The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 25. Click here for updates from April 24.
Mariupol Officials Say New Mass Grave Found
Officials in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol say a new mass grave has been identified north of the city.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) north of Mariupol.
Satellite photos released over the past several days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.
Mariupol has been decimated by fierce fighting over the past two months. The capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
4 Die, 9 Wounded From Russian Shelling of Kharkiv: Governor
Four people died and nine were wounded as a result of Russia‘s shelling in the Kharkiv region on Monday, Oleh Synegubov, the region’s governor told Ukraine‘s public broadcaster.
Kyiv Wants UN to Seek Mariupol Evacuation
Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol, calling it something the world body is capable of achieving.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview he was concerned that by visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.
Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol.
An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.
Russian Officer: Missile to Carry Several Hypersonic Weapons
A new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of carrying several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said Sunday.
Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev, the commander of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, said in televised remarks that the new Sarmat ICBM is designed to carry several Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Sarmat was test-fired for the first time Wednesday from the Plesetsk launch facility in northern Russia and its practice warheads have successfully reached mock targets on the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
Bridget Brink Named as US Ambassador to Ukraine
President Joe Biden announced on Monday his nomination of Bridget Brink to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia, and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
The announcement comes as American diplomats prepare to return to Ukraine this coming week, although the U.S. embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for now.
US Wants to See Russian Military ‘Weakened’
The United States wants to see the Russian military “weakened” amid the invasion of Ukraine, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday as he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with officials in Europe.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin told reporters, according to a transcript.
His remarks on Monday are perhaps the most explicit yet from a White House official on the Biden administration’s goals in the conflict, representing a sharpening of rhetoric toward the Russian government as the conflict enters its third month. Austin made the comments while speaking with Blinken at a press conference in Poland, a day after the pair visited Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on providing more military assistance.
When asked about the United States’ “goals for success” amid the conflict, Austin responded, “Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory.” But then he told reporters that he wants to see Russia’s military capacity diminished.
“It has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,” Austin added.
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US Promises More Ukraine Aid
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday after a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is committed to winning his country’s fight against Russia and that the United States will help him achieve that goal.
“He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win,” Austin told reporters in Poland, the day after the three-hour face-to-face meeting with Zelenskyy in Ukraine.
Austin said that the nature of the fight in Ukraine had changed now that Russia has pulled away from the wooded northern regions to focus on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbass. Because the nature of the fight has evolved, so have Ukraine’s military needs, and Zelenskyy is now focused on more tanks, artillery, and other munitions.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin said. “We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can … to ensure that gets to them.”
Ukraine Removes Hirohito From Video After Japan Protests
Ukraine’s government has apologized and removed a photo of Japanese wartime monarch Hirohito from a video showing him with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini after Japan protested, officials said Monday.
Japan will continue to support Ukrainians who are defending their country from Russia’s invasion despite the “completely inappropriate” portrayal of Hirohito, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said.
The video, posted by the Ukrainian government on Twitter on April 1, criticized Russia’s invasion as “rashism.” Underneath the photos of the three World War II-era leaders were the words “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945.”
Japan fought World War II in the name of Hirohito. Historical evaluations of his role in the war remain divided.
Isozaki said Japan lodged a protest and demanded the removal of Hirohito’s image, which Ukraine has done.
“Our sincere apologies to Japan for making this mistake,” the Ukrainian government said on Twitter Sunday. “We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan.”
Number of Expelled Russian Diplomats Revealed
Around 400 Russian diplomats have been expelled from 28 countries since the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed on Monday.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Evgeny Ivanov, diplomatic expulsions became the preferred method of the West even before February 24. Calling the seizure of Russian assets abroad another “unfriendly” measure, he said these actions “will not go unanswered.”
“We counteract where we can, up to appealing to the courts. Unfriendly actions do not go unanswered in the legislative sphere either,” Ivanov said during a parliamentary meeting, as cited by Russian media.
