Russia-Ukraine live news: Russia’s eastern offensive has begun | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia’s widely anticipated military offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun.
  • Officials in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions allege eight civilians have been killed in Russian attacks.
  • Ukraine minister says up to 30 per cent of Ukraine’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.
  • UN confirms 2,072 civilians killed and 2,818 injured since the start of invasion, but notes the actual numbers are higher.
  • US plans to begin training Ukrainians on howitzer artillery systems in the coming days, a senior defence official has said.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin claims Western sanctions on Moscow have failed.
INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 54
(Al Jazeera)

Here are all the latest updates:

Mariupol mayor says Russia forcibly removed 40,000 civilians

Mariupol’s mayor has said about 40,000 civilians had been forcibly moved to Russia or Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately I have to declare that as of today they are forcibly deporting” residents, Vadym Boichenko told Ukrainian television. “We have verified through the municipal register that they have already deported over 40,000 people.”

It is not possible to verify this claim. Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine.

Russia unlikely to be more successful in east Ukraine than before

Russia’s eastern offensive is unlikely to be “dramatically more successful” than previous campaigns, but “Russian forces may be able to wear down Ukrainian defenders or achieve limited gains”, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

The institute’s latest report noted Russia’s forces did not take the necessarily operational pause to reconstitute and properly integrate damaged units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine into its eastern operation.

“Russian forces withdrawn from around Kyiv and going back to fight in Donbas have, at best, been patched up and filled out with soldiers from other damaged units,” the report said. Its military “has few, if any, cohesive units not previously deployed to Ukraine to funnel into new operations”, it added.

‘Whole of Europe less secure’: Moldovan foreign minister

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu has told his US counterpart that “everyone in Europe feels less secure than just two months ago.”

Popescu made these comments before his meeting with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Washington. The foreign ministers discussed Moldova’s democratic reforms and its response to the refugee crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken said Moldova’s humanitarian response to the refugees was “extraordinary”. The UN estimates Moldova has taken more than 400,000 refugees from Ukraine since the start of the invasion. It also estimates refugees now represent close to 4 per cent of Moldova’s population.

Secretary Blinken emphasised the US would continue to assist Moldova in addressing the economic impacts of the crisis and advancing democratic reforms.

Invasion damaged up to one third of Ukraine’s infrastructure: Official

Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30 per cent of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100 billion, a Ukrainian minister said.

Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov told Reuters the war had affected “20 to 30 per cent of all infrastructure with varying degrees of damage, with different levels of destruction.”

Kubrakov said more than 300 bridges on national roads had been destroyed or damaged, more than 8,000 km of roads had to be repaired or rebuilt and dozens of railway bridges had been blown up. He added everything could be rebuilt in two years “if everyone works quickly”.

Firefighter works at a stadium damaged by Russian shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine
Firefighter works at a stadium damaged by Russian shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Ukraine takes back areas around Izyum, Kharkiv region

Ukraine says its military has taken back a number of settlements around the strategically positioned city of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, Ukrinform reports.

“A number of settlements have been liberated by the Ukrainian military as a result of intense hostilities,” said Ukrainian Ministry of Defence spokesman, Oleksandr Motuzianyk.

Izyum’s strategic position as a gateway to the Donbas has seen Russian troops concentrating in the area. “They will try to start an offensive on the east particularly from there,” Motuzianyk said.

Zelenskyy said today Russia’s feared eastern offensive has begun.

EU membership integral part of Ukraine’s future: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s membership in the European Union is integral to the “strategic vision” for its post-war reconstruction, Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

He confirmed reports yesterday that Ukraine had completed the questionnaire that is the starting point for the EU to decide on membership for Kyiv.

“Each country that joined the European Union went through the same procedure with the questionnaire. The only difference is that it took them years, and we completed it in a little more than a week,” Zelenskyy said.

“We will provide the second part of the answers shortly. And we hope that Europe’s decision in response will be quick,” he added.

UN confirms 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine

The UN human rights body has confirmed 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

The latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) show 2,072 people have been killed and 2,818 injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the OHCHR statement said, adding the actual casualty figures are “considerably higher”.

Turkey’s Erdogan urges negotiations to end conflict

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged dialogue to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, saying he believes “that a peaceful solution can be found through dialogue based on protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

“We will keep working to bring the negotiations in Istanbul to a successful outcome that will satisfy the parties and the international community,” Erdogan tweeted.

The UN’s aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said earlier that he would travel to Turkey this week to discuss with Erdogan and other officials the prospects of hosting humanitarian talks between Ukraine and Russia.

New images provide clues to fate of Russia’s flagship Moskva

There are still conflicting accounts about what happened to the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, which sank late last week.

Ukraine says its missiles hit the warship, but Russia maintains it sank while being towed away after a fire on board.

Here, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull examines images that may provide some answers:

Ukraine hit by ‘most intensive’ Russian attacks in weeks, EU leader says

The EU’s foreign policy chief has said Ukraine is being hit by “the most intensive [Russian] missile attacks” in weeks, notably in the Luhansk region.

Josep Borrell said major cities such as Kharkiv are being attacked “indiscriminately” while shelling in Lviv and other areas in western Ukraine “show that no part of the country is spared from the Kremlin’s onslaught”.

“The EU actively supports the work of the International Criminal Court and measures to ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. There can be no impunity for war crimes,” Borell said in a statement released before Ukraine said Russia’s large offensive in the east had begun.

‘We will defend ourselves’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has remained defiant, vowing that Ukrainian troops will fight back against Russia’s offensive in the country’s east.

