KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine has said the United Nations should step in to oversee an escape route for civilians from the beleaguered steel mill in Mariupol, the last stronghold of Ukrainian troops in the port city.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that a Russian announcement of a “humanitarian corridor” out of the Azovstal plant to operate later Monday had not been agreed with the Ukraine. Vereshchuk added that Ukraine does not consider the route safe for this reason and said Russia has previously broken agreements on similar evacuation routes.
Ukrainian officials said up to 1,000 civilians had taken refuge in the sprawling steel plant.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is due to visit Russia and Ukraine this week. Vereshchuk called on Guterres to be the “initiator and guarantor” of a humanitarian route out of Azovstal and for UN and International Committee of the Red Cross personnel to accompany anyone evacuated.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR:
MOSCOW — Russia’s Energy Ministry has said a massive fire at an oil depot in western Russia will not cause a fuel shortage.
The ministry said in a statement that Monday’s fire caused damage to a depot containing diesel fuel in Bryansk, and authorities are dealing with the aftermath of the fire.
The ministry said the fuel supply to consumers has not been interrupted and noted that the region has enough diesel fuel for 15 days.
The Emergencies Ministry said earlier that a massive fire broke out overnight at the depot belonging to Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of Russian state-controlled company Transneft, which operates the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline to the west transporting crude to Europe. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire and whether it could affect deliveries to Europe.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States and its allies of trying to “divide Russian society.”
Speaking in a meeting with senior officials from the attorney general’s office on Monday, Putin said Russia had faced “unprecedented Western sanctions” over its military action in Ukraine.
He accused the United States and its allies of seeking to “divide Russian society and destroy Russia from within”, adding that their plans had failed.
Putin has urged Russian prosecutors to move faster to block unauthorized protests staged from abroad. He also noted that they should focus on exposing “open provocations” against the Russian military allegedly involving international media and social platforms.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as “encouraging” and “effective”.
Speaking in Monday’s video address, he said the United States offered “powerful” support to his country. Zelenskyy added that they agreed “on new measures to strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces and meet all the priority needs of our army”. He noted that the intensification of sanctions against Moscow was also on the agenda of the meeting.
Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million munitions sale for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as more than $300 million in foreign military funding.
Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine would expect the United States to lead other allies in offering a package of security guarantees going forward.
The Ukrainian president also denounced Russia for launching strikes on Orthodox Easter Sunday, calling them a “deliberate destruction of life in Ukraine”.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it will open a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to evacuate the besieged Mariupol steelworks.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a humanitarian corridor will open at 2:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT) on Monday for all civilians to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. He said Russian troops would cease fire to allow civilians a safe exit from the factory.
The gigantic ironworks, which has a sprawling maze of underground canals. remained the last bulwark of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic port city on the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian officials said up to 1,000 civilians had taken refuge there. They have repeatedly urged Russia to offer them a safe exit.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities say a fire engulfed an oil storage facility in western Russia.
The Emergencies Ministry said a massive fire at the Bryansk city depot broke out early Monday. Its cause was not immediately clear.
The oil depot is owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft which operates the westbound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude oil to Europe. It was unclear if the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure and if the fire could affect deliveries.
Russian News reported that another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire early Monday, and the cause was not immediately known.
Bryansk is located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, where Moscow has been waging a military campaign for two months. Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil tank in the Russian region of Belgorod, bordering Ukraine, causing a fire.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has unleashed a series of strikes on the country’s railways.
Lviv region governor Maksym Kozytskyy said a Russian missile hit a railway facility in Krasne, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Lviv, on Monday morning, starting a fire.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of Ukraine’s state-run railways, said a total of five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit by the Russian strikes. He said the attacks had delayed at least 16 passenger trains.
There was no immediate information about the damage caused by the strikes.
NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Russia is failing in its war aims and Ukraine is succeeding.
After meetings Sunday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Blinken told reporters in Poland on Monday that, with Russia having withdrawn its troops from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine to focus on the eastern Donbass region, “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia fails, Ukraine succeeds.”
In footage of the meeting later released by the Ukrainian presidency, Blinken praised “the extraordinary courage and leadership and success you had in repelling this horrible Russian aggression.”
“We’ve gotten used to seeing you on video around the world, but it’s awesome, it’s good to see you in person,” Blinken said with a smile.
Blinken said returning US diplomats should first replenish the consulate staff in Lviv, western Ukraine, before returning to Kyiv.
Austin said the “world was inspired” by Ukraine in the war and that America would continue its support.
NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER – The United States is extending new military assistance to Ukraine and renewing a diplomatic boost in the war-torn country as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State and the Pentagon chief conduct a secret trip to kyiv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin briefed the Ukrainian President on foreign military funding of over $300 million and an ammunition sale of $165 million.
They also said Biden would announce his choice of US ambassador to Ukraine and that US diplomats who left before the Russian invasion in February would begin returning to the country next week.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said he planned to meet with US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, but the Biden administration declined to confirm that or discuss details of a possible visit.
It was the highest level US visit to the capital since the Russian invasion in late February.
Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military funding for Ukraine and 15 allies and partners. Some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv.
Officials say the rest will be split among NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the start of the war with Russia.
LVIV, Ukraine – A fire has broken out at a Russian oil depot near the border with Ukraine.
Tass news agency reported the fire early Monday in Bryansk. The Russian report says the facility’s oil storage tanks caught fire around 2 a.m. local time.
NASA satellites tracking the fires show a fire burning at coordinates that match a Rosneft facility about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, was quoted by Ukrainian news agency Unian as saying that people living near the burning oil depot were being evacuated.
Moscow has previously accused Ukraine of attacking the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Senior Ukrainian security officials have denied that kyiv was behind an earlier airstrike on an oil depot in the Russian town of Belgorod, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) from the border.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine – A recently released video shows Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter gifts.
The video was released on Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is part of the Ukrainian forces at the Azovstal steelworks where soldiers and civilians were locked up under a Russian attack.
The group’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, said the video was shot at the factory on Sunday.
A toddler wears homemade cellophane diapers. People hang laundry on makeshift hangers.
One of the women in the video pleads for help from world leaders and says she and others trapped under the factory are tired of the bombardment and are desperate for their freedom.
“Children cry constantly here – they want to play and live,” she adds. “Stop this aggression. I ask everyone, please help us, free us!
Another woman says there are 600 civilians sheltering under the factory, with no food or water.