Russia–Ukraine War (April 19): Russia Pours in More Troops and Presses Attack in the East

Russia–Ukraine War (April 19): Russia Pours in More Troops and Presses Attack in the East
Ukrainian soldiers guard a check point at the town Shshastya, Ukraine, on April 16, 2021. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo)

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 19. Click here for updates from April 18.

Russia Pours in More Troops and Presses Attack in the East

Russia assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundred of miles long and poured more troops into Ukraine on Tuesday in a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

If successful, the Russian offensive in what is known as the Donbas would essentially slice Ukraine in two. In Mariupol, the now-devastated port city in the Donbas, Ukrainian troops said the Russian military was dropping heavy bombs to flatten what was left of a sprawling steel plant and hit a hospital where hundreds were staying.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Moscow’s forces bombarded numerous Ukrainian military sites, including troop concentrations and missile-warhead storage depots, in or near several cities or villages.

Those claims could not be independently verified.

In what both sides described as a new phase of the war, the Russian assault began Monday along a front stretching more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast.


US, Britain, Canada Pledge Artillery for Ukraine

The leaders of the United States, Britain, and Canada pledged on Tuesday to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine in the face of an all-out Russian assault on that country’s East.

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acted after they and other allied leaders took part in a secure video call as the Russian invasion reached a new phase.

Asked by reporters during a visit to New Hampshire if the United States would be sending more artillery to Ukraine, Biden replied yes.

In London, Johnson told lawmakers: “This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them … in addition to many other forms of support.”

Trudeau said Canada would be sending heavy artillery and promised to provide more details.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to providing Ukraine security and economic and humanitarian assistance.

“We will continue to provide them more ammunition, as we will provide them more military assistance,” Psaki said. She said the United States was preparing another round of sanctions to impose on Moscow.


Canada Sanctions Putin’s Daughters

Canada on Tuesday said it was imposing targeted sanctions on 14 individuals in the Russian regime, including on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.

Earlier this month, the United States and Britain both announced sanctions against Putin’s daughters—Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova—because they said they are believed to be hiding the Putin’s wealth.


Russia: ‘There Could Be No Winners in a Nuclear War’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has rejected claims that Moscow could resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Lavrov was questioned on the issue during an extensive interview with India Today in Moscow on Tuesday.

When the journalist mentioned that “President Zelensky said that Russia plans to use tactical weapons,” the foreign minister didn’t even let her finish the question. “He says many things,” Lavrov said.

He reminded that Russia had never mentioned the use of nuclear weapons as an option during its military operation in the neighboring country, and the Ukrainian leader was the only one to speak about this.

“I cannot comment [on] something, which a not very adequate person pronounces,” the FM added.

Lavrov reiterated the notion that “there could be no winners in a nuclear war,” and assured that Russia would only rely on conventional weapons in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy claimed that Moscow could use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine during his interview with CNN on Friday.

“Not only me—all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” he warned without providing any proof to back his words.


Russia Eyes ‘New Forms of Warfare’

Russia will continue to modernize its armed forces, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told a meeting of senior military officials on Tuesday. The Ukraine offensive has confirmed the validity of the strategy that Moscow has chosen in reforming its military, the veteran official insisted.

“Consistent implementation of the action plan by the Defense Ministry is aimed at further developing the army and the navy, providing them with advanced military equipment. In addition to that, the adoption of new forms of warfare will allow the troops to better adapt to the conditions of modern military confrontation,” Shoigu said.


Russia Says West Pushing Ukraine to Fight on

Russia’s defense minister has accused the United States and other Western nations of supplying Ukraine with weapons so that it continues fighting “until the last Ukrainian.”

Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday at a meeting with the top military brass that Washington and its allies are doing all they can to drag out Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

He noted that “the growing supplies of foreign weapons clearly signal their intention to provoke the Kyiv regime to keep fighting until the last Ukrainian.”

Shoigu said that the Russian military has “consistently implemented the plan to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.”