Moscow has previously warned that it would retaliate to all expulsions of its diplomats. On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned German Ambassador Geza Andreas von Geyr to express “strong protest” over Berlin’s earlier decision to expel 40 employees of Russian diplomatic institutions. As a “symmetrical response,” 40 employees of German diplomatic institutions in Russia have been designated persona non grata, the ministry announced.
Putin Says US and Its Allies of Trying to ‘Split Russian Society’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States and its allies of trying to “split Russian society.”
Speaking Monday at a meeting with top officials at the Prosecutor General’s office, Putin said Russia has come under “unprecedented Western sanctions” amid its military action in Ukraine.
He charged that the United States and its allies have sought to “split the Russian society and to destroy Russia from within,” adding that their plans have failed.
Putin urged Russian prosecutors to act more quickly to block unsanctioned demonstrations organized from abroad. He also noted that they should focus on exposing “open provocations” against the Russian military allegedly involving international media and social platforms.
NATO Warships Arrive at Finnish Port for Training Exercises
Three NATO warships arrived in the southwestern Finnish port of Turku on Monday to train with Finland’s navy as Helsinki considers the possibility of joining the U.S.–led alliance amid increased tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
Latvian minelayer LVNS Virsaitis and minehunters Estonian ENS Sakala and Dutch HNLMS Schiedam will train with two minehunters from Finland’s coastal fleet, the Finnish defense forces said in a statement.
The two-day exercise, set to commence on April 28, will prepare the Finnish ships to take part in NATO response forces in 2022 and focus on “mine countermeasures and working in a multinational framework,” the statement said.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 13 that her country would take a decision in the next few weeks about whether to apply to join NATO.
Putin Outlines Position on Foreign Firms
Russia faces unprecedented sanctions pressure that continues to intensify, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, noting that despite the prevailing conditions, the country’s economy has the opportunity to function stably and smoothly. He has promised to support businesses as much as possible, including foreign firms that have stayed in Russia.
To do that, it is necessary to respect the rights of business owners and support them to the full, including by reducing the administrative burden, Putin said. Foreign companies that have remained in Russia despite sanctions pressure should be allowed to “work peacefully,” he added.
The Russian president earlier instructed the government to allocate additional resources to support small and medium-sized businesses and create better growth conditions for new industries based on new and yet-to-be-developed supply chains. Putin also said he believes that sanctions will result in new leaders emerging in the Russian market.
Russia Investigates Large Oil Depot Fire in Region Near Ukraine
Russia said on Monday it would investigate the cause of a large fire that erupted in the early hours of the morning at an oil storage facility in the city of Bryansk 154 km (96 miles) northeast of the border with Ukraine.
Unverified social media footage showed what sounded like two explosions followed by a tower of flames, with one unverified video showing a fire raging around a giant fuel reservoir.
Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said nobody had been hurt in the incident.
The ministry said in a statement that the fire had broken out at a facility owned by oil pipeline company Transneft at 0200 Moscow time (2300 GMT), and that there had been no need to evacuate any parts of Bryansk, a city of 400,000 people.
The Russian Energy Ministry said there was no threat to diesel and gasoline supplies in the Bryansk region after the incident and there were enough fuel stockpiles.
It added that the scale of the blaze was being assessed.
Other unverified footage showed what looked like another fire burning at a second location in Bryansk.
Russia Expels 40 German Diplomats
Russia is expelling 40 German diplomats in response to Germany expelling the same number of Russian diplomats earlier this month.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had summoned German ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr for a “strong protest at the clearly unfriendly decision” to expel the Russian diplomatic staff.
The ministry said von Geyr was told that 40 members of staff at German diplomatic missions in Russia would be officially declared unwelcome in Russia.
EU Official Says No ‘Unified Position’ Reached on Russian Energy Embargo
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that insufficient support from EU member states means a complete embargo or punitive tariff on Russian oil and gas imports cannot yet be levied.
