ukraine news – live: Putin fires barrage of missiles on Kyiv, air defence activated across country

·69-min read

Ukraine activated air defence systems and sounded air raid alerts across the country after Russia fired another barrage of missiles towards the besieged nation in the early hours today.

“Air defences are at work!” Kyiv’s regional administration wrote on the Telegram amid explosions heard in the region.

“Keep calm! Stay in shelters until the air alarm goes off!”

Blasts have been reported in Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy so far. Locals were seen taking shelter in metro stations after the whole country came under air raid alert.

The air raid alert was sounded around 3.40am local time today and it is still on.

Serhii Shaikhet, the head of Ukrainian city Mykolaiv’s police, had warned that Russia may try to strike Ukraine with up to a hundred missiles and overnight, Ukraine’s presidential office head Andriy Yermak had urged citizens not to ignore air raid sirens.

The barrage of missiles comes just two days after a similar attack by Vladimir Putin’s forces on Ukraine killed at least 23 people, including four children, after a Russian missile struck a nine-storey residential building.

Key Points

  • Putin’s soldiers ‘likely’ put in holes in the ground as punishment for misdemeanors

  • Russia vows harsh response after Poland embassy school ‘seizure’

  • Moscow blames Ukraine for major Crimea oil depot fire

  • Ukraine says more than 10 oil tanks destroyed by Crimea blast

  • Ukraine controls key supply route into Bakhmut, military says

Barrage of missile fired over Kyiv, air defence activated

03:37 , Arpan Rai

Air raid alerts have been issued throughout all of Ukraine by emergency services after a threat of missile strikes in the early hours today.

“The threat of a missile strike!” Kyiv’s regional administration wrote on the Telegram. “Stay in shelters.”

Andriy Yermak, head of president Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on the Telegram, “Take care of your safety, do not publicise the work of air defence.”

Vatican involved in ‘secret peace mission'

04:00 , William Mata

Pope Francis said Sunday the Vatican was willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia during the war, saying the Holy See had already helped mediate some prisoner exchanges and would do “all that is humanly possible” to reunite families.

“All human gestures help. Gestures of cruelty don’t help,” Francis said during an airborne press conference en route home from Hungary.

Francis also revealed a secret peace “mission” was under way. However, he gave no details when asked whether he spoke about peace initiatives during his talks in Budapest this weekend with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban or the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Hungary.

The Pope on his visit to Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The Pope on his visit to Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Relatives bury children killed in Russian missile attack

03:00 , William Mata

Relatives and friends cried next to coffins on Sunday as they buried children and others killed in a Russian missile attack on this central Ukrainian city, while fighting claimed more lives elsewhere.Almost all of the 23 victims of the attack on Friday died when two missiles slammed into an apartment building in Uman. Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said six children were among the dead.Mykhayl Shulha, 6, cried and hugged relatives next to the coffin of his 11-year-old sister Sofia Shulha during Sunday’s funeral, while others paid respects to a 17-year-old boy.As mourners held candles, crossed themselves and sang, the priest at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Quick to Hear” waved a vessel containing incense over the coffins. He said the deaths had hit the entire community hard.“I live nearby,” said Father Fyodor Botsu. “I personally knew the children, the littlest, from when they were very young, and I personally baptized them in this church. I’m worried with everyone since I have children and I’m a citizen of this country and have been living in this city for 15 years.”He said he prayed “that the war should end and peace should come to our homes, city and country.”

A funeral procession in Uman (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A funeral procession in Uman (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

British armed forces chief comments on Ukraine

02:00 , William Mata

Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has said he has accompanied the National Security Adviser Tim Barrow and had a meeting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“We’ve got the capacity to deal with lots of different things at different times. I was in Ukraine earlier this week and met my opposite number General (Valerii) Zaluzhnyi,” he said in defending the British policies in rescuing individuals while also preparing for the coronation.

“I accompanied the National Security Adviser Tim Barrow and we had a meeting with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky.

“We have also been involved in the evacuation from Sudan. And I’m pleased with how that has gone.”

Read the full story here.

Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin defended the Sudan evacuation effort (Alastair Grant/PA) (PA Wire)
Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin defended the Sudan evacuation effort (Alastair Grant/PA) (PA Wire)

Full story: Putin’s commanders ‘forcing troops into caged pits for being drunk or refusing to fight’

01:00 , William Mata

Russian commanders are likely punishing soldiers by forcing them into caged holes in the ground, the Ministry of Defence has said.

In its daily intelligence update on Sunday, the MoD said that troops are likely facing the makeshift dungeons as a form of punishment for actions such as being drunk or refusing to fight in the Ukraine war.

The holes, called “Zindans”, consist of holes in the ground “covered with a metal grille”, it said. The MoD said in the statement that it had heard multiple reports of the Zindans being in use.

Read William Mata’s full story here.

Vladimir Putin with Russian soldiers (Sputnik)
Vladimir Putin with Russian soldiers (Sputnik)

Irish criticise statement from Russian ambassador after death

Monday 1 May 2023 00:00 , William Mata

Teachta Dálas, the Irish equivalen to MPs, across the political spectrum have criticised a statement from the Russian ambassador issued in response to the death of an Irishman fighting in Ukraine.

But despite the Irish government stating that its support for Ukraine was "unwavering", and that Russian disinformation would have "no impact" on this, it said that diplomatic channels between the two nations should remain open.

Finbar Cafferkey, from Achill Island in Co Mayo, was killed while serving as a military volunteer in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin paid tribute to Mr Cafferkey as "obviously a young man of clear principles", which prompted the Russian embassy in Ireland to question that statement.

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin) (PA Wire)
Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin) (PA Wire)

Today’s headlines

Sunday 30 April 2023 23:00 , William Mata

At 11pm on Sunday, April 30, we can bring you some of the headlines from the events of the day in Ukraine.

Russian forces suffer radiation sickness after digging trenches and fishing in Chernobyl

Russian troops who dug trenches in Chernobyl forest during their occupation of the area have been struck down with radiation sickness, authorities have confirmed.

Train drivers’ union boss hits out over criticism of strike on eve of Eurovision

Aslef’s Mick Whelan said Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s accusation was ‘bizarre’, implying the union was not standing in solidarity with Ukraine.

Putin’s soldiers ‘likely’ put in holes in the ground as punishment for misdemeanors

Russian commanders have “likely” started a harsher punishment regime for their soldiers by placing them in “holes in the ground” called ‘Zindans’, the UK ministry of defence has said.

The Zindans are “improvised cells consisting of holes in the ground covered with a metal grille”, according to UK intelligence.

 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
(SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian forces suffer radiation sickness after digging trenches and fishing in Chernobyl

Sunday 30 April 2023 22:00 , William Mata

Russian troops who dug trenches in Chernobyl forest during their occupation of the area have been struck down with radiation sickness, authorities have confirmed.

Ukrainians living near the nuclear power station that exploded 37 years ago, and choked the surrounding area in radioactive contaminants, warned the Russians when they arrived against setting up camp in the forest.

Read Emily Atkinson’s full story here.

 (EPA)
(EPA)

Loss estimates of Russian military

Sunday 30 April 2023 21:00 , William Mata

The Armed Forces of Ukraine has given its latest update on the losses of Russian troops. Some of the headline figures are:

- 190,510 soldiers have died, an increase of 470 from Saturday,

- 7,189 all purpose vehicles have now been eliminated, a rise of five,

- 3,699 Russian tanks are now out of action.

The figures have not been verified by the Kremlin.

Government teases Stacey Dooley documentary

Sunday 30 April 2023 20:00 , William Mata

The British Ministry of Defence has advertised a new documentary called Stacey Dooley: Ready For War

The trailer features the presenter talking to Ukrainian Mykola, who was a florist before the war, and now joins his two brothers in fighting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The documentary is now streaming on iPlayer.

Zelensky makes video address to Ukrainians

Sunday 30 April 2023 19:00 , William Mata

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has tweeted a message of encouragement to his supporters.

“Russian invaders won’t take away our peace – a natural part of Ukrainian character,” he tweeted.

“Peace & the desire for freedom for our entire country, all our regions, cities & communities. We'll definitely gain it. Glory to everyone who is in combat for Ukraine! Thank you to everyone in the world who helps!”