Kyiv Says Russia Aims to Grab Land, Crush Ukraine’s Armed Forces

The aim of Russia’s new military offensive in east Ukraine is to grab land, establish an overground link between territories in the east and Crimea, and crush Ukraine’s armed forces, Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuznyak said Russian forces were attacking along the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine, pressing their siege of Mariupol in the south and trying to encircle cities in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“The goal is to defeat the Ukrainian forces, to establish control over the territory of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and establish a land corridor to Crimea,” Motuznyak told a briefing.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said Moscow wants to seize Mariupol and all the territory that Ukrainian government forces still hold in Luhansk and Donetsk to create a land link with Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.

“The main efforts are to break through the positions held by Ukrainian troops and they have not stopped trying to gain full control over Mariupol,” Motuznyak said.


Regional Governor Says Russian Forces Have Seized East Ukrainian City of Kreminna

Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said on Tuesday.

Kreminna, which had a population of more than 18,000 before the war with Russia, appears to be the first city confirmed to have been taken by Russian forces since they launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.

“Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army.”

He did not say when the Russian forces established control over Kreminna but said they had attacked “from all sides.”

The seizure of Kreminna takes Russian forces a step closer to the much larger city of Kramatorsk, one of Russia’s potential targets in its offensive on the Donbas region of east Ukraine.

Capturing Donbas and the southern port city of Mariupol would help Russia establish a land link between territory it controls in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea region.


Russia Expels Diplomats From the Netherlands and Belgium

Russia said Tuesday it is expelling 15 diplomats from the Netherlands and an unspecified number of Belgian embassy staff in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats by those countries.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it has ordered 14 employees of the Dutch embassy in Moscow and one from the consulate in St. Petersburg to leave the country.

“We expected Russia to take reciprocal measures. Nevertheless I regret this step. We are now going to see what the consequences are of the fact that so many colleagues have to leave Moscow and Petersburg,” Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra said.

That follows the Netherlands expelling Russian diplomats last month. Dutch authorities said they expelled 17 and alleged they had been using diplomatic cover to work as spies. The Russian Foreign Ministry said a total 18 people with diplomatic status were expelled from its embassy in The Hague, a trade mission in Amsterdam and the Russian representation at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is based in the Netherlands.

The ministry added that the Belgian ambassador had been notified that embassy staff would have to leave by May 3, without saying how many people were affected. The ambassador of Luxembourg was summoned for an official protest after the small Western European nation expelled a single Russian diplomat this month.


Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: Operation Is in New Stage

The Russian foreign minister says that Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine is entering a new stage.

Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Indian television broadcast Tuesday that “the operation is continuing, and another phase of this operation is starting now.”

Lavrov’s statement follows Ukrainian statements that Russia on Monday launched an offensive in the country’s eastern industrial heartland, Donbass. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years in the mostly Russian-speaking region and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Moscow.

Lavrov emphasized that the Russian operation is aimed at the “full liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.”


Turkish Foreign Minister Plans to Speak With His Russian and Ukrainian Counterparts

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says he plans to speak with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts as part of Turkey’s efforts to halt the conflict.

Cavusoglu told reporters that Turkey was also talking to P5 nations—the United States, China, France, Russia, and the U.K.—and other countries about possible security guarantees for Ukraine, adding that Kyiv’s request for guarantees similar to Article 5 of the NATO treaty hadn’t found support, especially among Western countries.

“If there can be no guarantees (similar to) NATO’s Article 5, then what options are there? We are taking care of such these details,” Cavusoglu said. “We must be prepared for the possibility of a cease-fire.”

He was speaking during a joint news conference with Hungary’s foreign minister in Ankara.

NATO-member Turkey, which has maintained its close ties to both Russia and Ukraine, has hosted a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers as well as talks between the two negotiating teams last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said he hopes to bring the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to the negotiating table.