“At the moment, we in the EU do not have a unified position on this question,” Borrell was quoted as saying by the German newspaper Die Welt on Monday, adding that “a final proposal for an embargo on oil and gas is not yet on the table.”
Borrell’s comment comes as some EU countries, including Poland and Lithuania, are pushing for a sixth round of sanctions against Russian oil imports in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
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17 Dead in Russian Military Research Facility Fire on April 21
At least 17 people have died in last week’s fire at a Russian military research facility, authorities said Monday.
The regional government in Tver, a city about 180 kilometers (112 miles) northwest of Moscow, said that so far only five of the victims had been identified.
The blaze at the Central Research Institute for Air and Space Defense of the Russian Defense Ministry in Tver erupted Thursday and it took authorities a day to put it out.
Officials previously said 27 people were injured and 13 of them were hospitalized.
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately clear.
The research institute was involved in the development of some of the state-of-the-art Russian weapons systems, reportedly including the Iskander missile.
5 Killed by Air Strikes in Central Ukraine
Ukrainian authorities say at least five people have been killed by Russian strikes on the central Vynnytsia region.
The Vynnytsia regional prosecutors said another 18 people were wounded in Monday’s Russian missile strikes on the towns of Zhmerynka and Koziatyn.
Vinnytsia regional Governor Serhiy Borzov said earlier that the Russian missiles targeted “critical infrastructure,” but didn’t elaborate.
The Vynnytsia region is fully controlled by Ukraine and is far behind the front lines.
Russia Opens Humanitarian Corridor for Civilians From Mariupol’s Azovstal Plant
Russian and Donbass forces will observe a ceasefire around the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol starting from 2 p.m. Moscow time on Monday, allowing civilians to evacuate to safety, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said that armed units will “withdraw to a safe distance and maintain the exit of civilians from the said area in any direction they choose.”
Zelenskyy: US Talks Effective, Encouraging
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as “encouraging” and “effective.”
Speaking in Monday’s video address, he said the United States is offering “powerful” support to his country. Zelenskyy added that they agreed “on further steps to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army.” He noted that ramping up sanctions against Moscow also was on the meeting’s agenda.
Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.
Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine would expect the United States to lead other allies in offering a set of security guarantees in the future.
Russia: Oil Depot Fire Won’t Cause Shortages
Russia’s Energy Ministry says a massive fire at an oil depot in western Russia will not cause fuel shortages.
The ministry said in a statement that Monday’s fire inflicted damage to a depot containing diesel fuel in Bryansk, and authorities are dealing with the consequences of the blaze.
The ministry said fuel supplies to consumers haven’t been interrupted and noted that the region has enough diesel fuel for 15 days.
The Emergencies Ministry said earlier that a huge blaze erupted overnight at the depot owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft, which operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude to Europe. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the blaze, and whether it could affect deliveries to Europe.
Russian Gas Embargo ‘Impossible’ for Austria: Energy Minister
Banning Russian natural gas imports is “currently impossible” for Austria, the country’s energy minister, Leonore Gewessler, told the press over the weekend.
“Austria is 80 percent dependent on Russian gas. As painful as it is, a gas embargo is currently not possible for us, just as it is for some other countries. The essence of sanctions is to let us last longer than [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, and we cannot do that without gas,” the official told Die Presse am Sonntag.
Ukraine Angry at Austrian Comments
Kyiv is “disappointed” by the “short-sighted” statements of Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg who suggested that full EU membership might not be the best option for Ukraine.
On Saturday, Schallenberg, while admitting that deepening ties with Ukraine is necessary as the EU is exporting the “Western way of life,” said that models other than full EU membership should be considered for Ukraine. He mentioned joining the European Economic Area or an association agreement as among the options.
Reacting to these comments, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko released a strong-worded statement on Sunday.