Ukraine: Sunday, April 30 in pictures

Sunday 30 April 2023 18:00 , William Mata

People react during the funeral of two children, Sofia and Kyrylo, who officials said were killed on Friday by a Russian missile strike (REUTERS)
People react during the funeral of two children, Sofia and Kyrylo, who officials said were killed on Friday by a Russian missile strike (REUTERS)
People embrace each other during the funeral service of Shulga Sophiya, 11, and her brother Pisarev Kiryusha, 17, who were killed after a Russian missile strike on a multistorey residential building, at a church in Uman (AFP via Getty Images)
People embrace each other during the funeral service of Shulga Sophiya, 11, and her brother Pisarev Kiryusha, 17, who were killed after a Russian missile strike on a multistorey residential building, at a church in Uman (AFP via Getty Images)
People take part in a funeral service for sister and brother Shulga Sophiya, 11, and Pisarev Kiryusha, 17 (AFP via Getty Images)
People take part in a funeral service for sister and brother Shulga Sophiya, 11, and Pisarev Kiryusha, 17 (AFP via Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers in front of a damaged multistory residential building, where a Russian strike killed 23 people, in Uman (AFP via Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers in front of a damaged multistory residential building, where a Russian strike killed 23 people, in Uman (AFP via Getty Images)

Russia says its forces take four blocks in western Bakhmut - RIA

Sunday 30 April 2023 16:45 , William Mata

Russia's Ministry of Defence on Sunday said its forces had taken four blocks in western Bakhmut, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported - Reuters has said.

The news agency could not independently confirm the claim.

Russian forces have been struggling for months to capture the city in eastern Ukraine.

Russian soldiers progress in Bakhmut (AP)
Russian soldiers progress in Bakhmut (AP)

Pope on the banks of the Danube in final Mass in Hungary

Sunday 30 April 2023 15:26 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Tens of thousands of Hungarians flocked to Budapest’s main square Sunday for Pope Francis’ final Mass, gathering on the banks of the Danube as the pontiff wrapped up a weekend visit to the heart of Europe with pleas for a peaceful end to Russia’s war next door.

The Mass on Kossuth Lajos Square, with the Hungarian parliament and Budapest’s famed Chain Bridge as a backdrop, provided the visual highlight of Francis’ three-day visit that has been dominated by the Vatican’s concern for the plight of neighboring Ukraine.

Citing local organizers, the Vatican said some 50,000 people were participating at the Mass, more than 30,000 of them in the square on a brilliantly sunny spring morning. Among them were President Katalin Novak and Hungary’s right-wing populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, whose lukewarm support for Ukraine has rankled fellow European Union members.

Pope on the banks of the Danube in final Mass in Hungary

Four civilians killed in Ukrainian shelling on Russia’s Bryansk

Sunday 30 April 2023 14:49 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Four civilians died as a result of Ukrainian shelling on a village just over the border in Russia‘s Bryansk region on Saturday evening, a local governor said.

“Four civilians have been killed,” Governor Alexander Bogomaz said on the Telegram messaging app. Two other citizens were being treated in hospital, Bogomaz said.

Bogomaz earlier said that one residential building had been completely destroyed and two other houses partially destroyed.

Bogomaz blamed the incident on “Ukrainian nationalists”. Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

Both sides deny targeting civilians in the 14-month-old Russian invasion on Ukraine.

“Work is continuing at the site of the incident to remove rubble and clear the area,” Bogomaz said. “A state of emergency has been introduced in the village.”

Russia‘s Bryansk region borders Ukraine. The village of Suzemka, where the incident occurred, is around 10 kms (6.2 miles) from the border.

Russia says its forces take four blocks in western Bakhmut

Sunday 30 April 2023 14:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s Ministry of Defence on Sunday said its forces had taken four blocks in western Bakhmut, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

Reuters could not independently confirm the claim. Russian forces have been struggling for months to capture the city in eastern Ukraine.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Sunday 30 April 2023 13:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp.

His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager.

As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead.

The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Russia blames Ukraine drone attack for major Crimea oil depot fire

Sunday 30 April 2023 13:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian officials have claimed a Ukrainian drone strike caused a massive fire to erupt at an oil depot in Crimea, in the latest in a series of attacks on the annexed peninsula as Russia braces for an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, said the oil depot was attacked by “two enemy drones” and four oil tanks had burned down. A third drone was shot down from the sky, and one more was deactivated through radio-electronic means.

He said the fire at the city’s harbour had been assigned the highest ranking in terms of how complicated it would be to extinguish. However, he reported that the blaze had been contained.

Russia blames Ukraine drone attack for major Crimea oil depot fire

In pictures: scenes from Bakhmut

Sunday 30 April 2023 12:23 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench near Bakhmut (AP)
Ukrainian soldiers walk in a trench near Bakhmut (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier fires a cannon near Bakhmut (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier fires a cannon near Bakhmut (AP)

Putin’s soldiers ‘likely’ put in holes in the ground as punishment for misdemeanors

Sunday 30 April 2023 11:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian commanders have “likely” started a harsher punishment regime for their soldiers by placing them in “holes in the ground” called ‘Zindans’, the UK ministry of defence has said.

The Zindans are “improvised cells consisting of holes in the ground covered with a metal grille”, according to UK intelligence.

Behaviours which warrant such a punishment include drunkenness and soldiers attempting to terminate their contracts.

Don't shut door on foreigners, migrants, Pope Francis says in Hungary

Sunday 30 April 2023 11:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis on Sunday presided over a big outdoor Mass where he urged Hungarians not to close the door on migrants and those who are “foreign or unlike us,” in contrast to the anti-immigrant policies of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

More than 50,000 people gathered in and around the square behind Budapest’s iconic neo-gothic parliament building, a symbol of the capital on the Danube, to see the pope on the last day of his visit to the country.

He continued a theme he began on the first day of his visit on Friday, when he warned against the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe, but put it in gospel context, saying that closed doors were painful and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Orban, a populist who was attending the Mass, sees himself as a protector of Christian values. He has said he would not allow Hungary to be transformed into an “immigrant country,” as he claims others in Europe have become, unrecognizable to its native peoples.

In his homily, 86-year-old Francis said that if Hungarians wanted to follow Jesus, they had to shun “the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference towards the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close towards those who are foreign or unlike us, towards migrants or the poor”.

Francis believes migrants fleeing poverty should be welcomed and integrated because they can culturally enrich host countries and boost Europe’s dwindling populations. He believes that while countries have a right to protect their borders, migrants should be distributed throughout the European Union.

Orban’s government has built a steel fence on the border with Serbia to keep out migrants.

In his homily, Francis also spoke against doors “closed to the world”.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

‘Thick’ Russian forces suffer radiation sickness after digging trenches and fishing in Chernobyl

Sunday 30 April 2023 10:31 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian troops who dug trenches in Chernobyl forest during their occupation of the area have been struck down with radiation sickness, authorities have confirmed.

Ukrainians living near the nuclear power station that exploded 37 years ago, and choked the surrounding area in radioactive contaminants, warned the Russians when they arrived against setting up camp in the forest.

But the occupiers who, as one resident put it to The Times, “understood the risks” but were “just thick”, installed themselves in the forest, reportedly carved out trenches, fished in the reactor’s cooling channel – flush with catfish – and shot animals, leaving them dead on the roads.

‘Thick’ Russian troops suffer sickness after digging and fishing in Chernobyl

What are the ‘dragon’s teeth’ defences being erected by Russia in Ukraine?

Sunday 30 April 2023 09:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian forces have been erecting “dragon’s teeth” defensive barricades in areas of Ukraine they control, in anticipation of an imminent counteroffensive by Kyiv, according to the latest satellite imagery of the warzone.

The defensive obstacles, pyramid-shaped concrete shards also nicknamed “devil’s teeth” for their resemblance to a fanged jawline, can be seen running between anti-tank ditches and troop-manned trenches from western Russia through eastern Ukraine towards Crimea, in aerial imagery recorded by Capella Space, Reuters reports.

The layered, zig-zagging lines are intended to make life as difficult as possible for any oncoming Ukrainian forces, as Russia seeks to protect the territory it has seized.

What are the ‘dragon’s teeth’ defences being erected by Russia in Ukraine?

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Sunday 30 April 2023 09:06 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine on Saturday welcomed the European Union’s hard-fought deal to keep farm exports flowing into and through the bloc to world markets, saying that the Middle East and Africa would specifically stand to benefit from it.

Late Friday, the 27-nation EU ended a damaging internal standoff over a destabilizing glut of Ukraine farm imports by granting five eastern member countries the right to temporarily ban the most problematic produce while allowing all farm products to transit onward.

Resolving the issue allows the EU to maintain a unified stance in the face of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. “We welcome that we resolved this issue,” Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko said at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Stockholm.

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Pope visits refugees, urges Hungary to show charity to all

Sunday 30 April 2023 08:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis thanked Hungarians on Saturday for welcoming Ukrainian refugees and urged them to help anyone in need, as he begged for a culture of charity in a country where the prime minister has justified firm anti-immigration policies with fears that migration threatens Europe’s Christian culture.

