Russia invades Ukraine updates: Mariupol prepares final defence

Russia invades Ukraine updates: Mariupol prepares final defence
The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 
9 min read
18 April, 2022

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

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

But Ukraine has pledged to fight on and defend the city, defying a Russian ultimatum on Sunday that called on the remaining fighters inside the encircled Azovstal steel plant to lay down their arms and surrender.

"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 Donbas," Zelensky said in an evening statement.

Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukraine's unexpectedly fierce resistance since Russian troops invaded the former Soviet state on 24 February.

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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5:35 PM
The New Arab Staff

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

Here were the key developments from Monday:

Seven killed in Lviv strikes

Five "powerful" Russian missiles hit the western city of Lviv, killing at least seven people and wounding eight, local officials say.

The attack comes as Russia hits targets across the country ahead of an expected campaign in the east.

Three killed in Kharkiv

Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, killed at least three people.

One shell fell on a children's playground killing a man and a woman while the other hit an aid distribution point killing one person and wounding six others, officials said.

Russians capture eastern town

Russian troops captured the east Ukraine town of Kreminna in a major night-time attack, local officials have said.

"The Russian army has already entered there, with a huge amount of military hardware...," Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on social media. "Our defenders have retreated to new positions."

Tycoon seeks prisoner exchange

Russian state television broadcast a video of two men it says are captured Britons, asking to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, a recently captured wealthy Ukrainian tycoon close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine's security services then put out a video of Medvedchuk asking to be exchanged for Ukrainian civilians and soldiers trapped in the strategic besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Civilian evacuations paused

Ukraine said it is halting civilian evacuations from the frontline towns and cities in the east of the country for a second day.

"In violation of international humanitarian law, the Russian occupiers have not stopped blocking and shelling humanitarian routes," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk posted on social media Monday.

Nearly 5 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine: UN

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

It said 4,934,415 Ukrainians have now quit the country, up more than 65,000 on the previous day.

'Russia wants to destroy Donbas'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is seeking to destroy the region of Donbas, the country's eastern industrial heartland.

"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 Donbas," Zelensky said.

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5:15 PM
The New Arab Staff

US Treasury Secretary 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 invasion of Ukraine, an official said Monday.

The conflict "has demonstrated the need for the world's largest economies to stand together to defend international order and protect peace and prosperity," the Treasury official told reporters.

The official said Yellen will not take part in some of this week's meetings with her global counterparts if Russian officials are included.

Russian finance officials are expected to participate remotely in the Group of 20 meeting on Wednesday, but Yellen will opt out of some of those sessions, they said.

4:20 PM
The New Arab Staff

Putin honours brigade accused by Ukraine of atrocities in Bucha

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday bestowed an honorary title on a brigade accused by Ukraine of committing atrocities in the town of Bucha.

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

3:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Three killed in shelling in Kharkiv

Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, killed three people on Monday, officials said, a day after the bombardment claimed six lives.

Prosecutors said one shell fell on a children's playground and killed a man and a woman.

The head of a medical emergency centre, Viktor Zabashta told Interfax-Ukraine news agency that another strike on a humanitarian aid distribution point killed one person and injured six more.

3:25 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies


Serbia accuses Ukraine and unnamed EU country of Air Serbia bomb hoaxes

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Ukraine and an unidentified EU country of being behind a series of hoax bomb threats against Air Serbia planes.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, more than a dozen Air Serbia flights have been forced to return to Belgrade or Moscow due to bomb threats, and Belgrade's airport was evacuated at least three times.

"Foreign (intelligence) services of two countries are doing that. One is an EU country, and Ukraine is the other one," Vucic said late on Sunday, without providing evidence.

In a statement, Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, dismissed Vucic's remarks as "baseless" and "untrue".

He also said Ukraine was disappointed with Serbia's refusal to join EU sanctions against Russia.


3:15 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine mayor describes 'hard' interrogation by Russian captors, asks Pope to help stop war

A Ukrainian mayor described hours of "hard" interrogations when held for almost a week by Russian forces last month and said he had appealed to the Pope for help to stop a war that had wrecked swathes of his city in southern Ukraine.

"It was a dangerous six days because I understood that for Russians my life and the lives of civilians were worth zero," Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol which is now under Russian control, said in an interview in Rome a month after his release.

Ukraine said Fedorov was abducted on 11 March after Russian forces seized Melitopol, which lies west of the besieged city of Mariupol in a southern region that Russia seeks to control. Kyiv announced Fedorov's release in a prisoner exchange on 16 March.

Fedorov, who met Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Saturday before attending an Easter eve service, said he had asked the Vatican to intercede with Russian President Vladimir Putin to guarantee humanitarian corridors for Mariupol, which has faced devastating bombardment.


2:10 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine defence ministry says Russia still not in full control of Mariupol

The situation in Ukraine's southeastern port city of Mariupol is "extremely difficult" but the city has not been taken under full control by Russian forces, a spokesman for Ukraine's defence ministry said on Monday.

Speaking at a media briefing, spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk also said that bombing runs by Russian military aircraft had increased of late by over 50% and that Ukraine's infrastructure had come in for increased targeting.


1:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

Putin calls Palestinian president Abbas, discusses Ukraine and Al-Aqsa 

Vladimir Putin held a phone call Monday with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, according to Palestinian and Russian state media.

The two leaders discussed the Ukraine war and Israeli raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

The Russian president reportedly "stressed Russia's firm position to support the rights of the Palestinian people, and that Russia will continue to provide its political support to the Palestinian cause in all international forums".

Putin rejected "Israeli practices that prevent worshipers from freely accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque," WAFA said.

Abbas "affirmed President Putin's position on pursuing efforts to find a negotiated solution to the Ukrainian crisis".

The two leaders also discussed food security, according to WAFA.

"Putin stressed that Russia will provide all the needs of Palestinian and other importers in the Middle East of Russian wheat, materials and crops," the news outlet said.

Middle Eastern nations are heavily reliant on Russian and Ukrainian exports for staples including wheat and sunflower oil. Food prices have shot up across the region since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

1:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

More than 4.9 million Ukrainians flee war: UN

More than 4.9 million Ukrainians have fled their country following the Russian invasion, the UN said Monday.

UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, said 4,934,415 Ukrainians had left the country since Russia invaded on 24 February - a figure up 65,396 on Sunday's total.

The UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals - largely students and migrant workers - have also escaped to neighbouring countries, meaning more than five million people in all have fled Ukraine since the war began.

12:00 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Two Brits captured in Ukraine appear on Russian state TV, ask to be swapped

Two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces appeared on Russian state TV on Monday and asked to be exchanged for a pro-Russian politician who is being held by the Ukrainian authorities.

It was unclear how freely the two men - Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin - were able to talk. Both spoke separately after being prompted by an unidentified man. The footage was broadcast on the Rossiya 24 state TV channel.

The two men asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help bring them home in exchange for Ukraine releasing pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was shown in a video released around the same time on Monday by Ukraine's SBU intelligence service asking to be swapped too.

Both Pinner and Aslin fought on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol, which is now almost entirely under Russian control.


Full story here

11:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

Lviv hit with five 'powerful' Russian missiles: mayor

Five "powerful" Russian missiles hit Lviv on Monday, a city in the west of the Ukraine that has so far been spared much of the fighting, the city's mayor said.

"Five powerful missile strikes at once on the civilian infrastructure of the old European city of Lviv," Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Lviv governor Maksym Kozytsky said earlier this morning that at least six people had been killed and eight more injured in Russian strikes.

Full story here

9:26 AM
The New Arab Staff

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.”

The Sea of Azov port city has been devastated by weeks of Russian pummeling.

Britain says "large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed" and there are "significant" civilian casualties.

Britain accuses Russia of using similar tactics of all-out war on civilian areas that it deployed in Chechnya and Syria, despite Russian claims at the start of its invasion "that Russia would neither strike cities nor threaten the Ukrainian population".

9:13 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia says it destroyed four arms depots in Ukraine overnight

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

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

9:00 AM
The New Arab Staff

At least 6 killed, 8 injured in Russian strikes on Lviv: governor

Russian strikes on the western Ukraine city of Lviv on Monday left at least six people dead and eight more injured, the regional governor said, in a rare fatal attack on the city near the border with Poland.

"At the moment we are able to confirm that six are dead and eight injured. A child was among the victims," the Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytsky said on social media.