War in Ukraine: Latest developments

AFP , Tuesday 19 Apr 2022

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

Damaged and burned vehicles are seen at a destroyed part of the Illich Iron Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, April 18, 2022. AP

Eastern offensive begins

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia's large-scale offensive in the eastern Donbas region has begun.

"We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive," he said on Telegram.

Russia claims arms depot hit

Russia's army says it has destroyed a large depot of foreign weapons recently delivered to Ukraine near the western city of Lviv -- one of 16 Ukrainian military sites it claims to have hit on Monday.

Russian planes in the morning struck a logistics centre holding "large batches of foreign weaponry, delivered to Ukraine over the past six days by the United States and European countries", and "destroyed" them, says Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

Missiles kill seven in Lviv

Five "powerful" Russian missiles hit the western city of Lviv, near the Polish border, killing at least seven people and wounding eight, local officials say.

Over in the east of the country, Russian strikes killed at least eight civilians in the embattled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, local authorities say.

New US arms shipments arrive

The first shipments of a new US military aid package have arrived at Ukraine's borders to be handed over in its fight against the Russian invasion, a senior Pentagon official says.

The package includes 18 155mm howitzers for the first time, as well as 40,000 artillery rounds, 200 M113 armoured personnel carriers, 11 Mi-17 helicopters and 100 armoured multi-purpose vehicles.

Biden to hold meeting of allies

US President Joe Biden will convene a meeting of allies on Tuesday to discuss the Ukraine conflict, the White House says.

The video call will also cover "efforts to hold Russia accountable," the White House says.

Putin honours Bucha-linked brigade

Russian President Vladimir Putin bestows an honorary title on a brigade accused by Ukraine of "war crimes" and mass killings in the town of Bucha.

A decree signed by Putin gives the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade the title of "Guards" for defending the "Motherland and state interests" and praises the "mass heroism and valour, tenacity and courage" of its members.

Tycoon seeks prisoner exchange

Russian state television broadcasts a video of two men it says are captured Britons, asking to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, a recently captured wealthy Ukrainian tycoon close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine's security services then put out a video of Medvedchuk asking to be exchanged for Ukrainian civilians and soldiers trapped in the strategic besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Civilian evacuations paused

Ukraine says it is halting civilian evacuations from the frontline towns and cities in the east of the country for a second day.

"In violation of international humanitarian law, the Russian occupiers have not stopped blocking and shelling humanitarian routes," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk posts on social media Monday.

Nearly 5 mn fled Ukraine: UN

More than 4.9 million Ukrainians have fled their country following the Russian invasion, says the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.

It says 4,934,415 Ukrainians have now left the country, up more than 65,000 on the previous day.

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