On the second day of a visit to Hungary, Francis met with refugees and poor people at St. Elizabeth’s church, which was named for a Hungarian princess who renounced her wealth to dedicate herself to the poor as a follower of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

Speaking in the white-brick church in Budapest, Francis recalled that the Gospel instructs Christians to show love and compassion to all, especially those experiencing poverty and pain and “even those who are not believers.”

Pope visits refugees, urges Hungary to show charity to all

Wagner threatens Bakhmut withdrawal

Sunday 30 April 2023 08:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner Group has threatened to withdraw troops from Bakhmut, saying they had enough ammunition left only for days.

In a nearly 90-minute video interview with Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov published on Saturday, Mr Prigozhin said: “If the shortage of ammunition is not replenished, then ... most likely, we will be forced to withdraw part of the units.”

He was quoting a letter he said was sent to Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, giving an 28 April deadline.

It was not immediately known when the interview was recorded.

Mr Prigozhin has often blamed regular armed forces for not giving his men the ammunition they need and has sometimes accused top brass of betrayal.

“We need to stop deceiving the population and telling them that everything is fine,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.

“I must honestly say: Russia is on the brink of a disaster.”

 (TELEGRAM/ @concordgroup_official)
(TELEGRAM/ @concordgroup_official)

ICYMI: Pope Francis meets refugees who fled Ukraine on Hungary visit

Sunday 30 April 2023 07:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Pope Francis has met with refugees who fled from Ukraine during the invasion as part of his three-day trip to Hungary.

Watch:

Watch: Pope Francis meets refugees who fled Ukraine on Hungary visit

Ukraine’s grain import ‘to resume on May 2'

Sunday 30 April 2023 07:00 , William Mata

The EU Commission expects Ukraine's grain import to resume from May 2, Polish media RMF 24 has reported.

Poland is expected to lift its ban on shipments from Tuesday. Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania had also previously announced bans.

However, the EU Comission is reportedly set to allow an embargo on wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower

 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russia blames Ukraine drone attack for major Crimea oil depot fire

Sunday 30 April 2023 06:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russian officials have claimed a Ukrainian drone strike caused a massive fire to erupt at an oil depot in Crimea, in the latest in a series of attacks on the annexed peninsula as Russia braces for an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, said the oil depot was attacked by “two enemy drones” and four oil tanks had burned down.

A third drone was shot down from the sky, and one more was deactivated through radio-electronic means.

Read more:

Russia blames Ukraine drone attack for major Crimea oil depot fire

Zelensky: ‘Six children lost their lives in this attack on Uman'

Sunday 30 April 2023 06:00 , William Mata

Ukraine’s president took to Twitter on Saturday evening to pay respects to six children who were part of a group of 23 to die in Uman.

“Anyone who prepares Russian missile attacks must know that he will be an accomplice in the murder,” he wrote.

“Anyone, who guides and launches missiles, who handles planes and ships for terror. Not just those who give orders, but all of them, they are all terrorists and murderers and they must all be punished. And definitely – those who committed the primordial crime, from which all others began – the crime of aggression.”

Russia vows harsh response after 'seizure' of embassy school in Warsaw

Sunday 30 April 2023 05:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russia has vowed that it will respond harshly to what it said was Poland’s illegal seizure of its embassy school in Warsaw.

Polish state-run news channel TVP Info reported that police had shown up outside the Russian embassy school on Kielecka street in Warsaw on Saturday morning.

A Polish foreign ministry spokesperson said to Reuters that the building housing the embassy school belonged to the Polish state.

Russia’s foreign ministry has claimed that Polish authorities burst onto the embassy school’s grounds with the aim of seizing it.

“We regard this latest hostile act by the Polish authorities as a blatant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and as an encroachment on Russian diplomatic property in Poland,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Such an insolent step by Warsaw, which goes beyond the framework of civilised inter-state relations, will not remain without a harsh reaction and consequences for the Polish authorities and Polish interests in Russia,” it said.

FILE-Warsaw’s Old Town, seen here reflected in a puddle (ANDRZEJ RYBCZYNSKI/EPA)
FILE-Warsaw’s Old Town, seen here reflected in a puddle (ANDRZEJ RYBCZYNSKI/EPA)

Two civilians killed in Ukrainian shelling on Russia's Bryansk

Sunday 30 April 2023 05:00 , William Mata

Two civilians died as a result of Ukrainian shelling on a village in Russia's Bryansk region on Saturday evening, a local governor said.

"According to preliminary information, one residential building was completely destroyed, two more houses were partially destroyed," Governor Alexander Bogomaz said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Emergency services continue to work at the scene."

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

Ukraine controls key supply route into Bakhmut, military says

Sunday 30 April 2023 04:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Ukraine has said that it is in control of a key supply route into Bakhmut.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said in an interview with the local news website Dzerkalo Tyzhnia that the situation however remains “really difficult” in the besieged eastern city.

“For several weeks, the Russians have been talking about seizing the ‘road of life,’ as well as about constant fire control over it,” he was quoted as saying.

The “road of life” is a vital road between the ruined Bakhmut and the nearby town Chasiv Yar to the west - a distance of just over 17 km (10.56 miles).

“Yes, it is really difficult there, because their attempts to seize the road continue, as well as attempts to establish fire control. But ... the defence forces have not allowed the Russians to ‘cut off’ our logistics,” the spokesperson said.

Russian forces have been trying for 10 months to move into the remains of what was once a city of 70,000, which Russia sees as a stepping stone to attacking other cities.

Ukraine has pledged to defend Bakhmut.

FILE-Smoke rises from buildings in this aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
FILE-Smoke rises from buildings in this aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Shevchenko: ‘I want the world to understand the damage'

Sunday 30 April 2023 04:00 , William Mata

Ukrainian football legend and former national team manager Andriy Shevchenko has been working with charity United 24 to help support his country.

Shevchenko told the Guardian: “I want the world to understand the damage. The images of destruction and the bombs coming can be seen on television but the personal feeling after you go inside the hospitals is absolutely different. You feel the pain of people.”

He added that he has visited children in hospital.

Andriy Shevchenko in Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Andriy Shevchenko in Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky ‘carries a pistol with him'

Sunday 30 April 2023 03:00 , William Mata

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky carries a pistol and would have fought to the death with his inner circle had the Russians stormed his Kyiv headquarters at the start of the war, he said in an interview shown on Saturday.

“I know how to shoot. Could you imagine (a headline like) ‘The president of Ukraine is taken captive by Russians?’ This is a disgrace. I believe this would be a disgrace,” he told the 1+1 television channel.

In the first days after the invasion, Ukrainian officials said Russian intelligence units tried to break into Kyiv but were defeated and failed to reach Bankova Street in the centre, home to the presidential offices.

Other Russian units launched an attack on the outskirts of Kyiv, but were unable to advance. Officials also reported several unsuccessful sabotage attempts inside the city.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (EPA)
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (EPA)

In pictures: Scenes from April 29 in Ukraine

Sunday 30 April 2023 02:00 , William Mata

Ukrainian servicemen clean the cannon of their tank on a position near the frontline city of Bakhmut (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen clean the cannon of their tank on a position near the frontline city of Bakhmut (AFP via Getty Images)
A local resident walks out of his damaged apartment with belongings after yesterday's missile strike by Russia (REUTERS)
A local resident walks out of his damaged apartment with belongings after yesterday's missile strike by Russia (REUTERS)
Rescuers are seen at a building destroyed by yesterday's Russian missile strike in the town of Uman (REUTERS)
Rescuers are seen at a building destroyed by yesterday's Russian missile strike in the town of Uman (REUTERS)
A woman with child holds flowers as she pays respect to civilians killed yesterday by a Russian missile strik (REUTERS)
A woman with child holds flowers as she pays respect to civilians killed yesterday by a Russian missile strik (REUTERS)

‘Spring storm’ coming to Ukraine

Sunday 30 April 2023 01:00 , William Mata

Retired air vice marshal Sean Bell has told Sky News that the war in Ukraine is “very busy on the ground”.

Bakhmut is now 87 per cent taken by the Wagner group, he said on Saturday evening but Russian troops had been sandbagging defensive positions in Zaporizhzhia which could lead them vulnerable to a counteroffensive.

The 14,000 troops that were trained in the UK are now back in Ukraine, Mr Bell added.

‘More than 190,000’ Russian soldiers killed, Ukraine sources say

Sunday 30 April 2023 00:00 , William Mata

Ukraine’s ministry of defence has claimed on Twitter that 190,040 Russian soldiers have been eliminated on their soil up until today, Saturday, April 29.

The figure could not be verified with Russia.

Headlines from today

Saturday 29 April 2023 23:00 , William Mata

Here is an 11pm round-up of some of the headlines from the Ukraine front on Saturday, April 29.

Russian official: Drone causes fire at Crimea oil reservoir

A Russia-appointed official in Crimea says a massive fire erupted at an oil reservoir there after it was hit by a drone.

