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Destroyed residential buildings in Borodyanka, Kyiv Oblast, this week. SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News

As it happened: Russia claims mass Ukrainian surrender in Mariupol, Finland to make NATO decision 'within weeks'

Here are all the latest developments in the war in Ukraine.

HERE ARE THE latest developments in the war in Ukraine today:

  • US President Joe Biden has for the first time accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine. 
  • The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are in Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy.
  • Moscow is feared to be readying a massive onslaught across Ukraine’s east that Washington fears might involve chemical weapons.
  • Satellite images indicate Russia is building up troops and equipment in at least three regions near Ukraine’s eastern border.
  • Russia’s defence ministry claimed that more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in Mariupol. Top Ukrainian officials insist the city is still resisting.
  • Ukraine said it is halting all humanitarian corridors allowing for the evacuation of civilians and accused Russian forces of violating agreements to allow people to flee.
  • Finland’s Prime Minister said the country will decide on whether to apply for NATO membership “within weeks”.
  • Jersey froze more than $7 billion in assets linked to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Good morning, Orla Dwyer here starting out today’s Ukraine liveblog. 

To fill you in on what has been going on overnight, here are some of the main developments so far today:

  • US President Joe Biden has for the first time accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine. 
  • Russia’s defence ministry has claimed that more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in Mariupol. 
  • The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are heading for Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
  • A top aide to Zelenskyy said Kyiv wanted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to visit and pledge more arms deliveries after Ukraine told Germany’s president he was not welcome to visit right now. 

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are en route to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

Twitter posts by the leaders showed them standing outside a Ukrainian railway passenger car, but did not give details about the trip.

russia-ukraine-conflict Residents seen near a damaged building in Mariupol earlier this week. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Russia’s defence ministry has claimed today that more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in Mariupol, a strategic port city in eastern Ukraine that has been besieged by Moscow’s troops for over a month.

“In the city of Mariupol… 1,026 Ukrainian servicemen of the 36th marine brigade voluntarily laid down their arms and surrendered,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that the soldiers surrendered near the “Mariupol Metallurgical Plant named after Illich”, a large steel factory.

Russia is believed to be trying to connect occupied Crimea and Moscow-backed separatist territories Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas and has laid siege to Mariupol at the start of its military operation.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have died in the city, which has seen some of the most intense fighting in the conflict.

Here’s some more detail on Kyiv’s snub of a visit from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

Steinmeier said yesterday he had offered to visit Ukraine with other EU leaders today, but Kyiv had told him he was not welcome right now.

Today, a top aide to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said Kyiv wanted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to visit and pledge more arms deliveries.

Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych told German public television that it had not been Zelenskyy’s intention to offend Berlin.

“I think the main argument was different – our president expects the chancellor so that he [Scholz] can take direct practical decisions, including weapons deliveries,” he told broadcaster ZDF.

The German president, much like in Ireland, has a largely ceremonial role while the chancellor heads the government.

Arestovych said the fate of the strategic port city of Mariupol and the civilian population of eastern Ukraine “depends on the German weapons we could get”, but that have not been promised.

president-macron-meeting-strasbourg Emmanuel Macron yesterday. ABACA / PA Images ABACA / PA Images / PA Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has declined to repeat US President Biden’s accusation that Russia was carrying out “genocide” against Ukrainians, warning that verbal escalations would not help end the war.

Biden earlier for the first time accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine. 

Speaking to France 2 television, Macron said leaders should be careful with language.

“I would say that Russia unilaterally unleashed the most brutal war, that it is now established that war crimes were committed by the Russian army and that it is now necessary to find those responsible and make them face justice,” Macron said.

“It’s madness what’s happening, it’s incredibly brutal,” he added.

“But at the same time I look at the facts and I want to try as much as possible to continue to be able to stop this war and to rebuild peace. I’m not sure that verbal escalations serve this cause.”

In his interview on French TV earlier today, Macron said: “Ukrainians and Russians are brotherly peoples.” 

There has been some criticism on Twitter around the use of the word ‘brotherly’ considering the narrative Vladimir Putin pushes about the connected nature of Ukrainian and Russian people. 

Putin wrote a 5,000-word essay last year trying to prove that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people”. 

