The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 16. Click here for updates from April 15.
US Says ‘Nothing Will Dissuade’ It From Arming Ukraine
The United States will continue to pour weapons into Ukraine, despite Russia reportedly warning of “consequences,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN on Friday.
Price told CNN that “nothing will dissuade” the U.S. government from funneling weapons to Ukraine. Earlier, Russia reportedly sent a diplomatic cable to Washington warning of “unpredictable consequences” if these arms shipments continue.
“The Russians have said some things privately, they have said some things publicly; nothing will dissuade us from the strategy that we’ve embarked on,” Price told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. If the Kremlin is concerned that the Biden administration is “providing billions of dollars worth of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners … then we’re guilty as charged,” he added.
The United States has sent more than $2.5 billion worth of arms and other military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its offensive in February. Having initially shipped thousands of anti-tank missiles and large amounts of ammunition to the war-torn country, Washington has more recently forwarded heavier weapons.
Russia Says Urban Areas of Mariupol Clear of Ukrainian Forces as Zelenskyy Vows to End Talks
Russia said Saturday that there are no Ukrainian troops in the urban area of Mariupol, a key battlefield in the east of Ukraine.
“The entire urban territory of Mariupol is completely cleared of militants of the Nazist group ‘Azov,’ foreign mercenaries, and Ukrainian troops,” Russian Defense Ministry wrote in a social media post.
The remainder of the Ukrainian groups are blocked on Azovstal, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants located in the east of Mariupol, the Kremlin said.
“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their weapons and surrender,” the Russian Defense Ministry claimed.
Russia’s announcement came right after Zelenskyy threatened that the elimination of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol will make talks impossible.
“The more Borodianka-like cases appear, there will be no chance that negotiations will be held actually,” he said during an interview with Ukrainian media. “The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol—what they are doing now—can put an end to any format of negotiations.”
Borodianka is an urban-style settlement about 37 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from which the Russian forces recently withdrew. Zelenskyy said that more than 300 civilians were killed by Russian forces, with about 30 of them executed.
Russians Strike 8 Ukrainian Cities, Hit Depot
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russian forces shelled an oil refinery in the city of Lysychansk on Saturday morning, and a large fire erupted on its territory.
Haidai said it wasn’t the first time the refinery was targeted and accused the Russians of trying to “exhaust” local emergency service. He underlined that there was no fuel at the refinery at the time of the attack and “the remains of oil sludge” were burning.
Ukraine’s presidential office reported Saturday that missile strikes and shelling over the past 24 hours occurred in eight regions: Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv in the east; Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, and Kirovohrad in central Ukraine; and Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south. The strikes underlined that the whole country remained under threat despite Russia’s pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east.
In the city of Kharkiv, nine civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded on Friday, while in the wider region two were reported dead and three wounded, according to the report.
The southern Mykolaiv region was battered Friday and Saturday. According to the presidential office report, airstrikes Friday killed five and wounded 15. The head of regional legislature Hanna Zamazeyeva said on Saturday morning that 39 people have been wounded in the past 24 hours.
The besieged port city of Mariupol is still holding out, but the situation there is critical.
Russia Bars UK Prime Minister Over Sanctions
Russia has barred the UK prime minister and a dozen other top British officials from entering the country in response to British sanctions imposed on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced the move that targets Boris Johnson, a number of British ministers and former prime minister Theresa May, on Saturday.
The ministry’s statement cited “unprecedented hostile actions of the British government, expressed, in particular, in the imposition of sanctions against top officials” in Russia.
“The Russophobic course of action of the British authorities, whose main goal is to stir up negative attitude toward our country, curtailing of bilateral ties in almost all areas are detrimental to the well-being and interests of the residents of Britain. Any sanctions attack will inevitably backfire on their initiators and receive a decisive rebuff,” the statement said.
On Friday evening, the ministry announced the expulsion of 18 European Union diplomats from Moscow, in retaliation for the bloc’s declaring 19 diplomats from the Russian mission to the E.U. and to the European Atomic Energy Community persona non-grata.