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Ukraine on Saturday welcomed the European Union’s hard-fought deal to keep farm exports flowing into and through the bloc to world markets, saying that the Middle East and Africa would specifically stand to benefit from it.

Russian court fines war critic who asked for prison instead

A court in Russia has convicted a woman from a Siberian city over social media posts condemning the war in Ukraine and punished her with a steep fine - even though both she and the prosecution asked for a prison sentence.

Pelosi says Ukraine and democracy ‘must win’

Pelosi and the lawmakers were ushered under the cloak of secrecy into the capital city, an undisclosed passage that even to this day she will not divulge.

Ukraine update (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Ukraine update (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Picture recap: April 29 in Ukraine

Saturday 29 April 2023 22:00 , William Mata

This video grab taken from a footage released on April 29, 2023, on the Telegram chanel of Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, shows a firemen standing next to a huge fire at a fuel depot in Sevastopol (TELEGRAM/ @razvozhaev/AFP via G)
This video grab taken from a footage released on April 29, 2023, on the Telegram chanel of Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol, shows a firemen standing next to a huge fire at a fuel depot in Sevastopol (TELEGRAM/ @razvozhaev/AFP via G)
A local resident speaks with an investigator outside her house, which was destroyed by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk (REUTERS)
A local resident speaks with an investigator outside her house, which was destroyed by shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk (REUTERS)
Ukraine fans hold up flags during an ice hockey match against Japan in Estonia (REUTERS)
Ukraine fans hold up flags during an ice hockey match against Japan in Estonia (REUTERS)
A man lays flowers at a monument to Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka (REUTERS)
A man lays flowers at a monument to Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka (REUTERS)

ICYMI: Aerials of building hit by Russian missiles

Saturday 29 April 2023 21:30 , William Mata

Dramatic aerial footage shows the aftermath of a Russian strike that hit an apartment building in Ukraine.

Footage from Friday shows parts of the residential block in Uman reduced to rubble.

At least 23 people, including four children, were killed in the attack.

Read the full story here.

Pope met with people ‘on both sides of war'

Saturday 29 April 2023 21:00 , William Mata

Pope Francis has met people from both sides of Russia’s war with Ukraine - greeting some of the 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees who have fled across the border to Hungary during a public prayer service, before a private meeting with an envoy of the pro-Kremlin Russian Orthodox Church.

Francis maintained the Vatican’s tradition of diplomatic neutrality during his second day in Budapest, where he is on a weekend visit to minister to Hungary’s Catholic faithful.

Starting the day, he thanked Hungarians for welcoming Ukrainian refugees and urged them to help anyone in need. He called for a culture of charity in a country where Prime Minister Viktor Orban justified firm anti-immigration policies with fears that migration threatens Europe’s Christian culture.

Speaking in the white-brick St Elizabeth’s church, named after a princess who renounced her wealth to care for the poor, Francis recalled that the Gospel instructs Christians to show love and compassion to all, especially those experiencing poverty and “even those who are not believers”.

The Pope in Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
The Pope in Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Saturday 29 April 2023 20:30 , Emily Atkinson

Ireland’s Russian embassy has warned of possible “ensuing consequences” in response to tributes paid to an Irishman killed while fighting in Ukraine.

The comments have been criticised by a former minister for justice as “threatening” and “chilling”.

Finbar Cafferkey, from Achill Island in Co Mayo, is reported to have been killed while serving as a military volunteer in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Read more here:

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Watch: Fire rages after suspected drone attack on an oil depot in Crimea

Saturday 29 April 2023 19:30 , Emily Atkinson

Crimea fuel storage facility fire extinguished

Saturday 29 April 2023 18:45 , Emily Atkinson

A fire at a fuel storage facility in the Crimean port of Sevastopol caused by a drone strike has been extinguished, the city’s Moscow-installed governor said on Saturday.

Experts examined the site and “it became clear that only one drone was able to reach the oil reservoir”, Mikhail Razvozhaev said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that no one had been injured in the fire.

Another drone was downed, its wreckage found on the shore near the terminal, Razvozhaev added.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea, said on Telegram that air defence and electronic warfare forces on Saturday shot down two drones over the region.

“There are no casualties or destruction,” he said.

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Saturday 29 April 2023 18:00 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine on Saturday welcomed the European Union’s hard-fought deal to keep farm exports flowing into and through the bloc to world markets, saying that the Middle East and Africa would specifically stand to benefit from it.

Late Friday, the 27-nation EU ended a damaging internal standoff over a destabilizing glut of Ukraine farm imports by granting five eastern member countries the right to temporarily ban the most problematic produce while allowing all farm products to transit onward.

More on this story here:

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Russian court fines war critic who asked for prison instead

Saturday 29 April 2023 17:15 , Emily Atkinson

A court in Russia has convicted a woman from a Siberian city over social media posts condemning the war in Ukraine and punished her with a steep fine - even though both she and the prosecution asked for a prison sentence.

Marina Novikova, a 65-year-old lawyer, was found guilty of “spreading false information” about the Russian army, which was made a criminal offence after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine more than 14 months ago.

Novikova’s posts on the messaging app Telegram decried the invasion and criticised the Russian government.

The court in Seversk, Novikova’s hometown, imposed a fine of one million roubles (nearly £10,000), the Russian human rights and legal aid group OVD-Info quoted her husband, Alexandr Gavrik, as saying.

Prosecutors had requested a three-year prison sentence. Novikova herself pleaded with the court to send her to prison rather than the alternative: a fine of at least 700,000 roubles (£6,900) that the law allows. She said she does not have the money to pay such a fine.

“I am prepared to pay the price for the right to remain a human ... because I understand that there will be no acquittal,” Novikova was quoted by Russian media as saying in court.

Pelosi says Ukraine and democracy ‘must win’

Saturday 29 April 2023 16:30 , Emily Atkinson

“We thought we could die.”

The Russian invasion had just begun when Nancy Pelosi made a surprise visit to Ukraine, the House speaker then the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to lead a congressional delegation to Kyiv.

Pelosi and the lawmakers were ushered under the cloak of secrecy into the capital city, an undisclosed passage that even to this day she will not divulge.

Read the AP’s interview with Nany Pelosi here:

AP Interview: Pelosi says Ukraine, democracy 'must win'

Russian court fines war critic who asked for prison instead

Saturday 29 April 2023 15:46 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A court in Russia has convicted a woman from a Siberian city over social media posts condemning the war in Ukraine and punished her with a steep fine - even though both she and the prosecution asked for a prison sentence.

Marina Novikova, a 65-year-old lawyer, was found guilty of “spreading false information” about the Russian army, which was made a criminal offence after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine more than 14 months ago.

Novikova’s posts on the messaging app Telegram decried the invasion and criticised the Russian government.

The court in Seversk, Novikova’s hometown, imposed a fine of one million roubles (nearly £10,000), the Russian human rights and legal aid group OVD-Info quoted her husband, Alexandr Gavrik, as saying.

Prosecutors had requested a three-year prison sentence. Novikova herself pleaded with the court to send her to prison rather than the alternative: a fine of at least 700,000 roubles (£6,900) that the law allows. She said she does not have the money to pay such a fine.

“I am prepared to pay the price for the right to remain a human ... because I understand that there will be no acquittal,” Novikova was quoted by Russian media as saying in court.

An average salary in Siberia’s Tomsk province, where Seversk is located, is 56,000 roubles (£554), according to official government statistics.

OVD-Info, which monitors protests and tracks arrests, said the case against Novikova was among the first ones launched under the new law that prohibited spreading false information about the Russian military.

The number of such prosecutions has mushroomed as part of the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent since the start of invasion of Ukraine.

The campaign of repression has been unparalleled since the Soviet era. It has effectively criminalised independent reporting on the conflict and any criticism of the war, with the authorities targeting not only prominent opposition figures who eventually received draconian prison terms, but also people not known for anti-government activity.

A court in Moscow convicted a former police officer on Monday of publicly spreading false information about the country’s military for criticising the war in Ukraine to his friends over the phone. Semiel Vedel was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Authorities argued his phone conversations qualified as “public” because his phone was wiretapped in connection to another criminal case, and that there was a third person listening in.

Last month, a Russian court convicted a single father over social media posts critical of the war and sentenced him to two years in prison.

His 13-year-old daughter, who drew an anti-war sketch at school, was sent to an orphanage.

A recent report by the Russian supreme court said that in 2022, courts ordered citizens to pay fines for discrediting the military 4,439 times, the equivalent of about £1.4 million, according to independent Russian news site Mediazona.

