Russia launches its full-scale offensive to take control of Ukraine's east, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announces, while bombarding Lviv and numerous other cities on the 54th day of fighting.

Russian forces are increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions — both of which are part of the Donbass.
Russian forces are increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions — both of which are part of the Donbass. (TRTWorld)

Monday, April 18, 2022

Russians fight in streets of Ukrainian town

A Ukrainian military official has said street battles have begun and evacuation is impossible in the town of Kreminna. That's one of only two spots where the Ukrainians said the Russians managed to break through on Monday along a front stretching for hundreds of miles.

Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said the town came under heavy artillery overnight, setting seven residential buildings on fire, and that the Olympus sports complex where the nation's Olympic team trains were targeted.

Haidai later said on Ukrainian TV that Russians took control of the city after "leveling everything to the ground," so his forces retreated to regroup and keep on fighting. "It simply makes no sense to stand in one place, to die for everyone, without causing significant damage to the enemy," he said.

Ukraine says military 'holding out' in Donbass region

Russian forces are attacking along a broad front, over 480 kilometres long, Ukrainian officials have said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces were increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions — both of which are part of the Donbass — as well as in the area of Zaporizhzhia, they said.

"The occupiers attempted to break through our defences," said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's national security council. "Fortunately, our military is holding out. They passed through only two cities — this is Kreminna and another small town. We are not giving up any of our territories."

Ukraine: Russia begins 'Battle for Donbass' 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russian forces have begun the "Battle for Donbass" after senior officials said Moscow had begun a new offensive push along most of Ukraine's eastern flank.

"We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbass, which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive," he said on Telegram.

"No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves."

Shortly before Zelenskyy's address, the regional governor of the eastern Lugansk region Sergiy Gaiday also announced the beginning of Russia's much-anticipated attack. "It's hell. The offensive has begun, the one we've been talking about for weeks. There's constant fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, fighting in other peaceful cities."

At least 1,000 civilians hiding under Ukrainian stronghold steel plant in Mariupol

Over 1,000 civilians are hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the city council said, adding that Russia was dropping heavy bombs onto the Ukrainian-held factory in the besieged city.

"Mostly the (civilians) are women with children and old people," the city council wrote on the Telegram messaging app. 

Street battles have been taking place in Mariupol over the past week as Russian forces seek to take full control of the city from Ukraine

Russian strikes kill 8 civilians in east Ukraine

Russian strikes killed at least eight civilians in the embattled eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, local authorities said.

Four died as they tried to flee the city of Kreminna where Russian forces have gathered, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram. 

Four other civilians died in Russian bombing in Donetsk, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

EU condemns Russia's indiscriminate shelling

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned Russia's latest missile attacks targeting Ukrainian civilians.

In a statement released on behalf of the bloc, Borrell said the EU "condemns the continued indiscriminate and illegal shelling of civilians and civilian infrastructure by Russian armed forces."

He pointed out that the east and south of Ukraine, including the Luhansk region and the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, and Popasna, have faced "particularly heavy attacks" in recent days. 

Macron: Dialogue with Putin stalled after mass killings discovered in Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron said that his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin has stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

"Since the massacres we have discovered in Bucha and in other towns, the war has taken a different turn, so I did not speak to him again directly since, but I don't rule out doing so in the future", Macron told France 5 television.

Russia has called the accusations its forces executed civilians in Bucha while occupying the town a "monstrous forgery" aimed at denigrating the Russian army. 

Two people killed by shelling in Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Two people were killed by shelling in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the local prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Reuters could not independently verify this information. 

Captured British nationals ask Johnson to exchange them for Ukraine's Medvedchuk

Two British mercenaries captured by the Russian military in Ukraine are apparently asking UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to exchange them for Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition Ukrainian politician.

In a video message aired by Russian state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin said they would be grateful if Johnson helped to free them. 

Addressing their relatives, they said they are being treated well in captivity and asked that their appeal be given to Johnson. 

Yellen to call for increased economic pressure on Russia: official

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week will call on her counterparts to ramp up the economic pain on Moscow over its attacks in Ukraine, a senior Treasury official said.

Yellen will participate in the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, as well as gatherings of finance officials from the G7 and G20 nations, where the fallout from the war will be a key topic of discussion.

"The secretary believes the Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated the need for the world's largest economies to stand together to defend international order and protect peace and prosperity," the official told reporters.

Putin honours brigade accused by Ukraine of 'war crimes'

Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowed an honorary title on a brigade accused by Ukraine of "war crimes" and mass killings in the town of Bucha.

The announcement was made on the 54th day of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine, with thousands killed and 12 million people fleeing their homes or country in the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

A decree signed by Putin gave the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade the title of "Guards" for defending the "Motherland and state interests" and praised the "mass heroism and valour, tenacity and courage" of its members. 

