Russia-Ukraine live news: Blinken meets with Zelenskyy in Kyiv | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and defence chief Lloyd Austin meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, says presidential adviser.
  • Ukraine will try to establish humanitarian routes out of the besieged port city Mariupol on Monday, says Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
  • The OSCE has called for the release of members detained in separatist-held Ukraine.
  • The UK’s defence ministry says Russia planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson to justify invasion.

Here are the latest updates:

Kyiv and Hamburg now ‘strategic partners’

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

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his Hamburg counterpart Peter Tschentscher signed the agreement on Sunday. It lays down “effective cooperation between our cities” including “the provision of assistance by Hamburg for the restoration of Kyiv,” Klitschko wrote on Telegram. He added Hamburg will increase its humanitarian assistance efforts.

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

Sanctions won’t ‘strangle’ economy: Russian senator

A Russian senator says current sanctions won’t be able to “strangle” Moscow’s economy and that the European Union has revealed its inability to function without Russia’s fossil fuels.

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

He added sanctions will be unable to strangle Russia’a economy for two reasons. “The first is rise of hydrocarbon prices which will provide Russia with a record budget surplus. The second is the long-term nature of restrictions, which gives Russia enough time to adapt to new conditions. All this makes it impossible for the Russian economy to collapse,” Pushkin said.

US house to vote on Ukraine lend-lease act ‘this week’: Congressman

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

The Act would expedite the transfer of critical military equipment and other critical supplies to Ukraine by cutting bureaucratic red tape. The lend-lease program was created in the second world war to allow the US to quickly resupply Allies without without procedural hurdles.

Russian missiles hit infrastructure in Poltava: Governor

Nine Russian missiles hit infrastructure facilities in the city of Kremenchuk, Poltava region, on Sunday evening,” the head of the Poltava regional military administration, Dmytro Lunin, reported on Sunday.

“We are clarifying the information about the victims and the destruction”, he wrote on Telegram. Kremenchuk is the administrative centre of the Poltava region, east of Kyiv.

Russia blocking locals from leaving occupied territories: Army

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

“The settlements that are preparing for holding pseudo-referendums are closed for entry and exit,” The General Staff of the Armed forces of Ukraine also said in a post on Facebook.

The UK defence ministry said Russian forces in the occupied city of Kherson are planning to stage a referendum to justify the invasion. Ukrainian officials have previously warned of referendum in Kherson similar to the one Russia used to annex Crimea in 2014.

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

Russia reports fire at its oil depot in Bryansk

Russia’s state press service TASS has reported a fire at an oil depot in Russia’s city of Bryansk.

“Tanks caught fire at an oil depot in Bryansk,” TASS cited the government of Bryansk’s press service on Monday. It also cited the Ministry of Emergency Situations as confirming the fire. “There is also confirmation that these are tanks,” TASS said.

Earlier on social media, locals reported hearing explosions and posted videos of a fire on the outskirts of Bryansk.

The city lies about 400 km southwest of Moscow and is the administrative centre of the Bryansk region which borders with the Chernihiv and Sumy regions of Ukraine. In mid-April Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the town of Klimovo in the Bryansk region and allegedly causing casualties.

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

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

“We are working on a sixth sanctions package and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo. When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximises pressure on Russia while minimising collateral damage on ourselves ,” Dombrovskis said.

Putin’s actions in Ukraine ‘nauseating’: Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “nauseating” in a phone call with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday afternoon.

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

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

Current Russia sanctions ‘insufficient’: Ukrainian official

The continuation of the war in Ukraine and killing of people and children “makes it clear that the current sanctions policy is insufficient”, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak has said.

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

Yermak spoke of the sanctions action plan developed by an international group of experts, and led by him and former US diplomat Michael McFaul, which advises on further steps countries should take to pressure Russia. This includes the EU placing a full embargo on Russian gas and oil and “recognising Russia as a country that sponsors terrorism.”

Ukraine says will try to establish Mariupol humanitarian route

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

Russia plans ‘staged referendum’ in Kherson: UK

Russia is “planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation”, the United Kingdom’s ministry of defence has said in an intelligence update.

Russian forces seized the strategically important city in early March.

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

Civilians in Mariupol steelworks beg for aid

A newly released video shows Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.

The video was shared by the Azov Battalion, which is among Ukrainian forces at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol where soldiers and civilians have been holed up under a Russian attack.

One of the women in the video begs for help from world leaders.

“We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, constant airstrikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” she says.

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

The Azov Battalion deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, says the video was shot on Sunday at the plant.

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

Zelenskyy welcomes Macron victory

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his election victory.

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

OSCE calls for release of members in separatist-held Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called for the “immediate release” of four of its Ukrainian members detained in pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

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

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

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

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

Zelenskyy meets senior US delegation: Ukraine official

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

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

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

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

These were the updates on April 24.

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