Seven civilians killed in Kharkiv shelling

Seven civilians have been killed by Russian shelling in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the regional governor has said. 

“Twenty-two civilians, including three children, have been injured during shelling of the region. Seven people have died. A two-year-old boy injured by shelling a few days ago has died in hospital,” the governor, Oleg Synegubov, said on social media.

Sweden is set to apply to join Nato in June, according to a report from Daily Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The paper has said it is Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s goal for the country to join the military alliance.

Neighbouring Finland is also preparing for a potentially historic decision “before midsummer” on whether to apply to join Nato. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 saw public support in the country for joining Nato double from 30 to 60% according to a series of polls.

Dnipro deputy mayor Mykhailo Lysenko said that the bodies of more than 1,500 Russian soliders are in morgues across the city. 

The Kyiv Independent said the deputy mayor told Current Time that the bodies remain in mortuary refrigerators as “no one wants to take them away”. 

Further to reports about Sweden’s intentions to join NATO, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said her country will decide whether to apply to the alliance “within weeks”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow will be looking into alternative markets for its energy exports.

“We have all the resources and opportunities to quickly find alternative solutions,” he said during a televised government meeting.

“As for Russian oil, gas and coal – we can increase their consumption on the domestic market… and also increase the supply of energy resources to other parts of the world, where they are really needed.”

An official in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro – which has largely escaped fighting with invading forces – said today that the remains of more than 1,500 Russian soldiers were being kept in its morgues.

“Now there are more than 1,500 dead Russian soldiers in the morgues of Dnipro that no one wants to retrieve,” Dnipro deputy mayor Mikhail Lysenko told reporters, adding he hoped “Russian mothers will be able to come and pick up their sons”.

The presidents of Poland, Latvia and Estonia have arrived in Kyiv for their meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Lithuania’s president is also set to join the meeting with the Ukrainian leader.

The European Union and UK have announced coordinated sanctions against pro-Russian separatists, as well as more oligarchs and their relatives.

The UK government said that in coordination with the EU it is sanctioning “178 Russian separatists” in eastern Ukraine, in addition to six more oligarchs.

Meanwhile in Moscow, activist Aleksandra Skochilenko has reportedly been jailed for replacing price tags in supermarkets with anti-war messages.

The Wall Street Journal’s Russia based reporter Matthew Luxmoore says Skochilenko faces 10 years behind bars for “discrediting Russia’s armed forces.”

Zelenskyy’s message to Europe

Zelenskyy has urged Europe to take more action against Russia, warning that “we can either stop Russia or lose the whole of Eastern Europe”.

“If Europe wastes time, Russia will use it to expand the war zone to other countries,” he said in an address to the Estonian parliament.

Here’s more details on the latest round of sanctions from the UK.

The latest sanctions include Alexander Ananchenko and Sergey Kozlov, who are described by the UK’s Foreign Office as “self-styled” leaders of the Russia-backed so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

Further oligarchs hit by sanctions include Vagit Alekperov, the head of Russian oil giant Lukoil, and Vladimir Ievtouchenkov, chairman of the Sistema conglomerate.

Britain is taking part in an international effort to punish Russia with asset freezes, travel bans and sanctions.

Those sanctions have so far targeted Russian defence, trade and transport companies.

“We will not rest in our mission to stop Putin’s war machine in its tracks,” the UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said today.

Amidst all the loss of life in Ukraine, invading Russian forces are also causing significant cultural destruction.

Almost 100 cultural and religious sites in Ukraine have sustained damage since the start of the invasion on 24 February, UNESCO said today.

The estimate represents a near doubling of the previous number the United Nation’s cultural agency issued two weeks ago as concern grows over the consequences of the assault for Ukrainian cultural heritage.

“The mark of 100 damaged or totally destroyed sites will be reached on Thursday or Friday – this morning we are at 98 sites and monuments listed in eight regions of the country,” Lazare Eloundou Assomo, director of world heritage at UNESCO, told AFP in an interview.

Kremlin criticises Biden ‘genocide’ comments

The Kremlin has reacted angrily to Joe Biden’s statement that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine

Moscow says it is “unacceptable” for the US President to accuse Russian troops of genocide.