“We are disappointed by the remarks of the Austrian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs about the European future of Ukraine. We consider them to be strategically short-sighted and not in the interests of a united Europe,” Nikolenko said, adding that Schallenberg ignores the positive view of “the vast majority” of the populations of the EU’s founding members toward Ukrainian membership.
Russia and Ukraine Differ on Odessa Missile Strike
Russian forces have destroyed a logistics terminal in Odessa that held a large batch of foreign weapons, Moscow announced on Saturday amid its ongoing military offensive in Ukraine. However, the city’s authorities have claimed that its air defense group destroyed two missiles but that another four hit a military target and residential buildings, leading to civilian deaths.
It was not immediately clear if the buildings were struck by the Russian attack or attempts by Ukrainian forces to strike down the missiles initially aimed at the military target.
According to Russian military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, in the afternoon, “high-precision long-range air-launched missiles” hit a logistics terminal located on a military airfield near Odessa, where “a large batch of foreign weapons received from the United States and European countries was stored.”
Skating Chiefs Further Isolate Russia
Russia has been stripped of its right to host a figure skating Grand Prix in the 2022–23 season, the International Skating Union (ISU) has confirmed, while further steps could be taken to sanction Russia and Belarus in the international arena.
The ISU confirmed on Monday that the traditional Russian stage of its Grand Prix series would not take place next season.
The event, known as the Rostelecom Cup, took place in Sochi last year but has also been held in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Until further notice no International Competitions shall be held in Russia and Belarus. Consequently, the Rostelecom Cup 2022 in Figure Skating will not be included in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series of the season 2022/23,” read an ISU statement.
Russia Warns US Against Sending More Arms to Ukraine
Russia has warned the United States against sending more arms to Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington told Russian state television.
“We stressed the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America pours weapons into Ukraine, and we demanded an end to this practice,” Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Antonov said an official diplomatic note had been sent to Washington expressing Russia’s concerns. He said such arms supplies from the United States would further aggravate the situation and raise the stakes of the conflict.
Washington’s top diplomat and its defense secretary met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv late on Sunday, pledging new assistance worth $713 million for Zelenskyy’s government and other countries in the region.
Earlier in April, President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, expanding the scope of the systems provided to include heavy artillery.
Russia Strikes Ukrainian Oil Depot and Military Installations
Russia struck Ukraine’s Kremenchuk oil refinery with long-range missiles and hit military installations in its former Soviet neighbor, the Russian defense ministry reported on Monday.
“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue the special military operation in Ukraine,” the ministry said.
Russia said it struck Ukrainian military installations and the Kremenchuk oil refinery near the Dnipro River that the governor of the Poltava region had said was destroyed earlier this month.
“High-precision long-range weapons destroyed fuel production facilities at an oil refinery on the northern outskirts of the city of Kremenchuk, as well as petroleum products storage facilities which fuelled military equipment for Ukrainian troops,” the ministry said.
US Says Diplomats to Return to Kyiv, as ‘Russia Has Already Failed’ in War Aims
The United States promised on Monday to reopen its embassy in Kyiv soon, as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine’s capital and hailed its success so far against Russia’s invasion.
Both men said the fact they were able to come to Kyiv was proof of Ukraine’s tenacity in forcing Moscow to abandon an assault on the capital last month, and promised more aid to fend off Russian troops now attempting an advance in the east.
U.S. officials said they pledged new assistance worth $713 million for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government and other countries in the region.
“In terms of Russia’s war aims, Russia has already failed and Ukraine has already succeeded,” Blinken claimed in a briefing in Poland after the two officials returned.
Russia has always denied intending to overthrow Ukraine’s government. Western countries say that was its aim from the outset but it failed in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
The relative calm in Kyiv is a contrast with the south and east of the country.
Some 200 miles southeast of Kyiv, Russian missile strikes on an oil refinery and power plant in Kremenchuk killed one person and wounded seven, the governor of the Poltava region said. Moscow said it had destroyed oil production facilities there.