“No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” Zelenskyy said, as he confirmed that Moscow’s push had begun.

Biden has ‘no plans’ to visit Ukraine’s capital, White House says

US President Joe Biden is not planning to visit Kyiv, despite Ukraine’s Zelenskyy urging him to demonstrate US support by travelling to the capital, the White House has said.

“There [are] no plans for the president to go. Let me just reiterate that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

A string of European leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have made the trip to Kyiv and met with the Ukrainian president.

Russian media narrative shifts to highlight struggle with NATO: Professor

Russian state media’s narrative on the war in Ukraine is changing, a professor at Dublin City University specialised in post-Soviet history has said.

“There’s a large amount of discussion now on Russian state media about why this war is taking so long,” Donnacha O Beachain told Al Jazeera.

What Russian authorities have called a “special military operation” in Ukraine has now dragged on for nearly two months and is being framed as “a proxy war between Russia and NATO” in which “Russia itself is in danger”, he said.

US treasury secretary to meet Ukraine’s PM this week

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during this week’s big meetings of global economic leaders in Washington.

The war in Ukraine will take centre stage at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings. On Tuesday, Yellen will convene a panel of finance ministers, the international development banks and other institutions to talk about how to use resources to address food insecurity.

Experts have raised concerns about global food shortages, as Kyiv and Moscow are important food suppliers.

Situation getting ‘worse and worse’ in Kharkiv, resident says

Denys Ganzha, a member of a youth advisory council to Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, has said the situation in the eastern city of Kharkiv is worsening, as residents brace for Russia’s new offensive.

“For today, it was recommended to stay indoors for the whole day,” Ganzha told Al Jazeera from a shelter in the city where he is staying. Very few people were in the streets and businesses were closed, he said.

“But I’m telling you, the people here they [have found] ways to make sure that they continue their lives, that they help the army, that they help other people,” Ganzha said.

Russia ‘confident’ it is close to gaining full control of Mariupol: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, says there have been reports of scattered civilian deaths and attacks in the country’s east as the Russian forces’ offensive gets under way.

“Now we’ve had this official announcement from the president himself … saying that the battle of Donbas has started,” said Stratford, adding that “we have seen what can only be described as an escalation” in Kharkiv and other areas.

“There have been increasing claims over the last few days or so by the Russians that the Ukrainians have no chance left in Mariupol … There is fighting going on there, but we understand that the Russians are pretty confident that they are close to full control of that city.”

Mariupol’s city council said earlier that at least 1,000 civilians – mostly women, children and the elderly – were hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city.

A view of graves in Mariupol
A view shows graves of civilians killed in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 18, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Top US official travelling to Brussels will discuss Ukraine with EU allies

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to the Belgian capital this week for joint US-EU meetings on China and the Indo-Pacific region, the State Department has said.

Sherman will also meet with Washington’s NATO and European Union allies in Brussels “to discuss our continued close coordination on Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine and other global issues”, the department said in a statement.

France’s Macron says talks with Putin stalled after atrocities discovered

French President Emmanuel Macron says dialogue with his Russian counterpart 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 denied targeting civilians in Ukraine, but images of bodies lining the streets of Bucha and other towns near the capital Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the region drew global condemnation.

vladimir putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied targeting civilians [Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters]

Zelenskyy speaks to leaders of Croatia, Bulgaria

Ukraine’s president has said he discussed “problems of navigation in the Black Sea” in talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.

“Thanked for supporting Ukraine, in particular our accession to the #EU, as well as for a strong position regarding sanctions on Russia,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

He said in a separate tweet that he also spoke to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, thanking him for “important defensive assistance” to Ukraine.

Another US shipment of military aid for Ukraine expected to arrive

Jen Psaki has said that four planes delivered US military assistance to Ukraine over the course of the weekend, and a fifth was due to arrive.

“Another one is supposed to arrive today, if it hasn’t already, from the $800m package” of additional American aid to Kyiv announced last week, the White House spokeswoman said.

Read more about what’s in that US military package here.

Members of Ukrainian volunteer corps sit next to a howitzer
Members of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps sit next to a howitzer on March 27, 2022 [Stanislav Yurchenko/Reuters]

US considering additional sanctions on Russia: White House

The Biden administration is continuing “to review and consider additional sanctions” against Russia.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said existing US measures have led to a “squeeze” on the Russian economy that Biden and senior administration officials had intended. “We are continuing to review and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days,” she told reporters.

Eight dead in shelling in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk regions: Officials

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region has killed four people, Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on his Telegram channel.

Four other people also died as they tried to escape the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, the governor, said on Telegram. Russian forces had earlier captured Kreminna.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

‘Battle of the Donbas’ has started, says Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff says “the second phase of the war has started”, referring to Russia’s new assault in the country’s east.

“Believe in our army, it is very strong,” Andriy Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app, assuring Ukrainians that its forces could hold off the offensive.

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said, “We can now say that Russian forces have started the battle of the Donbas, for which they have long prepared.”

US to begin training Ukrainians on howitzer cannons in next days

The United States plans to begin training Ukrainians on how to operate howitzer artillery systems in the coming days, a senior US defence official has said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the howitzer training would take place outside Ukraine.

The Biden administration recently announced a new $800m weapons package for Ukraine to help the country bolster its defences against an expected Russian offensive in the east. Read more here.

Ukraine says it has seen signs Russian offensive in east has begun

Ukraine’s armed forces command has said it believed that Russia had started a new push for control of the east, increasing the intensity of attacks.

“This morning [Monday], along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences,” Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments.

That was echoed by the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai. “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,” he said on Facebook.

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

Read all the updates from Monday, April 18 here.



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