Russia expels Bulgarian diplomats in retaliatory move

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it summoned Bulgarian Ambassador Atanas Krastin and handed him a note about the expulsion of Bulgarian diplomats from Moscow.

In a statement, the ministry said that the step was taken in response to the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from Sofia.

On March 18, Bulgaria declared 10 Russian diplomats persona non grata, accusing them of "activities incompatible with diplomatic status." 

German bosses, unions jointly oppose boycott of Russian gas

Germany's employers and unions have joined together in opposing an immediate European Union ban on natural gas imports from Russia over its attacks in Ukraine, saying such a move would lead to factory shutdowns and the loss of jobs in the bloc's largest economy.

“A rapid gas embargo would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, a further de-industrialization and the long-term loss of work positions in Germany,” said Rainer Dulger, chairman of the BDA employer's group, and Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the DGB trade union confederation, in a joint statement Monday on Germany's DPA news agency. 

Zelenskyy answers EU member questionnaire

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has formally submitted Ukraine’s answers to a questionnaire from the European Union, the first step in his campaign to obtain accelerated EU membership.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said when presenting the questions to Zelenskyy in early April that a preliminary decision on Ukraine’s candidacy could come in weeks.

Ukraine’s drive to join the bloc has been a provocative issue with Russia for years. Zelenskyy told the EU’s envoy on Monday that the people of Ukraine are united by their goal to become an equal part of Europe.

Russian forces strike in Ukraine's west, mass in east

Russian missiles have hit the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, killing at least seven people, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow’s troops stepped up strikes on infrastructure in preparation for an all-out assault on the east. 

Plumes of thick, black smoke rose over the city after a series of explosions shattered windows and started fires. 

Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine have seen only sporadic strikes during almost two months of conflict and have become a relative safe haven for people from parts of the country where fighting has been more intense.

Detained Ukrainian politician calls for his exchange with people in Mariupol

Detained Ukrainian pro-Russia opposition party leader Viktor Medvedchuk called on Ukrainian and Russian leaders to exchange him for civilians and troops in Mariupol, the besieged southeastern port city.

"Exchange me with the residents and defenders of Mariupol who are deprived of their right to a safe-exit through humanitarian corridors," he said in a video published by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

Medvedchuk is the leader of the pro-Russian Ukraine’s Opposition Platform, For Life party, and was put under house arrest in May 2021 on suspicion of treason. 

Ukraine calls for humanitarian corridor from Mariupol steel plant 

Ukraine called for Russia to facilitate a humanitarian corridor for evacuees from the besieged port city of Mariupol and one from the steel plant that is the city's last significant area of Ukrainian resistance.

"We demand an urgent humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal plant for women, children and other civilians," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a post on the Telegram messaging service.

Sanctions against Russia would cost Serbia dearly - President Vucic

Imposing sanctions on Russia would cost Serbia dearly, Aleksandar Vucic, the country's president who recently won a second term, said.

In a statement to TV Pink, Vucic said his personal views on Russia-Ukraine conflict differ from the official view of the Serbian state.

"Russia has been supporting Serbia's territorial integrity since 2001. Whether Serbia imposes sanctions on Russia or not, it costs Serbia dearly. I believe that we will get Russian gas at a more affordable price compared to other countries in Europe," he added.

Russian Defense Ministry warns of provocations for Orthodox Easter in Ukraine

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the Ukrainian special services are planning to shell Orthodox churches and temples on Easter night, Saturday.

As part of measures against possible provocations, over 70 mobile groups in vehicles equipped with mortars are formed in Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions, the ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a daily briefing in Moscow. 

Ukraine says Russian forces have entered Kreminna city

Russian forces have entered the Kreminna city in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, an official said.

“The Russians entered Kreminna. Street fights began. Evacuation is not possible,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk Oblast, said on Telegram.

He said that the Russian forces entered Kreminna with many tanks and armoured vehicles and that the civilians have been stuck in the city. 

Ukraine: Several killed in Russian missile strikes on Lviv

Six people have been killed and eight wounded in missile strikes on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, regional governor Maksym Kozystkiy has said. 

Three missiles hit military infrastructure facilities, he said, while one struck a car tire replacement facility. Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of the Ukrainian rail service, said the strikes hit near railway facilities.

The city's mayor, Andriy Sadovy, wrote on social media that emergency services were at the site in Lviv, which has been spared much of the worst violence since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24.

The Russians continue barbarically attacking Ukrainian cities from the air, cynically declaring to the whole world their 'right' to kill Ukrainians

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak

Kiev halts evacuations for second day over Russian shelling

Ukraine has said it was halting for a second consecutive day the evacuation of civilians from frontline town and cities in the east of the country, accusing Russian forces of blocking and shelling escape routes.

"Unfortunately, today, April 18, there will be no humanitarian corridors," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media.

"In violation of international humanitarian law, the Russian occupiers have not stopped blocking and shelling humanitarian routes," she added.