Trump Urges Russia and Ukraine to Work Out ‘Some Kind of Agreement’

Former President Donald Trump on Monday called on Russia and Ukraine to reach an agreement to end the war, which began on Feb. 24.

Trump said on the 55th day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that “it doesn’t make sense that Russia and Ukraine aren’t sitting down and working out some kind of an agreement.”

“If they don’t do it soon, there will be nothing left but death, destruction, and carnage,” Trump said in a statement.

According to the United Nations Humans Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), as of April 18, at least 2,072 Ukrainians have been killed and 2,818 have been injured (pdf) since Putin launched a full-scale invasion against neighboring Ukraine.

Read the full article here


Chechen Leader Certain of Mariupol Fall Soon

The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya says he is certain that the Russian forces will uproot the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the key port of Mariupol within hours.

Ramzan Kadyrov said on a messaging app channel that the Russian troops will “finish off” the Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol on Tuesday and take full control of the giant Azovstal steel mill, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city.

The Azovstal plant, which covers the territory of about 11 square kilometers (over 4 square miles), offered Ukrainian defenders a strong fighting position thanks to its sprawling network of underground tunnels and depots.

Kadyrov, whose forces have taken part in the fighting in Mariupol, has repeatedly made comments about the city’s inevitable fall.


Russia Tells Ukrainian Forces to Surrender Azovstal Plant by Noon

Russia on Tuesday called on Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters holed up in the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to lay down their arms by noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) if they wanted to live.

Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks, has seen the fiercest fighting and most comprehensive destruction since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian authorities said on Monday that no fewer than 1,000 civilians were hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal plant, adding that Russia was dropping heavy bombs onto the Ukrainian-held factory in the besieged city.

Russia’s defence ministry on Tuesday issued a statement calling on Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters inside to surrender.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed to remain alive,” the defence ministry said.

It called on troops to withdraw from the steel plant between 14:00 and 16:00 Moscow time “without exception, without any weapons and without ammunition.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia-backed separatist forces said they were trying to storm the Azovstal steelworks and take control of it as quickly as possible.


Russian Official Says Ukraine Strikes Village Near Border, Three Wounded

A Russian provincial governor accused Ukrainian forces on Tuesday of striking a village near Russia’s border with Ukraine and wounding three residents.

“Three people were wounded. One has already been discharged and is being treated as an outpatient. Two women are in hospital, under the care of qualified doctors … The wounds are of moderate severity,” said Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Russian Province of Belgorod.

More than 30 houses were damaged, he added, and electricity and gas supplies will be restored in the next few hours.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukrainian officials.


France’s Macron Says Dialogue With Putin Stalled After Alleged Mass Killings Discovered in Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin has stalled after alleged mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

“Since the massacres we have discovered in Bucha and in other towns, the war has taken a different turn, so I did not speak to him again directly since, but I don’t rule out doing so in the future”, Macron told France 5 television.

Russia has called the accusations its forces executed civilians in Bucha while occupying the town a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

Asked why he had not followed the example of other European leaders and travelled to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Macron said that a show of support by itself was not needed after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“I will go back to Kyiv, but I will go there to bring something useful with me… because it’s obvious that I don’t need to travel there to show this support,” Macron said, adding that he had spoken around 40 times since the start of the war to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.


Ukrainian Ballistic Missile Plant Destroyed: Russia

The Russian military has destroyed a military plant used to repair the warheads of Tochka-U ballistic missiles, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov announced on Monday. The facility was located in the southeast Ukrainian city of Dnepr, formerly known as Dnepropetrovsk.

Soviet-made Tochka-U tactical ballistic missiles have been extensively used by the Ukrainian forces in the conflict with Russia. The system is arguably the longest-reach weapon at Kyiv’s disposal, boasting a maximum range of 120 km (75 miles).