UK Claims Russia Made Minor Advances in Ukraine After Its Shift to Donbass
Russia has made minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbass, the UK’s Ministry of Defense claimed on Twitter on Monday.
Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness, British military intelligence claimed.
5 Railway Stations Come Under Fire in Ukraine, Casualties Reported: State Rail Company
Five railway stations came under fire in western and central Ukraine on Monday, causing an unspecified number of casualties, Ukrainian television quoted state-run Ukrainian Railways as saying.
Oleksander Kamyshin, the company’s chief, said the attacks took place in the space of an hour and details were being checked.
Fire Erupts at Russian Oil Depot Near Border With Ukraine
A fire has erupted at a Russian oil depot near the border with Ukraine.
The Tass news agency reported the fire early Monday in Bryansk. The Russian report said oil storage tanks at the facility caught fire around 2 a.m. local time.
NASA satellites that track fires show a burning fire at coordinates that correspond to a Rosneft facility some 70 miles north of the Ukrainian border.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, was cited by the Ukrainian news agency Unian as saying that people who live near the burning oil depot were being evacuated.
Moscow has previously blamed Ukraine for attacks on the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Ukraine’s top security officials have denied that Kyiv was behind an earlier airstrike on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 35 miles from the border.
Blinken, Austin Meet With Zelenskyy
The U.S. secretaries of state and defense met Sunday night with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the highest-level visit to the war-torn country’s capital by an American delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.
The meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was confirmed by presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych in an interview on Ukrainian TV.
It came as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol.
“Yes, they’re meeting with the president. Let’s hope something will be decided on further help,” Arestovych said in an interview on Ukrainian TV.
Before the session, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in arms and security guarantees.
“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,” he said.
Ukraine to Call for Heavy Arms When Top US Officials Visit Kyiv
Ukraine will ask U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for more powerful weapons during an expected visit by the officials to Kyiv on Sunday, seeking to build the country’s defenses against the Russian invasion.
The trip by Blinken and Austin, announced earlier by Zelenskyy, would be the highest-level visit to Ukraine by U.S. officials since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of the country two months ago.
The White House has not confirmed any visit by Blinken and Austin. The State Department and Pentagon declined to comment.
NATO and Russian Military Presence in Mediterranean Sea at ‘Cold War’ Levels
As the conflict in Ukraine enters its third month, NATO and Russia have built up their naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea to the most significant levels in decades.
That was confirmed in a recent interview with Thibault Lavernhe, regional communication officer of French forces in the Mediterranean, who said that “Ukraine has changed things.”
“The Americans are back. This hasn’t been the case since the Cold War,” he said. “Russia has doubled, if not tripled, its military capacity in the area” in terms of destroyers, submarines, and frigates, Lavernhe continued to say.
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Ukraine’s Military Says Russian Forces Are Trying to Storm Azovstal Plant
Russian forces attempted to storm the Ukrainian-held Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol on Sunday, Ukrainian officials said, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments last week that the complex did not need to be taken.
Ukraine’s armed forces command wrote on Facebook that Russian forces were firing and performing “offensive operations” in the Azovstal area, as well as conducting airstrikes on civilian infrastructure.
Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine brigade forces in Mariupol, said in an interview with an opposition lawmaker that was shown on YouTube on Sunday that Russia was hitting the complex with air and artillery bombardments.
“We are taking casualties, the situation is critical … we have very many wounded men, [some] are dying, it’s a difficult [situation] with guns, ammunition, food, medicines … the situation is rapidly worsening,” Volyna said, speaking from his location at the plant.
Konstantin Ivaschenko, the official who has been designated mayor of Mariupol by Russia but not recognized as such by Ukraine, denied that any fighting was taking place in the city in comments reported by Russian news outlet Tass on Sunday.
The Epoch Times could not independently verify the Ukrainian or Russian accounts.
Katabella Roberts, Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.