Ukraine says more than 10 oil tanks destroyed by Crimea blast

Saturday 29 April 2023 15:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Ukrainian military intelligence official said on Saturday more than 10 tanks of oil products with capacity of around 40,000 tonnes were destroyed in an explosion on the Russian-occupied port of Sevastopol on April 29, RBC Ukraine reported.

The official, Andriy Yusov, did not claim Ukraine was responsible for the explosion in comments reported by RBC, instead describing the blast as “God’s punishment” for a Russian strike on a Ukrainian city on Friday.

Harrowing Google Earth update reveals Ukraine before and after Russia’s attack

Saturday 29 April 2023 14:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Google has updated it’s aerial maps of Ukraine for the first time since the start of Russia’s attack - with images now revealing the full scale of devastation.

The contrast is stark in Mariupol. The city of was a centre of industry, producing steel and other metals but since the February 2022 invasion has come under siege from Russian troops and is now occupied by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Old Maruipol was disembowelled by its occupiers, with the UN estimating that 90 per cent of residential buildings were damaged or destroyed in the bombardment.

Here, The Independent looks at some of the most striking examples from Google Earth.

Harrowing Google Earth update reveals Ukraine before and after Russia’s attack

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Saturday 29 April 2023 14:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ireland’s Russian embassy has warned of possible “ensuing consequences” in response to tributes paid to an Irishman killed while fighting in Ukraine.

The comments have been criticised by a former minister for justice as “threatening” and “chilling”.

Finbar Cafferkey, from Achill Island in Co Mayo, is reported to have been killed while serving as a military volunteer in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Mr Cafferkey had previous combat experience in the Syrian conflict, and those paying tribute to him have described him as an activist on issues such as environmentalism and migration.

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Pope, meeting Ukrainian refugees, says better future possible

Saturday 29 April 2023 13:28 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis on Saturday met Ukrainians who fled the war on Hungary’s eastern border, telling the refugees that a different future is possible.

Francis met with about 600 refugees, poor and homeless people in a visit to St. Elizabeth’s church in Budapest on the second day of his visit, which began on Friday when he pointedly warned of the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe.

Francis was serenaded by a singing band of Hungarian Roma wearing flower-patterned clothing and seemed to enjoy the music as they hovered around him as he sat in his wheelchair.

But what Francis heard earlier was much more sober.

Oleg Yakovlev told of he and his wife Lyudmila and their five children had to leave Dnipro a year ago after Russian bombings.

“We were welcomed here and we have found a new home (but) many have suffered and suffer still because of the war,” Yakovlev told the pope.

Sitting in the first row of the church with his family, the youngest of Yakovlev children, a boy of about four, was amused by the attention he was getting, making faces at reporters as his father spoke of missiles, crumbled buildings and a 1,500 km trip to safety.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, millions of refugees have fled through Central Europe, including Hungary, and moved to other countries. About 35,000 have applied for temporary protection status in Hungary.

Francis said expressing compassion for those suffering from poverty and tragedy is an integral part of being a Christian, even if those in need are non-believers.

“Even amid pain and suffering, once we have received the balm of love, we find the courage needed to keep moving forward: we find the strength to believe that all is not lost, and that a different future is possible,” he said.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Saturday 29 April 2023 12:57 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp.

His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager.

As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead.

The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Russia to lodge official protest over 'seizure' of embassy school in Warsaw

Saturday 29 April 2023 12:09 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia will lodge an official diplomatic protest over what it says is the illegal seizure by the Polish authorities of its embassy school in Warsaw, Moscow’s ambassador to Poland told Russian state news agencies on Saturday.

Sergei Andreyev, the ambassador, said the move was a violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, but Poland said it was within its rights to take back the building.

“Today the Polish authorities decided to take forceful action, despite the fact that this is a diplomatic building, a school building,” Andreyev told the TASS news agency.

“This is an illegal action and a violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. We of course will lodge a protest,” the RIA news agency cited him as saying, adding that he expected Moscow to weigh potential retaliation.

Polish state-run news channel TVP Info reported that police were present outside the school on Kieleckiej street in Warsaw on Saturday morning.

“It’s the right of the ambassador to make this protest. So far, we don’t know if he has made it or not, we are waiting for this,” Lukasz Jasina, a Polish foreign ministry spokesman, told Reuters.

“Our opinion, which has been confirmed by the courts, is that this property belongs to the Polish state and was taken by Russia illegally.”

The two countries’ already fraught relations have soured further over the war in Ukraine with Warsaw helping arm Kyiv.

Andreyev said earlier this week that Polish prosecutors had seized significant amounts of money from the frozen bank accounts of the Russian embassy and trade mission.

Fire at Crimea fuel depot extinguished after apparent drone attack

Saturday 29 April 2023 11:38 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A fire at a fuel storage facility in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, caused by an apparent drone strike, has been extinguished, the Moscow-installed governor there said on Saturday.

“Open fire was extinguished in an area of 1,000 square meters,” Mikhail Razvozhaev said on the Telegram messaging app.

Earlier he said no one was injured and according to preliminary information the depot was hit by two drones.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea, said on Telegram that air defence and electronic warfare forces on Saturday shot down two drones over the Crimean Peninsula.

“There are no casualties or destruction,” he said.

Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has come under repeated air attacks since Russia invaded the country as a whole in February 2022.

Russian officials have blamed the attacks on Ukraine.

A spokesperson for Ukraine‘s armed forces said he did not have any information to suggest Ukraine was responsible for Saturday’s fire.

Watch: Pope Francis meets refugees who fled Ukraine on Hungary visit

Saturday 29 April 2023 11:06 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis has met with refugees who fled from Ukraine during the invasion as part of his three-day trip to Hungary.

This morning (29 April), the religious leader attended both the Elizabeth of Hungary Church to meet with less-fortunate people, before heading over to the ‘Protection of the Mother of God’ church, to meet the Greek Catholic community.

Yesterday, Pope Francis met nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, encouraging him to keep an open-mind when it comes to refugees, particularly because of the country’s close borders with Ukraine.

Watch: Pope Francis meets refugees who fled Ukraine on Hungary visit

Ukraine welcomes EU deal on continued farm exports

Saturday 29 April 2023 10:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine has welcomed the European Union’s hard-fought deal to keep farm exports flowing into and through the bloc to world markets, saying that the Middle East and Africa would specifically stand to benefit from it.

On Friday, the 27-nation EU ended a damaging internal stand-off over a destabilising glut of Ukraine farm imports by granting five eastern member countries the right to temporarily ban the most problematic produce while allowing all farm products to transit onwards.

Resolving the issue allows the EU to maintain a unified stance in the face of Russia‘s invasion of its neighbour.

“We welcome that we resolved this issue,” Ukrainian finance minister Sergii Marchenko said at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Stockholm.

Under the deal, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania can keep four farm products that make up the overwhelming mass of exports from Ukraine out of their local markets but must guarantee unfettered access to the rest of the bloc.

Since Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine hampered Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products, using the 27-nation bloc as a transportation route has been essential to getting the nation’s prized cereal production on to the world.

“We found a wise decision that would help Ukraine to export necessary commodities, food commodities towards African countries, which is so necessary for them,” Mr Marchenko said, adding Middle East nations would equally profit.

Under the deal, the bloc would basically accept the national bans on four of the five main products - wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds - that account for most imports. The EU would also assess whether other products, including sunflower oil, should also be included.

As an added sweetener, the EU provided 100 million euros more in special aid on top of on an initial support package of 56.3 million euros to help farmers in the affected countries.

On Friday, EU nations also tentatively agreed to lift tariffs on Ukraine‘s grains for another year.

The EU lifted duties on Ukrainian grain to facilitate its transport to Africa and the Middle East by other routes after a Russian blockade kept cargo from leaving Ukraine‘s ports.

Overall, there was acceptance that the lifting of import tariffs had seriously skewed the local markets in nations closest to Ukraine. In Poland, wheat imports went from 2,375 tons in 2021 to 500,008 tons last year. Maize went from 5,863 tons to more than 1.8 million over the same period.

Similar huge increases were also evident in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

In pictures: Crimeo oil depot set ablaze

Saturday 29 April 2023 09:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Photos taken from a video released by the Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev telegram channel on Saturday show smoke and flame rise from a burning fuel tank in Sevastopol, Crimea.

 (AP)
(AP)
 (AP)
(AP)

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Saturday 29 April 2023 09:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ireland’s Russian embassy has warned of possible “ensuing consequences” in response to tributes paid to an Irishman killed while fighting in Ukraine.

The comments have been criticised by a former minister for justice as “threatening” and “chilling”.

Finbar Cafferkey, from Achill Island in Co Mayo, is reported to have been killed while serving as a military volunteer in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Mr Cafferkey had previous combat experience in the Syrian conflict, and those paying tribute to him have described him as an activist on issues such as environmentalism and migration.