US Gets Update on NATO Buildup Near Ukraine

The head of the U.S. military rang up his Romanian colleague on Monday to coordinate “humanitarian and security” assistance to Ukraine and get an update on the NATO battle group that France is setting up in the region right across the Ukrainian border, the Pentagon has confirmed.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called Romanian Defense Minister Vasile Dincu on Monday morning to “continue coordinating our assistance” to Ukraine, the Pentagon said in a readout of the call. The two “shared a sense of urgency ahead of a likely Russian military offensive in eastern Ukraine,” the Pentagon said.

Austin commended Romania for taking in Ukrainian refugees and “received an update on the formation of a French-led NATO multinational battle group” in the country, according to the readout.


UK Not Looking to Help Russia, Minister Says on Prospect of Prisoner Swap

Britain is not going to be looking at how to help Russia, a senior minister said on Tuesday when asked about the prospect of swapping pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk for two British fighters who were captured in Ukraine by Russian forces.

The Britons appeared on Russian state TV on Monday and asked to be exchanged for Medvedchuk, who is accused of treason and being held by the Ukrainian authorities.

Asked on Sky News whether a possible swap was something the government would get involved with, Britain’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’re actually going through the process of sanctioning people who are close to Putin regime, we’re not going to be looking at how we can help Russia.”

Lewis said he did not want to comment on the specific situation of the two men, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin.

“We always have responsibility for British citizens, which we take seriously. We’ve got to get the balance right in Ukraine and that’s why I say to anybody: do not travel illegally to Ukraine,” Lewis said.

The UK’s Foreign Enlistment Act blocks citizens from joining foreign militaries fighting countries at peace with Britain, and the government’s foreign secretary and defence minister have warned against Britons fighting in Ukraine after the war began in late February.


An EU Embargo on Russian Oil in the Works: French Minister

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday that an embargo on Russian oil at a European Union level was in the works, adding that France’s President Emmanuel Macron wants such a move.

“I hope that in the weeks to come we will convince our European partners to stop importing Russian oil,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.


Stellantis Suspends Vehicle Production in Russia

Automaker Stellantis says it is suspending production in Russia because of the impact of sanctions and logistical problems.

Stellantis was making vans in Russia under the Peugeot and Citroen brands at a factory in Kaluga which it shared with Mitsubishi. The Japanese manufacturer suspended its production there earlier this month.

Stellantis said Tuesday it wanted to “ensure full compliance” with international sanctions and “protect its employees” by suspending production. The company had previously warned the Kaluga factory was running low on parts. Many automakers with operations in Russia have struggled to import the components they need since the invasion of Ukraine began.

Based in the Netherlands, Stellantis is the world’s fourth-largest automaker with brands including Chrysler, Jeep, and Fiat. It previously stopped vehicle shipments to and from Russia last month.


Sweden Sets Aside $1 Billion to House Ukrainian Refugees

The Swedish government wants to allocate 9.8 billion kronor ($1 billion) to the Swedish Migration Board for increased costs for receiving people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Sweden’s Finance Minister Mikael Damberg presented the budget for 2022 on Tuesday.

The Swedish government repeatedly has said that Sweden will take its share of refugees from Ukraine but not as many as it did in 2015 when it took in a record 163,000 migrants—the highest per capita of any European country.

The government largely wants to take the money for the Ukraine refugees from development aid.

The budget proposal also includes a previously announced increase of non-NATO member Sweden’s military spending in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Russian Offensive Going ‘Very Cautiously,’ Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Claims

Russia’s new offensive in eastern Ukraine is going “very cautiously” and will fail because Moscow’s forces lack the strength to break through Ukrainian defences, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed on Tuesday.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Russian forces were trying to find “sensitive spots” in Ukraine’s defences but claimed: “Their offensive will fail—I give you a 99 percent guarantee—they simply do not have enough strength.”

“The battle for Donbas, which was announced and apparently began yesterday, is under way and is going very cautiously. The battle will not go in Russia’s favour,” he claimed on national television.

Russian forces were trying to push through Ukrainian defences along almost the entire front line in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday.