The European Union said the expulsions were groundless, and that E.U. diplomats targeted were working in the framework of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
Wife of Arrested Ukrainian Opposition Leader Appeals to UK
Oksana Marchenko, the wife of arrested Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, has released a video proposing to swap her husband for the two British fighters who reportedly surrendered to Russian and Donbas forces in Mariupol earlier this week.
Marchenko, a former TV presenter, recorded her message in both Russian and English and posted it on social media on Saturday, appealing to the families and friends of British nationals Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.
“It is in your power to ask the prime minister of your country, Boris Johnson, to influence the Ukrainian leadership and achieve the release of Aiden and Shaun through their exchange [for] the Ukrainian opposition politician detained by the Kyiv authorities—my husband Viktor Medvedchuk.”
Medvedchuk is a lawmaker and the leader of Opposition Platform—For Life, the second-largest party in Ukraine’s parliament. He opposed the 2014 Western-backed coup in Ukraine, and believes that the country’s turn to the West is detrimental to its national interests. Opponents accuse Medvedchuk of being a pro-Russian figure, which he denies.
Russia Strikes Armoured Vehicle Plant, Military Repair Facility in Ukraine: Interfax
Russia destroyed production buildings of an armored vehicle plant in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and a military repair facility in the city of Mykolaiv, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s defense ministry as saying on Saturday.
The strikes were carried out by high-precision long-range weapons, it said.
Russia also downed one Ukrainian SU-25 aircraft near the city of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast of eastern Ukraine, Interfax added, citing Russia’s defense ministry.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also said in an online posting that Kyiv was struck early Saturday in the Darnytskyi district in the eastern part of the capital, saying there were “explosions.”
He said rescuers and paramedics were on the scene and that victims’ details would be released later.
Ukraine’s Richest Man Vows to Rebuild Besieged Mariupol
Ukraine’s richest man has pledged to help rebuild the besieged city of Mariupol, a place close to his heart where he owns two vast steelworks that he says will once again compete globally.
Rinat Akhmetov has seen his business empire shattered by eight years of fighting in Ukraine’s east but remains defiant, sure that what he calls “our brave soldiers” will defend the Sea of Azov city reduced to a wasteland by seven weeks of bombardment.
For now, though, his Metinvest company, Ukraine’s biggest steelmaker, has announced it cannot deliver its supply contracts and while his financial and industrial SCM Group is servicing its debt obligations, his private power producer DTEK “has optimized payment of its debts” in an agreement with creditors.
He said that he was in daily contact with the Metinvest managers who run the Azovstal and Illich Iron and Steel Works plants in Mariupol.
On Friday, Metinvest said it would never operate under Russian occupation and that the Mariupol siege had disabled more than a third of Ukraine’s metallurgy production capacity.
He claimed that he returned to the country on Feb. 23 and has been there ever since.
“My ambition is to return to a Ukrainian Mariupol and implement our (new production) plans so that Mariupol-produced steel can compete in global markets as before.”
According to Forbes magazine, Akhmetov’s net worth in 2013 reached $15.4 billion. It currently stands at $3.9 billion.
“I am confident that, as the country’s biggest private business, SCM will play a key role in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine,” he said, citing officials as saying the damage from the war has reached $1 trillion.
Russia, China to Boost Freight Rail Traffic
Russian Railways (RZD) said on Friday it has agreed with its Chinese partners to gradually increase the number of freight trains through connecting stations.
“In April, rail cargo transfer [between Russia and China] increased by 27 percent month-on-month in Zabaykalsk, and by 10 percent in Grodekovo,” RZD said, adding that “Export cargo transportation to China through Kazakhstan and Mongolia is also growing.”
The company noted that in addition to growing volumes of coal, others types of cargo have been sent via the Baikal-Amur (BAM) and Trans-Siberian railways. The number of applications submitted for transportation over these railways increased by almost 30 percent compared to last year. In the first quarter of 2022, more than 3,500 heavy and 1,700 connected trains carried cargo via the strategic route in the supply chains of the two countries. The volume of additional cargo exceeded 6 million tons, RZD said.