In the wake of his death, Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin expressed his sympathies to his family and said Mr Cafferkey was “obviously a young man of clear principles”.

Russian embassy’s statement on Irishman killed in Ukraine criticised as ‘chilling’

Pope Francis warns of rising nationalism in Europe as he begins Hungary trip

Saturday 29 April 2023 08:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis has warned of the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe, and told the Hungarian government that accepting migrants, as the rest of the continent does, would be a true sign of Christianity.

At the start of a three-day trip to Hungary, the pontiff made a hard-hitting speech to government leaders including the prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has had a series of run-ins with the European Union. Francis urged a rejection of “self-referential forms of populism” and strictly nationalist interests.

The Pope also called for a return to the “European soul” envisioned by those who had laid the groundwork for modern Europe after the Second World War, saying nations had to “look beyond national boundaries”.

Pope Francis warns of rising nationalism in Europe as he begins Hungary trip

Drone causes fire at Crimea oil reservoir

Saturday 29 April 2023 08:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A massive fire erupted at an oil reservoir in Crimea after it was hit by a drone, a Russia-appointed official there reported Saturday.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of the Black Sea peninsula’s port city of Sevastopol, posted videos and photos of the blaze on his Telegram channel.

Razvozhayev said the fire was assigned the highest ranking in terms of how complicated it will be to extinguish.He did not say whether the drone he cited as causing the fire was Ukrainian.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world considered illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country is seeking to reclaim the peninsula during Russia‘s current full-scale invasion.

 (AP)
(AP)

Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the oil reservoir fire.

After previous attacks on Crimea, Kyiv usually stopped short of openly claiming responsibility but emphasized that the country had the right to strike any target in response to Russian aggression.

ICYMI: Ukraine vows ‘iron fist’ counterattack after Russian missile strikes

Saturday 29 April 2023 07:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Ukraine has said it is concluding its preparations for a huge ground assault to try and reclaim land seized by Russia after Moscow launched its first large-scale missile assault in weeks that killed at least 23 people.

Chris Stevenson reports:

Ukraine vows ‘iron fist’ counterattack is close as Russian strikes kill at least 25

Artwork showing train journey through Ukraine goes on show ahead of Eurovision

Saturday 29 April 2023 07:00 , Emily Atkinson

An art installation showing Ukraine from the perspective of refugees on a train has gone on display at Liverpool Cathedral as the city prepares to host the Eurovision Song Contest.

The work, Izyum to Liverpool by Katya Buchatska, features 12 television screens showing the view from train windows during a 24-hour journey across the war-torn country.

It is one of a number of works commissioned as part of EuroFestival, a cultural programme running alongside the song contest, which is being hosted by Liverpool on behalf of last year’s winner Ukraine.

More on this story here:

Artwork showing train journey through Ukraine goes on show ahead of Eurovision

US 'deeply disappointed' after Russia denies request to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter

Saturday 29 April 2023 06:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The US is “deeply disappointed” after its request to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was denied by Russia, reported CNN.

At a State Department briefing on Friday principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said: “We have been clear and consistent that American nationals detained abroad, especially those American citizens who are wrongfully detained like Evan, like Paul Whelan, are allotted appropriate and regular consular access by our personnel.

“And so we’re going to continue to insist that.”

The statement comes after the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday rejected the US’ request to see Mr Gershkovich.

The Russian ministry said that the decision was in response to Washington’s denial to provide visas to Russian reporters for foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the United Nations this week.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

I was only joking about Bakhmut ceasefire, says Wagner chief

Saturday 29 April 2023 06:00 , Emily Atkinson

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said he had been joking when he offered to suspend artillery fire on Ukrainian forces in besieged Bakhmut.

Wagner has been spearheading Russia’s assault on the Ukrainian city since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, but Ukrainian forces have so far thwarted its attempts to take full control.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message: “A decision has been taken to suspend artillery fire so that American journalists can safely film Bakhmut and go home.”

Alastair Jamieson reports:

I was only joking about Bakhmut ceasefire, says Wagner chief

South Korea considering its options on lethal aid to Ukraine

Saturday 29 April 2023 05:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Friday that Seoul was considering its options when it came to providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

In a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School on the fifth day of his state visit to the US, Mr Yoon called Russia’s invasion a violation of international law and the rights of Ukrainians.

When asked about the possibility of South Korea providing lethal aid to Ukraine, the president replied: “We are closely monitoring the situation that’s going on the battlefield in Ukraine and will take proper measures in order to uphold the international norms and international law.

“We are considering various options.”

Earlier Mr Yoon had said to Reuters in an interview last week that Seoul might extend its support for Ukraine beyond humanitarian and economic aid if it comes under a large-scale civilian attack, signalling a shift in his stance against arming Ukraine for the first time.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Zelensky meets with presidents of Slovakia and Czech Republic

Saturday 29 April 2023 05:00 , Emily Atkinson

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky met with the president of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, and the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel.

Zelensky said they discussed military aid to help Ukraine address Russia’s invasion and “prepare for (the) counteroffensive,” as well as the forthcoming Nato summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“We are expecting ambitious decisions that will enforce Europe’s security,” he said. “The time has come to eliminate any uncertainty.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

There has long been talk of a Ukrainian spring counter-offensive against invading Russian forces, but it has still to materialize.

Czech president Pavel said what he saw in Ukraine reminded him of the devastation from wars in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.

“Fortunately, it hasn’t broken the Ukrainians,” said Pavel, a retired army general and former senior Nato official. “Russia has shown such an inclination to barbarism in recent years that I’m not surprised.”

Zelensky calls for removal of restrictions on Ukrainian food exports

Saturday 29 April 2023 04:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called for removal of the ban on importing Ukrainian agricultural products in some neighbouring European countries in a call with European Union president Charles Michel.

“The artificial and illegal restriction of trade with the European Union is hitting Ukraine, resisting Russian aggression, both economically and politically,” Mr Zelensky said according to a release from his office.

“I’m convinced that in the conditions of war with Russia, Ukraine as a candidate country and the European Union must always adhere to the provisions of the Association Agreement and the rules and regulations of the EU Single Market.

“Therefore, any alternative to the legal approach will not be considered a solution to the problem,” he said.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Top diplomats visit Odesa to show support

Saturday 29 April 2023 04:00 , Emily Atkinson

Seven foreign ministers from a group of Ukraine‘s European backers visited the war-torn country Friday to express support for Kyiv in its defence against Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, hosting his counterparts from four Nordic and three Baltic countries in the southern port city of Odesa, repeated a plea for the delivery of US-made fighter jets to his country.

“(The jets) are needed to cover our brigades that are going to (counter-attack),” Kuleba said.

Although no promises were made, he added, “I have a feeling that our colleagues are well-disposed in this matter.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Kuleba met with the foreign ministers of Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Because of government formation talks in Finland, the Nordic country was represented by a senior foreign ministry official.

“Through this visit, we manifest strong Nordic and Baltic support for Ukraine and its people,” said Tobias Billström of Sweden whose country currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union.

“I honestly don’t remember if Odesa ever hosted this many ministers of foreign affairs at once. If this is the first such time, we are glad, together with our colleagues, to set a new standard,” Kuleba said.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Saturday 29 April 2023 03:00 , Emily Atkinson

It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp.

His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager.

As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead.

The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV:

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Harrowing Google Earth update reveals Ukraine before and after Russia’s attack

Saturday 29 April 2023 02:00 , Emily Atkinson

Google has updated it’s aerial maps of Ukraine for the first time since the start of Russia’s attack - with images now revealing the full scale of devastation.

The contrast is stark in Mariupol. The city of was a centre of industry, producing steel and other metals but since the February 2022 invasion has come under siege from Russian troops and is now occupied by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Old Maruipol was disembowelled by its occupiers, with the UN estimating that 90 per cent of residential buildings were damaged or destroyed in the bombardment.

Here, The Independent looks at some of the most striking examples from Google Earth:

Harrowing Google Earth update reveals Ukraine before and after Russia’s attack

Watch: Aerials of building hit by Russian missiles

Saturday 29 April 2023 01:00 , Emily Atkinson

US ‘deeply disappointed’ by Russia’s rejection of request to visit jailed reporter

Saturday 29 April 2023 00:00 , Emily Atkinson

The US is “deeply disappointed” by Russia’s rejection of its embassy’s request to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in prison, state department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on Friday.

Russia said on Thursday it had rejected the request in response to Washington’s refusal to grant visas to a group of Russian journalists.

Gershkovich was arrested last month and accused of espionage, a charge he has denied. The United States has designated him as wrongfully detained.

Turkey's Ziraat Bank may mediate in payments for Russian grains

Friday 28 April 2023 23:00 , Emily Atkinson

Turkish state lender Ziraat Bank may mediate in payments for Russian grain and fertilisers, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, adding that Ankara was still in negotiations with the deal’s participants.

The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July, allows Ukrainian grain trapped by the conflict to be safely exported from the country’s Black Sea ports.

Ukraine vows ‘iron fist’ counterattack is close as Russian missile strikes kill at least 25

Friday 28 April 2023 22:00 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine has said it is concluding its preparations for a huge ground assault to try and reclaim land seized by Russia after Moscow launched its first large-scale missile assault in weeks that killed at least 25 people.

The Ukrainian defence minister, Oleskii Reznikov, said that weapons received from the West will help his country use an “iron fist” to punch through Russian lines, as Kyiv seeks to reclaim the near one-fifth of the country Moscow occupies. “As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it,” Mr Reznikov told an online news briefing, adding that Ukraine’s military is “to a high percentage ready” for the counteroffensive.

Chris Stevenson reports:

Ukraine vows ‘iron fist’ counterattack is close as Russian strikes kill at least 25

Putin signs decree introducing life sentences for treason

Friday 28 April 2023 21:00 , Emily Atkinson

Vladimir Putin has signed a decree formally increasing the maximum sentence for treason to life in jail, as part of a drive to suppress dissent since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The decree was posted on the Kremlin website. Lawmakers had already voted to boost the longest sentences for treason to life, up from 20 years.

Legislators also approved raising the maximum sentence for carrying out “a terrorist act” - defined as a deed that endangered lives and was aimed at destabilizing Russia - to 20 years, from 15 years at present.

 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
(SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Those found guilty of sabotage could also go to jail for 20 years, up from 15, while people convicted of “international terrorism” could be sentenced to life, up from 12 years. The decree did not explain what “international terrorism” is.

Putin signed the new decree at a time when rights groups say authorities are stepping up efforts to quieten the few voices of opposition that remain.

What are the ‘dragon’s teeth’ defences being erected by Russia in Ukraine?

Friday 28 April 2023 20:00 , Emily Atkinson

Russian forces have been erecting “dragon’s teeth” defensive barricades in areas of Ukraine they control, in anticipation of an imminent counteroffensive by Kyiv, according to the latest satellite imagery of the warzone.

The defensive obstacles, pyramid-shaped concrete shards also nicknamed “devil’s teeth” for their resemblance to a fanged jawline, can be seen running between anti-tank ditches and troop-manned trenches from western Russia through eastern Ukraine towards Crimea, in aerial imagery recorded by Capella Space, Reuters reports.

The layered, zig-zagging lines are intended to make life as difficult as possible for any oncoming Ukrainian forces, as Russia seeks to protect the territory it has seized.

Joe Sommerlad has the details:

What are the ‘dragon’s teeth’ defences being erected by Russia in Ukraine?

Death toll rises to ‘at least 25'

Friday 28 April 2023 19:15 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine said it was nearly ready to launch a huge ground assault to retake occupied land, after Russia’s overnight missile attacks killed at least 25 civilians.

The war is coming to a crucial juncture after a months-long Russian winter offensive that gained little ground despite the bloodiest fighting so far. Kyiv is preparing a counteroffensive using hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles sent by the West.

It wants to drive Russia out of the nearly one fifth of Ukraine that it occupies and claims to have annexed.

“As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it,” Ukrainian defence minister Oleskii Reznikov told an online news briefing.

Ukraine was “to a high percentage ready”, he said, with new modern weapons to provide an “iron fist”.

In the central town of Uman, firefighters battled a blaze at a residential apartment building struck on an upper floor by a Russian missile. Officials said at least 23 civilians were killed there, including four children.

Ukraine cancels new air alerts

Friday 28 April 2023 18:45 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine stood down the series of air alerts that were issued for much of eastern and southern Ukraine and some central regions on Friday after Russian missile strikes killed 24 people, authorities said.

 (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
(Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

Russia says Ukrainian rocket attack kills seven civilians in Donetsk

Friday 28 April 2023 18:15 , Emily Atkinson

The top Russian-installed official in Ukraine‘s occupied Donetsk region has accused Ukraine of killing seven people on Friday, including a child.

Denis Pushilin said the fatalities were the result of a rocket that set a minibus alight in the city of Donetsk.

A Russian Investigative Committee officer, who declined to give his name, told Reuters that a residential area had been struck by multiple Grad rockets.

He said all the passengers “including children” died, and the only survivor was the driver.

 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Reuters was unable to independently verify the number of casualties or who was to blame.

The Russian-installed mayor of Donetsk, Alexei Kulemzin, said on Telegram that 19 people had been wounded by shelling on Friday in various parts of the city, in addition to the seven who had been killed.

Early on Friday, Russia launched its first large-scale air strikes on Ukraine in nearly two months, killing at least 21 civilians including several children.

Friday 28 April 2023 17:46 , Emily Atkinson

Equipment spotted at Ukraine‘s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia controls, will be used to fix a power transmission line that leads to Russian-held territory, Moscow reportedly told the UN nuclear watchdog.

A small number of International Atomic Energy Agency officials are present at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), which is operated by Ukrainian staff working under the orders of Russian forces and the Russian nuclear company Rosatom.

“The (IAEA) Team observed, and following questions were subsequently informed, that a large piece of equipment being transported into the turbine hall of Unit 3 was a transformer to replace the damaged ‘Kakhovka’ node in the ZNPP open switchyard,” it said in a statement.

“The Kakhovka line is one of the four 750 kV (kilovolt) lines that were operational before the military conflict. This line is linked to the currently Russian-controlled electrical grid, to the south of the ZNPP site,” it added.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Only one of those four power lines is currently working and is the only source of external power to the plant, which it needs to keep cooling the fuel in its six reactors even though they are shut down. Failing to cool that fuel could lead to a potentially catastrophic nuclear meltdown.

The IAEA said it also had not had access to the switchyard at a nearby thermal power plant (TPP) that can supply backup power to Zaporizhzhia. The IAEA last visited that switchyard in December, when damage from shelling was observed.

“Two weeks ago the team was informed that access would be granted in the coming days. It is important that ISAMZ (the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia) gets the necessary access to the ZTPP open switchyard given the implications on nuclear safety and security at ZNPP.”

India and Russia agree to boost longstanding defence ties

Friday 28 April 2023 17:19 , Emily Atkinson

India and Russia agreed to strengthen their defence partnership in talks between their defence ministers on Friday, the Indian government said, amid worries in New Delhi that the war in Ukraine was hurting its own military supplies from Moscow.

Rajnath Singh and Sergei Shoigu held talks on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ gathering in New Delhi.

“They acknowledged the unique, long-lasting and time-tested relationship between India and Russia,” the statement said.

They “expressed satisfaction over the continued trust and mutual respect between the two countries, particularly in defence and reiterated their commitment towards strengthening the partnership,” it said, without elaborating.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies, and has bought fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier over the decades.

New air alerts in Ukraine after deadly Russian missile strikes

Friday 28 April 2023 16:42 , Emily Atkinson

Air alerts were issued for much of eastern and southern Ukraine and some central regions on Friday, with officials appealing to residents not to ignore the warnings.

“Do not ignore the alerts,” Andriy Yermak, head of president Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on the Telegram messaging app hours after deadly Russian missile strikes earlier on Friday.

See live updates on air alerts in Ukraine here:

Death toll rises to 19

Friday 28 April 2023 16:10 , Matt Mathers

Russia has fired more than 20 cruise missiles and two drones at Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, killing at least 19 people, officials said.

Almost all of the deaths are said to have happened when two missiles hit an apartment building in central Ukraine.

Three children, including a toddler, are among the dead.

Putin signs decree paving way for deportation of people from annexed Ukraine

Friday 28 April 2023 15:40 , Matt Mathers

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree that gives people living in parts of Ukraine under Moscow’s control a path to Russian citizenship but means those who decline or who do not legalise their status face potential deportation.

The decree extends to four Ukrainian regions which Russia has claimed as its own and partially controls: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Kyiv says it will retake all four areas and has accused Moscow of trying to browbeat its citizens into accepting Russian citizenship.

The new decree sets out ways that Ukrainian citizens or those holding passports issued by Russia-backed breakaway republics, and who live in the four regions, can start the process of becoming Russian citizens or legalise their status with the Russian authorities.

Kyiv ready to counterattack with 'iron fist'

Friday 28 April 2023 15:02 , Matt Mathers

Kyiv said on Friday it was nearly ready to launch a huge ground assault to retake occupied land, after Russia hurled missiles at cities as people slept overnight, killing at least 21 civilians in its first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months.

The war is coming to a crucial juncture after a months-long Russian winter offensive that gained little ground despite the bloodiest fighting so far. Kyiv is preparing a counteroffensive using hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles sent by the West, hoping to drive Russia out of the nearly a fifth of the country that it occupies and claims to have annexed.