Ukraine Says No Safe Corridors Agreed for Third Successive Day

Ukraine was for the third successive day unable to secure Russia’s agreement to establish any humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians trapped in cities and towns, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday.

“Today, April 19, unfortunately, there are no humanitarian corridors,” Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook.

She said intensive shelling continued in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia has launched a new offensive.

Efforts to create safe passage for civilians to leave the besieged southern city of Mariupol have failed repeatedly, with each side blaming the other. Russia has denied targeting civilians.

She said “difficult negotiations” were taking place to try to arrange humanitarian corridors in the southern region of Kherson and in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine.


Russia Increases Attacks on Mariupol Steel Plant

Russia has begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on a Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainians are refusing to surrender, the commander of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard claimed Monday.

Denys Prokopenko, whose soldiers have been holding out against Russian forces in the key southern port city, said in a video message that the bombs are dropping even though civilians are sheltering in the plant’s tunnels.

Russia estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries were dug in. The U.S. said nearly a dozen Russian battalion tactical groups have been tied up trying to defeat them.

Ukraine estimates that 21,000 people have been killed in Mariupol. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned Russia on social media that refusing to open humanitarian corridors will justify war crimes trials. The Russians, for their part, said “neo-Nazi nationalists” have hampered evacuations.


Russia Launches Fight for Industrial Heartland, Ukraine Says

After days of regrouping and reinforcing, the Russian military began a new and potentially climactic phase of the war in Ukraine by launching its long-feared, full-scale ground offensive to take control of the country’s industrial heartland, the Donbas, Ukrainian officials said.

The stepped-up assaults began Monday along a broad front of over 300 miles (480 kilometers), Ukrainian officials said.

“The Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address. He said a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia. Russia has declared the capture of the Donbas to be its main goal in the war since its attempt to seize the capital, Kyiv, failed.

Before the offensive got underway, Russia bombarded the western city of Lviv and other targets in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country’s defenses.


Russians Fight in Streets of Ukrainian Town

A Ukrainian military official said street battles have begun and evacuation is impossible in the town of Kreminna. That’s one of only two spots where the Ukrainians said the Russians managed to break through on Monday along a front stretching for hundreds of miles.

Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said the town came under heavy artillery overnight, setting seven residential buildings on fire, and that the Olympus sports complex where the nation’s Olympic team trains was targeted.

Haidai later said on Ukrainian TV that Russians took control of the city after “leveling everything to the ground,” so his men retreated to regroup and keep on fighting. “It simply makes no sense to stand in one place, to die for everyone, without causing significant damage to the enemy,” he said.


Biden to Speak With Allies Over Ukraine Invasion

U.S. President Joe Biden will on Tuesday hold a call with allies to discuss the Ukraine crisis, including how to coordinate on holding Russia accountable, the White House said.

“The president will convene a secure video call with allies and partners to discuss our continued support for Ukraine and efforts to hold Russia accountable as part of our close coordination,” it said in a statement.


Ukraine Says First Civilians Killed in Lviv

Ukraine said a Russian missile attack killed seven people in Lviv on Monday, the first civilian victims in the western city.

Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of Lviv which lies 60 km (40 miles) from the Polish border, said preliminary reports suggested there were four strikes, three on warehouses that were not in use by the military and another on a car service station.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine overnight. It said air-launched missiles had destroyed 16 military facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk regions and in the port of Mykolayiv, which are locations in the south and east Ukraine.

It added that the Russian air force had launched strikes against 108 areas where Ukrainian forces were concentrated and Russian artillery struck 315 Ukrainian military targets.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said on Monday that the situation in Mariupol was “extremely difficult” but the city was not under full control of Russian forces.

Video and audio footage showed explosions rumbling and smoke rising from the Azovstal steelworks, which contain myriad buildings, blast furnaces, and rail tracks.

Taking Mariupol would unite Russian forces on two of the main axes of the invasion, and free them up to join an expected new offensive against the main Ukrainian force in the east.

Isabel van Brugen, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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