“We categorically disagree and consider unacceptable any attempt to distort the situation in this way,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today.

politics-ukraine Press Association Images Press Association Images

Here’s the most recent PA graphic outlining how the conflict is currently unfolding.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed today that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade surrendered as battle to take the key port city continues.

Russian artist facing jail for supermarket protest

Here’s more info on the anti-war activist who has been jailed for allegedly replacing supermarket price labels with messages protesting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Alexandra Skochilenko faces up to a decade in prison for her stealth protest in Saint Petersburg. She has been charged under a new law banning “fake news” about Russia’s armed forces.

Saint Petersburg’s Vasileostrovsky district court ruled that Skochilenko must remain in pre-trial detention in prison until  31 May, the court’s press service said on Telegram.

Investigators accused her of “putting fragments of paper in place of price tags, containing knowingly false information about the use of the Russian armed forces” in a Perekryostok supermarket on 31 March.

They described her motive as “political hatred for Russia”, which means she faces a harsh sentence if found guilty, ranging from a fine of three million rubles (€33,700) to between five and 10 years in jail.

Skochilenko describes herself on Instagram as an independent artist and musician. She was fined 10,000 rubles (€112) in March for taking part in a protest on 24 February, the day Russian troops entered Ukraine.

“I don’t support the war in Ukraine. I came out on the street today to say so loudly,” she wrote on Instagram.

She smiled and made V signs inside the cage for defendants in the courtroom, local news website reported.

The law against “fake news” makes it mandatory to publicly describe Moscow’s actions in Ukraine only as a “special military operation”, or face up to 15 years in prison. This has led several media outlets to stop reporting in Russia.

The Saint Petersburg court ruled that Skochilenko was a flight risk because she does not live at her officially registered address and has been fined before for a protest.

The artist has reportedly created a series of postcards featuring slogans such as “violence is never the way out” and images of peace symbols and the Ukrainian flag.

The official Twitter account of Poland’s president Andrzej Duda has shared images of his trip to Ukraine alongside the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The BBC has debunked a video carrying its logo which claims that last week’s missile attack on Kramatorsk railway station was carried out by Ukraine.

The British broadcaster said the clip gives the false impression that the BBC has confirmed the missile – which killed dozens of people – was fired by the Ukrainian forces.

It noted that the fake clip appears to have originated among pro-Kremlin accounts on Telegram and subsequently spread across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

It has also been aired on Russian State TV.

The BBC highlighted the stilted language in the clip, a non-BBC spelling of “Zelensky”, and use of footage of dead bodies as evidence that the video is fake.

Zelenskyy makes fresh appeal for weapons 

In a new video, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the war will become an “endless bloodbath” unless Ukraine is supplied with more weapons.

Speaking in English, the Ukrainian president said his country has been defending itself against Russia “much longer than the invaders planned”.

He warned that Russia has the capacity to attack “not only against Ukraine… Poland, Moldova, Romania, and the Baltic states will become the next targets if the freedom of Ukraine falls.”

Zelenskyy appealed for heavy artillery, armoured vehicles, air defence systems and combat aircraft.

Jersey freezes over $7 billion Abramovich assets 

The British Crown dependency of Jersey has frozen more than $7 billion (€6.4 billion) in assets believed to be linked to sanctions-hit Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Jersey’s Royal Court has “imposed a formal freezing order… over assets understood to be valued in excess of $7.0 billion which are suspected to be connected to Mr Abramovich and which are either located in Jersey or owned by Jersey incorporated entities”, Jersey authorities said in a statement.

The government of Jersey – which is favoured by the wealthy for its very low taxes and banking secrecy – said the local police had raided several properties linked to the Chelsea FC owner.

Polish, Baltic presidents see ‘pain and suffering’ in Ukraine

The Polish and Baltic presidents have visited the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka not far from Kyiv, with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda saying it was “permeated with pain and suffering”.

“It is hard to believe that such war atrocities could be perpetrated in 21st-century Europe, but that is the reality. This is a war we must win,” Nauseda said in a statement.

“The place is permeated with pain and suffering. Civilian Ukrainians were murdered and tortured here, and residential homes and other civilian infrastructure were bombed.”

Poland had announced earlier that Nauseda and his fellow heads of state – Polish President Andrzej Duda, Estonia’s Alar Karis and Latvia’s Egils Levits – had met in the Polish city of Rzeszow near the Ukraine border before boarding a train for Kyiv.

The Polish president’s office later tweeted a photo of their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Our goal is to show support to President Zelenskyy and the defenders of Ukraine in a decisive moment for this country,” Polish presidential adviser Jakub Kumoch said in a statement.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Poland yesterday and said he had planned to go on to Ukraine but was turned down.

“I was prepared to do this, but apparently, and I must take note of this, this was not wanted in Kyiv,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Steinmeier, a former foreign minister, is facing criticism at home and abroad for his years-long detente policy towards Moscow, which he has since admitted was a mistake.

The latest intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defence outlining the locations of Russian troops and attacks happening across Ukraine.

Pictured: Destroyed military equipment of the Russian army seen near the village of Dmytrivka in the Bucha district of Ukraine

destroyed-enemy-equipment-near-dmytrivka-village Pavlo Bahmut / PA Images Pavlo Bahmut / PA Images / PA Images

destroyed-enemy-equipment-near-dmytrivka-village Pavlo Bagmut / PA Images Pavlo Bagmut / PA Images / PA Images

destroyed-enemy-equipment-near-dmytrivka-village Pavlo Bagmut / PA Images Pavlo Bagmut / PA Images / PA Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken to his US counterpart Joe Biden by phone. 

In a tweet, Zelenskyy said the two leaders discussed an additional package of defensive and possible macro-financial aid for Ukraine, adding that Biden agreed to enhance sanctions against Russia.

Footage of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits of Latvia meeting Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

2.66372787 US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. PA PA

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged China to use its “special relationship with Russia” to persuade Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

Beijing “cannot expect the global community to respect its appeals to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the future if it does not respect these principles now,” Yellen said at the Atlantic Council, a non-partisan think tank.

Her speech comes a week before the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors convene in Washington for the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Spring Meetings.

Her direct appeal to China underscores an increasing frustration that the United States and its allies have with a country that has only deepened its ties with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she said.

The US and its allies have used sanctions to weaponise the global economy against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

There are not any countries yet subverting the sanctions, but there are fears among the allies that China, which has criticised the Western sanctions, could potentially do so.

Also of concern is India, which has taken a neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine war and recently made a major purchase of Russian oil, a source of tension with the US as it tries to cut off Moscow’s energy income.

Yellen said that countries that undermine the sanctions the US and its allies have imposed on Russia will face consequences for their actions.

“The unified coalition of sanctioning countries will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions we’ve put in place,” Yellen said.

She said Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has “redrawn the contours” of the global economy, which includes “our conception of international cooperation going forward”.

The Russian military has threatened to strike Ukraine’s command centres in the capital Kyiv if Ukrainian troops continue to attack Russian territory.

“We are seeing Ukrainian troops’ attempts to carry out sabotage and strike Russian territory,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement. “If such cases continue, the Russian armed forces will strike decision-making centres, including in Kyiv.”

The Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko has said that two thirds of Kyiv residents have already returned home.

The Interfax Ukraine news agency said Klitschko told residents to wait before returning to the Ukrainian capital due to the ongoing threat of bombing.

“We are following the recommendations of the military, and they say that today the threat is quite high, including rocket fire. Another threat is the demining of the surrounding areas, where, unfortunately, several people died as a result of explosions,” Klitschko said during an interview today.

Two-thirds of Kyiv residents have already returned, despite the recommendations. However, there is no need to hurry: not all bus and trolleybus routes are working in the city, checkpoints are underway. We will not forget that the country is under martial law.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that a “global ceasefire in Ukraine doesn’t seem possible,” indicating that the UN was still waiting for answers from Russia to concrete proposals for evacuating civilians and delivering aid.

“That was our appeal for humanitarian reasons but it doesn’t seem possible,” he said at a press conference.

Aid agencies have repeatedly tried to evacuate civilians from Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol, which has been besieged for weeks by Russian invading forces.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has backed up US President Joe Biden in referring to Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “genocide”.

Trudeau is only the second world leader to use the term “genocide.”

“I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” the Canadian leader said today.

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