"As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it," Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleskii Reznikov told an online news briefing.

Afternoon recap contd.

Friday 28 April 2023 14:45 , Matt Mathers

Diplomacy/politics

  • Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, who was sanctioned by the West and dubbed the "Butcher of Mariupol" by the EU, has been removed as deputy defence minister, reports said.

  • Russia rejects U.S. embassy request to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in response to Washington’s refusal to grant visas to group of Russian journalists.

  • The Kremlin played down the idea that Russia might be preparing to carry out a nuclear weapons test, saying all nuclear states were abiding by a moratorium.

  • A United Nations committee said it was deeply concerned about human rights violations by Russian forces and private military companies in Ukraine, including enforced disappearances, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing for naturalised Russian citizens who "threaten national security" to be stripped of their citizenship, RIA news agency reported.

Afternoon recap

Friday 28 April 2023 14:15 , Matt Mathers

Kyiv said on Friday it was nearly ready to launch a huge ground assault to retake occupied land, after Russia hurled missiles at cities as people slept overnight, killing at least 17 people in its first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months.

Fighting

  • War at crucial juncture after Russian winter offensive gains little ground and Kyiv prepares counter-offensive using hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles sent by the West.

  • Russia said its strategic bombers had carried out what it called high-precision missile strikes on Ukrainian army reserve units overnight to prevent them from getting to the frontline.

  • Ukraine said victims included several children killed in strikes on homes.

  • Russian-installed mayor of Donetsk city said seven people were killed when Ukrainian shelling hit a minibus.

UN body deplores 'grave' rights abuses by Russia in Ukraine

Friday 28 April 2023 13:40 , Matt Mathers

United Nations committee said on Friday it was deeply concerned about human rights violations by Russian forces and private military companies in Ukraine, including enforced disappearances, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions.

In its findings on Russia, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the Russian authorities to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed during the invasion of Ukraine.

“The Committee was deeply concerned about the grave human rights violations committed during the ongoing armed conflict by the Russian Federation’s military forces and private military companies ...,” it said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian permanent mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

In its report, the committee listed excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, killings and the forcible transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia among the violations committed.

Russia, which the US committee said had refused to provide it with information on the conflict, has denied committing atrocities and deliberately attacking civilians in Ukraine. It denies deporting Ukrainian children to Russia, saying it has evacuated them to keep them safe.

“The refusal of the Russian Federation to address these issues did not hinder us from addressing them in our concluding observations, but of course it made our work more difficult,” committee member Mehrdad Payandeh told reporters in Geneva.

Pope calls for ‘creative efforts for peace'

Friday 28 April 2023 13:00 , Matt Mathers

The Pope has called for “creative efforts for peace” to end the war in Ukraine.

He is currently visiting Hungary where he will set out his vision for Europe.

We’ll have more on this story as it comes in,

Death toll rises to 17

Friday 28 April 2023 12:40 , Matt Mathers

Russia hurled missiles at cities across Ukraine as people slept early on Friday, killing at least 17 people in the first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months.

Hours after the pre-dawn attacks, Kyiv said it was finishing preparations for a counteroffensive to try to take back territory occupied by Russian forces in 14 months of war.

In the central city of Uman, firefighters battled a raging blaze at a residential apartment building that had been struck on an upper floor.

At least 15 people were killed in Uman, including two children, and nine people were taken to hospital, the regional governor said.

Russia sacks deputy defence minister sanctioned by West over Mariupol - reports

Friday 28 April 2023 12:00 , Matt Mathers

Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, who was sanctioned by the West and dubbed the "Butcher of Mariupol" for his role in the Ukraine war, has been removed as deputy defence minister, according to a military blogger and a leading news website.

Mizintsev orchestrated the siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in the early months of the war last year. In September, he was appointed deputy defence minister in charge of logistics and supplies.

Imposing sanctions against Mizintsev last June, the European Union referred to him as the Butcher of Mariupol and said he was responsible for the "inhuman" siege of the shattered Ukrainian city, which Russia says it is now rebuilding.

His departure was reported by a Russian military blogger, Alexander Sladkov, and by the RBC news site. Neither offered an explanation for why he had apparently been removed.

The defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the Kremlin has said it cannot say anything on the subject and has referred questions on the matter to the defence ministry.

Vladimir Putin has replaced Dmitry Bulgakov with Mikhail Mizintsev (AP)
Vladimir Putin has replaced Dmitry Bulgakov with Mikhail Mizintsev (AP)

Ukraine wrapping up preparation for couteroffensive

Friday 28 April 2023 11:30 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine is wrapping up preparations for a counteroffensive against Russian forces and is largely ready for it to go ahead, Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday.

"As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it," he told an online news briefing.

He gave no date for when the counteroffensive would start but said: "Globally speaking, we are to a high percentage ready."

Kyiv hopes its planned counteroffensive will change the dynamics of the war that has raged since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago.

Russia Ukraine War (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Russia Ukraine War (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Military units that have fought in Ukraine to join Victory Day parade - Kremlin

Friday 28 April 2023 10:58 , Matt Mathers

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russian military units that have fought in Ukraine will be represented in a parade in Moscow on May 9 to mark the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two.

The holiday is one of the most important in the Russian calendar, usually featuring a huge show of military hardware on Red Square and a speech from President Vladimir Putin.

The Victory Day military parade is a celebration that pays tribute to the triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945.

Russia pulls Army Games over Ukraine losses - MoD

Friday 28 April 2023 10:15 , Matt Mathers

Russia may have pulled its annual International Army Games due to losses sustained in Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has said.

A shortage of tanks, tank crew and other skilled personnel could have risked the Russian team’s usual domination of the medals tables, it added.

The games have been used to reestablish the military at the heart of popular culture.

Death toll from overnight missile barrage rises to 12

Friday 28 April 2023 09:45 , Matt Mathers

The death toll following last night’s attacks has risen to 12.

Russia hurled missiles at cities across Ukraine as people slept early on Friday.

It was the first large scale attack by Russia in nearly two months

A building burns following last night’s attacks (Telegram/ Volodymyr Zelensky)
A building burns following last night’s attacks (Telegram/ Volodymyr Zelensky)

Pope to give vision for Europe in Hungary

Friday 28 April 2023 08:45 , Matt Mathers

Pope Francis plans to outline his vision for the future of Europe during a three-day visit to Hungary starting Friday, with Russia’s war in Ukraine, migration flows and Hungary’s tense relations with Brussels looming large over the pontiff’s weekend journey.

Hungarian officials say Francis’ pilgrimage was designed primarily to let the pope minister to the country’s Catholic community and to encourage its members in their faith.

But with the war unfolding next door and Hungary butting heads with other European Union nations over rule of law issues and LGBTQ+ rights, Francis’ words and deeds in the heart of Europe will carry strong political undertones.

After his arrival, Francis is scheduled to meet with President Katalin Novak and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and then to deliver his main political speech to Hungarian authorities and diplomats. He has a chance to speak to Hungarian society and Europe at large in his final event Sunday, when he’ll address academic and cultural figures at Budapest’s Catholic University.

In between, Francis is set to meet with some of the 35,000 Ukrainian refugees who have remained in Hungary after 2.5 million fled across Ukraine’s border with Hungary’s early on in Russia’s invasion. It will be another opportunity for Francis to raise immigration as a topic and and to reiterate his belief that European countries should, within their means, open their arms and borders to people fleeing poverty as well as conflicts.

Pope boards flight to Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Pope boards flight to Hungary (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Death toll from overnight strikes rises to eight

Friday 28 April 2023 08:15 , Matt Mathers

Russia has fired more than 20 cruise missiles and two drones at Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, killing at least eight people and hitting a residential building in central Ukraine, officials said.

Air raid sirens sounded around the capital in the first attack against the city in nearly two months and Ukraine’s air force intercepted 11 cruise missiles and two unmanned aerial vehicles over Kyiv, according to the city administration.

There were no immediate reports of any missiles hitting targets in Kyiv but fragments from intercepted missiles or drones damaged power lines and a road in one neighbourhood.

No casualties were reported.

Explosion rock Kyiv overnight (Telegram: Zoya Vovk, Cherkasy Oblast police)
Explosion rock Kyiv overnight (Telegram: Zoya Vovk, Cherkasy Oblast police)

Russian defence minister says US and allies trying to restore military presence in Central Asia

Friday 28 April 2023 07:22 , Matt Mathers

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that the United States and its allies are trying to restore their military presence in Central Asia under the pretext of fighting terrorism, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

RIA cited Shoigu as saying that Russia was increasing combat readiness at its bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as a result.

Russia China (Sputnik)
Russia China (Sputnik)

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