Ukraine Deputy PM: 9 Evacuation Corridors, Including Mariupol, Agreed for Saturday
Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed for Saturday to evacuate civilians, including from the besieged city of Mariupol by private cars.
Vereshchuk said in a statement that five of the nine evacuation corridors were from Ukraine’s Luhansk region in the east of the country, which local officials have said is under heavy shelling.
Russian Crowd Mourns Black Sea Flagship After Sinking
Dozens of people gathered in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Friday to mourn the sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a symbol, the crowd heard, of hope, revival, and power until its demise.
Some embraced and others laid flowers in memory of the Moskva missile cruiser at a monument to the 1696 foundation of the Russian navy in the center of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet.
Moscow said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an ammunition explosion.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused it to sink.
Reuters was unable to verify the exact circumstances of the ship’s demise.
“Even for those who have not been on it, the Moskva was a symbol for everyone, a symbol of our power, of our hope, of the revival of the fleet in the 1990s” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Reserve Captain Sergei Gorbachev, who spoke to the crowd in his naval uniform.
“There will be victories, there will be tragedies, but the memory remains,” Gorbachev said.
The crowd, which included a number of people who served on the ship, stood in respectful silence. Some wore the ribbon of St. George, a symbol of the Russian military.
“The loss of every ship, especially a flagship, is a tragedy for all those tens of thousands of people who served there for over 20 years,” said priest Georgiy Ployakov.
Zelenskyy Claims Russian Oil Ban Key Step to Peace
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that existing sanctions on Russia are “painful” but not yet enough to stop the Russian military.
Zelenskyy called for “the democratic world” to ban Russian oil. While U.S. lawmakers and President Joe Biden have enacted such a ban, Europe relies more heavily on Russian energy supplies, and the United States has been working to keep India from stepping up its use of Russian energy.
“In general, the democratic world must accept that Russia’s money for energy resources is in fact money for the destruction of democracy,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to his nation.
He also claimed: “The sooner the democratic world recognizes that the oil embargo against Russia and the complete blockade of its banking sector are necessary steps towards peace, the sooner the war will end.”
Zelenskyy: Mariupol Discussed With Leaders
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he discussed the fate of the besieged port city of Mariupol in a meeting Friday with the country’s military leaders and the heads of its intelligence agencies.
“The details cannot be made public now, but we are doing everything we can to save our people,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.
Rescuers and Medics on Site of Explosion in Kyiv’s Outskirts: Mayor
Rescuers and medics were working on the site of an early Saturday blast on the outskirts of Kyiv, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said in an online post.
The explosion took place in Kyiv’s Darnytskyi district, Klitschko said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. It is the southeastern district of Kyiv, on the left bank of Dnipro river.
Klitschko added that information on wounded is being confirmed.
At Least Two Die in Russian Attacks Across Ukraine: Officials
At least two civilians were killed and four wounded in Russian attacks across Ukraine, local officials said early on Saturday.
One person was killed and three wounded in shelling in the eastern region of Luhansk, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post.
A gas pipeline was damaged in Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, which was without gas and water, Gaidai said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
“Evacuate, while it is still possible,” Gaidai said in a subsequent post, adding that busses were ready for those willing to be evacuated from the region.
One person died and one was injured in an overnight attack on a small village near Poltava, the capital of the central Ukraine Poltava region, the region’s Governor Dmytro Lunin said in a post on the Telegram.
Explosions were heard early on Saturday in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in the north and the western city of Lviv, but there was no information on casualties or damages.
Kyiv’s mayor said that rescuers and medics were working on the explosion site on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Air Strikes Hit Lviv Region, Governor Says
The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine reported air strikes in the region on Saturday morning.
Maksym Kozytskyy claimed on the Telegram messaging app that Russian Su-35 aircraft took off from the Baranovichi airfield in Belarus and carried out missile strikes in Lviv.
Ukraine’s air defense system shot down four cruise missiles, Kozytskyy claimed.
He didn’t offer any details about possible casualties or damage.
Allen Zhong, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.