Russia plans legal action over frozen assets

Russia plans to take legal action over the blocking of gold, forex and assets belonging to Russian residents, Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina has said.

He said such a step would need to be painstakingly thought through and legally justified.

Foreign sanctions have frozen about $300 billion of around $640 billion that Russia had in its gold and forex reserves when it launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Ex UK army chief expects 'gruesome end' in Mariupol

The former head of the British Army has said Ukraine's fight to retain Mariupol will have a "very gruesome" end as Russian troops encircle the port city.

Richard Dannatt told British broadcaster Sky News since Ukrainian troops are unable restock ammunition "it's only a matter of time before Mariupol completely falls under Russian control."

There is an unwillingness on both sides to give up after suffering major fatalities, Dannatt said, especially once Russia secures the land corridor through Mariupol from Crimea to the Donbass region.

200,000 risk losing jobs in Moscow over sanctions

Around 200,000 employees of foreign companies in Moscow could lose their jobs due to sanctions over Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, the city's mayor has said.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a blog post that authorities had last week approved a $41-million programme to support employment in the Russian capital.

Ukraine claims 20,600 Russian troops killed in conflict

Some 20,600 Russian soldiers have been killed since the attacks began in Ukraine on February 24, the Ukrainian military said.

Ukrainian forces have destroyed 167 Russian aircrafts, 147 helicopters, 155 unmanned aerial vehicles, 790 tanks, 2,041 armoured vehicles and 381 artillery systems, according to the Ukrainian General Staff’s latest update.

Some 130 Russian multiple rocket launcher systems, 1,487 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 67 anti-aircraft systems and seven boats have also been destroyed, it added.

Spain to reopen Kiev embassy in coming days

Spain will reopen its embassy in Kiev in the coming days, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said in an interview with the Antena3 TV network.

The Spanish embassy in Ukraine's capital was evacuated on February 24 when Russian troops attacked the country.

The move comes after several other European countries, including France, recently announced they would move back their embassies to Kiev. 

TASS: Russia says it destroyed four arms depots in Ukraine

Russia's defence ministry says it has destroyed four arms and military equipment depots in Ukraine overnight with Iskander missiles, the TASS news agency has reported.

Russian forces had hit 315 Ukrainian targets in total overnight, TASS cited the ministry as saying on Monday.

UK: Mariupol resistance hinders Russian plans

Britain’s defence ministry says the continuing siege of Mariupol is tying up Russian forces and slowing its advance ahead of a planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine.

In a daily intelligence update, Britain’s military says “concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and materiel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere”.

Britain says “large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed” and there are “significant” civilian casualties. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Ukraine: Russia wants to 'destroy' Donbass 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of wanting to "destroy" the entire eastern region of Donbass, as the last remaining forces in the strategic port of Mariupol prepared for a final defence.

"Russian troops are preparing for an offensive operation in the east of our country in the near future. They want to literally finish off and destroy Donbass," Zelenskyy said in an evening statement.

Moscow is pushing for a major victory in the southern city as it works to wrest control of Donbass and forge a land corridor to already-annexed Crimea.

Ukraine claims to have downed more Russian helicopters

Ukraine has claimed that its air defence forces have downed more Russian attack helicopters.

Russian forces, which continue to bomb Ukrainian cities and spread death among the civilian population, have suffered severe losses, said the Ukrainian Air Force in a statement.

“Accordingly, in the last 24 hours, apart from a KA-52 helicopter, we downed two Mi-24 attack helicopters, one plane and one Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicle,” the statement said.

Oil prices rise on supply concerns as Ukraine crisis deepens

Oil prices has risen as concerns grew about tighter global supply, with the deepening crisis in Ukraine raising the prospect of heavier sanctions by the West on top exporter Russia.

Brent futures were up $1.50, or 1.3 percent, at $113.20 a barrel at 0030 GMT, and US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 98 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $107.93 a barrel.

Ahead of Easter weekend holidays, both contracts gained more than 2.5 percent on Thursday on news that the European Union might phase in a ban on Russian oil imports.

Zelenskyy implores world to respond to Russian 'torture' 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russian troops in southern Ukraine have been carrying out torture and kidnappings, and he called on the world on Sunday to respond.

“Torture chambers are built there,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address to the nation. “They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities.”

Zelenskyy said humanitarian aid has been stolen, creating famine.

Zelenskyy reiterates resolve to fight Russians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has reiterated the country's resolve to fight the Russian forces in the Donbas region in his daily address, saying Russia was intent on destroying the once-celebrated industrial might of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

He also renewed calls for increased military shipments as the battle over the eastern regions is brewing.

In a thinly-veiled barb aimed at Germany, Zelenskyy said the fate of the upcoming battle depends on "those who have the weapons and ammunition we need and are holding back."

For live updates from Sunday (April 17), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies