Russia invades Ukraine: Mariupol officer warns his forces facing 'last days, if not hours'

Russia invades Ukraine: Mariupol officer warns his forces facing 'last days, if not hours'
Moscow has intensified its offensive in the east of Ukraine. An officer from besieged city Mariupol says his forces are facing their "last days, if not hours".
12 min read
20 April, 2022

A commander in Ukraine's strategic port city Mariupol has issued a desperate plea for help, saying his marines are "maybe facing our last days, if not hours" on Wednesday. 

The West has responded to a renewed Russian push in the east with fresh weapons for Kyiv and a move to increase "Moscow's international isolation".

The Pentagon said that Ukraine had recently received fighter planes and parts to bolster its air force, declining to specify the number of aircraft and their origin. Kyiv has asked its Western partners to provide MiG-29s, which its pilots already know how to fly and a handful of Eastern European countries have.

Also on Wednesday, new humanitarian corridors were opened, agreed by Ukrainian and Russian forces, to allow civilians to evacuate Mariupol, which has been described as apocalyptic following Moscow's bombardment. 

The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 

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11:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

The New Arab's live coverage of the latest from Russia's invasion of Ukraine concludes for today.

Join us tomorrow for the latest updates from the Ukraine.

Make sure to follow our TwitterFacebook and Instagram to stay up to date with the latest news and analysis.

10:43 PM
The New Arab Staff

Biden hosts military chiefs as Ukraine crisis intensifies

President Joe Biden convened US military leaders on Wednesday in an annual White House gathering taking on special significance as the war in Ukraine enters a risky new phase and Washington plans more weapons assistance.

A "variety of topics" were set to be discussed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military leaders, a National Security Council spokesperson said. The event includes a formal West Wing meeting as well as a dinner in the president's residence with leaders' spouses afterward.

While the annual military policy meeting rarely makes news, weighty issues are on the agenda this year, topped by a conflict in Ukraine that officials fear could imperil European security for years to come.

Russia has said it has entered a new stage of its operation and is methodically seeking to "liberate" the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Western allies anticipate Russia's campaign could last many months, grind to a stalemate and test the battlefield capabilities of Ukrainian fighters.

9:14 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine proposes negotiations with Russia in besieged Mariupol

Ukraine on Wednesday proposed to hold a "special round" of negotiations with Russia in the besieged city of Mariupol, a top Kyiv official said.

"Yes. Without any conditions. We're ready to hold a "special round of negotiations" right in Mariupol," top Ukraine negotiator and presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. "One on one. Two on two. To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living & the wounded. Everyone. Because they are ours. Because they are in my heart. Forever."

5:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine beats back attack in eastern Donbas region 

Ukraine's defence ministry said its troops beat back a Russian attack in the city of Izium, a gateway to the eastern Donbas region which is the target of a major Russian offensive.

Kyiv also claimed enemy losses in a Ukrainian counter-attack near the town of Marinka in the southern part of the Donbas, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces since 2014.

5:54 PM
The New Arab Staff

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz under pressure for refusing to send heavy weapons

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under pressure for refusing to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

"We believe that the Bundeswehr (Germany army) would be capable of supplying us with the weapons we need right now," Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, tells broadcaster ZDF. "We do not know why this is not happening."

5:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine has not received whole aircraft from allies, only parts: Pentagon 


The US Defense Department said on Wednesday that Ukraine received parts for their aircraft from allies but not complete warplanes, correcting its earlier statement that built-up aircraft had been delivered.

While fixed-wing aircraft have been offered by an unidentified country to bolster Kyiv's fight against Russia, "they have not received whole aircraft from another nation," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The Pentagon said only parts of weapons were sent to Ukraine [source: Getty]
5:19 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine ready to swap Russian prisoners of war for safe passage out of Mariupol 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he remains ready to swap Russian prisoners of war in exchange for safe passage for civilians and Ukrainian troops out of Mariupol, reported the BBC. 

Zelensky said there are an estimated 1,000 civilians sheltering in Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

He added that the situation in the besieged city is getting worse, with hundreds of wounded.

4:54 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine's membership in EU a 'priority,' says Zelensky 

European Union membership is a "priority" for Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with visiting EU chief Charles Michel.

"Regarding our future membership in the EU, it is a priority for our state, for the strength of our people, those who are ready to defend our land against Russian invaders even without arms," Zelensky said.

4:53 PM
The New Arab Staff

Stream of buses leave Mariupol 

Dozens of civilians on Wednesday boarded a small convoy of buses in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol that then departed from a planned evacuation point to Ukraine-controlled territory, two Reuters witnesses said.

Mariupol city authorities said earlier on Wednesday that they were hoping to evacuate about 6,000 people under a preliminary agreement with Russia - the first in weeks - on establishing a safe corridor.

2:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

Kremlin warns Finland, Sweden against NATO membership 

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO - a move it seeks as a deliberate provocation. 

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: "We have issued all our warnings both publicly and through bilateral channels.

"They [Sweden and Finland] know about it, they will have nothing to be surprised about, they were informed about everything, what it will lead to." 

2:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

Civilians nervous about leaving Mariupol says former resident 

A former resident of the besieged port city Mariupol said civilians are nervous about leaving because they fear the situation is just as bad in other parts of Ukraine 

"They think that what is happening [there is] happening everywhere," said Roman Skyliarov to the BBC. 

"They don't have the full information at all because they don't have the internet," he said. 

Skyliarov fled the city himself but knows others who are keen to stay - including his grandmother. 

Ukraine was trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday [Getty]
2:05 PM
The New Arab Staff

Half a million Ukrainians deported to Russia, says Ukraine authorities 

Moscow deported 500,000 people from Ukraine to Russia, a leading member of the parliament in Kyiv told European lawmakers on Wednesday, calling on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing.

"Half a million of Ukrainian citizens were deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation without agreement from their side," said Mykyta Poturayev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament's humanitarian committee.

"Unfortunately there is no opportunity for now even (to make) contact with these people," Poturayev told members of the European Parliament by video link.

2:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia seeks greater secrecy around its war losses 

The Russian defence ministry has proposed that relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine should have to apply to military rather than civilian authorities for compensation payments, imposing an extra level of secrecy around its war losses.

Russia already classifies military deaths as state secrets even in times of peace and has not updated its official casualty figures in Ukraine for nearly four weeks.

In its proposal, the defence ministry asked that the benefits paid to the families of fallen soldiers no longer be overseen by civilian officials but handled by enlistment offices instead.

That move is designed to "limit the circle of people" with information on Russian troops killed in Ukraine, it said.

12:44 PM
The New Arab Staff

Peace talks falter between Ukraine and Russia 

The Kremlin accused Ukraine on Wednesday of going back on commitments it had made during peace talks and said this was having bad consequences for the negotiations.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the pace of talks left much to be desired and the ball was in Kyiv's court after Russia handed a document to the Ukrainian side. He said Moscow was waiting for a response.

Ukraine's lead negotiator said on Tuesday it was hard to predict when peace talks might resume. 

There have been several rounds of peace talks, some in Turkey [Getty]
12:25 PM

Family of captured UK fighter says Moscow breaking Geneva rules 

The family of a captured British man fighting in Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of breaking the Geneva Convention after it broadcast a "distressing" video of him.

Russian state TV aired a video on Monday of Aiden Aslin and another captured British fighter identified as Shaun Pinner asking to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin.

"The video of Aiden speaking under duress and having clearly suffered physical injuries is deeply distressing," Aslin's family said in a statement released by his local MP Robert Jenrick.

"Using images and videos of prisoners of war is in contravention of the Geneva Convention and must stop."

12:22 PM
The New Arab Staff

Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarus players 

Men's tennis world number two Daniil Medvedev is set to be barred from this year's Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament as The Times reported organisers are to ban Russian and Belarus players. 

Russian and Belarusian players have been able to continue to compete in ATP and WTA events under a neutral flag since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

It was believed this would extend to the three remaining Grand Slam events - though the ITF banned both countries' teams from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.

However, The Times says sources have told them that after almost two months of talks Wimbledon organisers prefer to ban the players rather than adhere to a compromise solution offered by the British government.

11:39 AM
The New Arab Staff

Germany says there will be no delays in deliveries of weapons to Ukraine 

There are no delays in deliveries of weapons to Ukraine on the German side, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit told a regular news conference on Wednesday. 

Ukraine has appealed for more weapons from the West as Russia intensifies its onslaught in the east of the country. 

11:38 AM
The New Arab Staff

Finland debates joining NATO 

Finland's parliament on Wednesday will open a debate on whether to seek NATO membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a surge in political and public support for joining the military alliance.

Despite Russia's warning of a nuclear build-up in the Baltic should Finland and neighbouring Sweden join the military alliance, Finland's prime minister said that her country would now decide quickly on whether to apply for membership.

"I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months," Prime Minister Sanna Marin said last week.

Sweden is also discussing whether to submit a membership bid following Russia's February 24 invasion.

11:34 AM
The New Arab Staff

'History will not forget war crimes' in Ukraine: EU chief 

EU chief Charles Michel said on Wednesday that there must be justice for war crimes committed in Ukraine as he toured the devastated town of Borodianka on a visit to the country.

"In Borodianka. Like Bucha and too many other towns in Ukraine. History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here. There can be no peace without justice," European Council head Michel wrote on Twitter.

Michel is the latest foreign leader to head to Kyiv in a show of support for the pro-Western authorities as they battle the onslaught from Moscow's forces.

10:35 AM
The New Arab Staff

 Nearly 5 million people have fled Ukraine: UN 

More than 4.9 million Ukrainians have fled their country following the Russian invasion, said the UN's refugee agency.

The UNHCR said 4,980,589 Ukrainians have left since Russia invaded on February 24. 

10:33 AM
The New Arab Staff

The West increases pressure on Russia 

The United States and the European Union have reached "broad consensus" on the need to increase pressure on Russia through new sanctions, the Italian government said after a video conference between US President Joe Biden and allies.

The video conference brings together the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Romania, Poland, Italy, Canada and Japan.

9:39 AM
The New Arab Staff

Dozens of civilians and five Ukrainian troops leave Mariupol: separatists 

More than 140 civilians and five Ukrainian troops have been evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol, separatists said, as Moscow intensified its offensive in the east.

"Five servicemen of Ukraine's armed forces laid down their arms and voluntarily left the territory of the Azovstal plant," separatist authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said in a post on the messaging app Telegram on Wednesday.

In a separate post late Tuesday, separatists said that more than 140 people had also been evacuated from the devastated city, which provides a crucial land bridge between Russian-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine and the Kremlin-annexed Crimea peninsula.

8:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

UK warns Russian presence on Ukraine's eastern border is rising  

Russia's military presence on Ukraine's eastern border continues to build, a British military update said on Wednesday, adding that fighting in the Donbas region is intensifying as Russian forces seek to break through Ukrainian defences.

"Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to remain low since its withdrawal from north of Kyiv. However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine," the update, which was tweeted, said.

"Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country," it added.

8:41 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia's seizure of Chernobyl seen as a nuclear risk 'nightmare' 

Thousands of tanks and troops rumbled into the forested Chernobyl exclusion zone in the earliest hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, churning up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world's worst nuclear disaster.

For more than a month, some Russian soldiers bunked in the earth within sight of the massive structure built to contain radiation from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. A close inspection of their trenches was impossible because even walking on the dirt is discouraged.

Russia’s invasion marks the first time that occupying a nuclear plant was part of a nation's war strategy, said Rebecca Harms, former president of the Greens group in the European Parliament, who has visited Chernobyl several times.

She called it a “nightmare” scenario in which “every nuclear plant can be used like a pre-installed nuclear bomb.”

8:38 AM
The New Arab Staff

New humanitarian corridor created to get civilians out of Mariupol 

Ukraine said it had agreed with Russian forces to open a safe route Wednesday for civilians to flee the besieged port city of Mariupol.

"Taking into account a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, we'll be concentrating our efforts in this direction today," Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

"We have managed to get a preliminary agreement on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and elderly persons," she said.

Vereshchuk told civilians to gather at 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) for the evacuations heading to the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia.

Thousands have been trapped in Mariupol for days [Getty]