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Russia invades Ukraine: Putin orders forces to 'seal off' Mariupol enclave
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian forces to seal off an enclave in Mariupol held by Ukrainian forces.
Putin ordered Russian soldiers to besiege the Azovstal steelworks, where around 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers are holed-up, so that "a fly can’t get through".
Yet he called off plans to storm the factory, which could lead to high Russian losses.
Russia announced on Thursday that the port city of Mariupol had fallen to its forces.
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Moscow was now in control of the whole city bar the Azovstal metallurgical plant.
The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground and additional analysis on the conflict's significance.
A fire at a Russian military research institute in the northwestern city of Tver killed five people Thursday and injured dozens more, state news agencies reported.
Several of the institute's employees had to jump out of windows on the upper floors to escape the flames, according to witnesses quoted by broadcasters.
"Twenty six people were injured in the fire, five of them died," a representative of emergency services told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Several of the injured were taken to hospital, three of them requiring intensive care, said a spokesman for the Tver regional hospital, quoted by the TASS state news agency.
Preliminary information suggests the fire was caused by faulty electric wiring, TASS added.
Ukraine said Thursday it had received 19 military personnel and civilians captured by Russia, in the the latest prisoner swap after two months of fighting.
"Today we are returning home 19 people, including 10 military personnel -- two of whom are officers -- and nine civilians," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media.
"This time, there are wounded among the released, and this is very important. After all, now they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo rehabilitation," Vereshchuk added.
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Three school buses filled with evacuees from the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol arrived on Thursday in Zaporizhzhia after crossing through territory held by Russian forces, AFP journalists saw.
Women and children could be seen on the buses as they arrived after the opening of a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol that has been delayed multiple times because of fierce fighting in southern Ukraine.
Over 7.7 million people are estimated to have been displaced within Ukraine since the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations.
Russia announced on Thursday it was closing the consulates of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in a retaliatory response to Moscow's consulates being shut in the three states over its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry said it decided "to withdraw consent to the activities" of the consulates in Saint Petersburg as well as Latvia's consulate and Estonia's office in Pskov, a city close to the border with Estonia.
Last month, Russia also expelled 10 diplomats from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia after the three countries -- along with several other EU members -- expelled Russian diplomats over Ukraine.
The Spanish and Danish Prime Ministers arrived in Kyiv on Thursday, according to the Spanish government.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez and Danish PM Mette Frederiksen reportedly arrived for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Sanchez said on Wednesday he would convey to Zelensky the European Union and Spain's "clear engagement... for peace", Reuters reported.
Conmovido al comprobar en las calles de Borodyanka el horror y las atrocidades de la guerra de Putin.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) April 21, 2022
No dejaremos solo al pueblo ucraniano. pic.twitter.com/OfEIa9oOTC
Frederiksen has since told broadcaster TV2 that Denmark has pledged to deliver more weapons to Ukraine.
An additional 50,921 Ukrainians have fled the war-torn country since data on the total number of refugees was released last Wednesday.
This raises the total number of Ukrainian refugees who have fled since the Russian invasion began to 5,085,360, according to the UN refugee agency.
Women and children account for 90 percent of those who fled abroad, as men aged 18 to 60 eligible for military call-up are unable to leave.
The IOM also estimates 7.1 million people are displaced within in Ukraine.
Britain has added 26 new designations to its list of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Some of the added sanctions will affect military figures and defence companies.
Britain has already set out hundreds of sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans on prominent Russian billionaires and politicians including President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier this month Moscow announced it was banning entry to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several other top UK officials, following London imposed sanctions on Russia.
Comic book editor Scott Dunbier signed up the biggest names in US comic book industry to collaborate on a special anthology to raise money for Ukrainian war refugees, Reuters reported.
The result is "Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds," a 96-page book produced by the best writers, artists, colorists, letterers, designers and editors that Dunbier could find.
Proceeds are estimated to reach $200,000 to $500,000, and are due to go to Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based disaster relief agency raising money for Ukrainian war refugees.
By Wednesday, two days after launching, it had raised $67,000 on the Zoop crowdfunding site.
The number of people fleeing Ukraine to escape the Russian invasion has passed 5 million, UN refugee agency said on Wednesday.
Moscow is still waiting for Kyiv's response to a document reportedly handed to the Ukrainian side in connection with peace talks, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
Russia-Ukraine talks are continuing, the Kremlin spokesman added.
Over 1,000 bodies of civilians are being stored in morgues in and around the capital Kyiv, after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, a Ukrainian official told AFP on Thursday.
"1,020 bodies (of) civilians, only civilians, in the areas of all the Kyiv region," Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, told AFP in Borodyanka.
The conflict has so far led to over 5 million people fleeing Ukraine to escape Russia's invasion, according to the UN refugee agency.
A Russian court has fined Alphabet Inc.'s Google 11 million roubles ($137,763) for failing to delete what it says is "fake" information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and for YouTube videos produced by Ukrainian far-right groups, according to Russian state-owned agency TASS.
Russia's communications watchdog previously said it would take steps to punish Google for "spreading fakes" on YouTube.
They also had warned Google that it would be fined if it failed to comply with their wishes.
Google was found guilty of committing administrative violations and fined 4 million roubles and 7 million roubles in two cases, Moscow's Tagansky District Court said on Thursday.
Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv is under intense bombardment, its mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Thursday.
"Huge blasts, the Russian Federation is furiously bombing the city," Terekhov said in a televised statement.
Around 1 million people remain in the northeastern city, while about 30% of the population have evacuated, according to the Mayor.
Ukraine says four buses carrying evacuees have left Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces are battling to retain control of a small enclave.
"Four evacuation buses managed to leave the city yesterday through the humanitarian corridor," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on social media.
Women, children, and the elderly would continue to be evacuated on Thursday.
"The security situation is difficult. Things may change," she added.
Russia has been accused of firing on and blocking humanitarian convoys throughout the war,
Ukraine says it has uncovered more proof of Russian war crimes near Kyiv.
Nine bodies, some 'with signs of torture', were found outside Kyiv, a senior police official said.
"These people were killed by the occupiers and some show signs of torture. I want to emphasise that these people were civilians. The Russian military knowingly shot civilians who did not put up any resistance," the head of the police in the Kyiv region Andriy Niebytov said.
Russia has been accused of massacring and torturing scores of civilians during its occupation of Ukrainian areas.
Amid Russia's claims of victory in Mariupol, around 2,000 Ukrainian forces are still defending the Azovstal metallurgical plant.
The area has now been blockaded with Vladimir Putin saying there is no need to storm the area.
While the defenders have refused Russian offers for a surrender, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has called on Moscow to open a humanitarian corridor to the plant to allow civilians and wounded soldiers to be evacuated.