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 Mariupol on the brink as surrender deadline passes

There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, which has been the scene of the war’s heaviest fighting.

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Russia offered to spare the lives of Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Mariupol if they laid down their arms Sunday as the weekslong resistance in the besieged port city appeared to finally be coming to an end.

The offer, made “out of purely humane principles,” gave Ukrainian forces still fighting in the city until 6 a.m. Moscow time (11 p.m. ET) to surrender, the Russian military said in a statement reported by the news agency Tass.

There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. If it falls, it would be the first major city to be taken by Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion.

There was also no immediate response from Kyiv.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Sunday that 18 people had been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in the past four days in the northeast Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
  • Zelenskyy also said there was a “humanitarian crisis” in the city and that his soldiers were “blocked and wounded.”
  • The Ukrainian president also said he had spoken to the IMF about ensuring Ukraine’s financial stability & preparations for post-war reconstruction.
  • Ukraine has completed a questionnaire that will form a starting point for the European Union to decide on membership, said Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.
  • A missile attack early Sunday damaged infrastructure in Brovary, near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Mayor Igor Sapozhko said in an online post.
  • The Russian military could begin moving some of its forces back into Ukraine as soon as this weekend or early in the week, two senior U.S. defense officials said.

Zelenskyy, IMF official discuss Ukraine's 'post-war reconstruction'


WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that he had spoken with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva about Ukraine’s financial stability and the country’s post-war reconstruction.

“Discussed with IMF Managing Director Georgieva the issue of ensuring Ukraine’s financial stability & preparations for post-war reconstruction. We have clear plans for now, as well as a vision of prospects. I’m sure cooperation between the IMF & Ukraine will continue to be fruitful,” he said in a tweet.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said earlier that he will attend the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington this week and will seek more financial assistance for Ukraine.

Ukraine reportedly completes E.U. membership questionnaire


Ukraine has completed a questionnaire that will form a starting point for the European Union to decide on membership, said Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen handed the questionnaire to Zelenskyy during her visit to Kyiv on April 8, pledging a speedier start to Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the E.U. following Russia’s invasion.

“Today, I can say that the document has been completed by the Ukrainian side,” Zhovkva told the Ukrainian public broadcaster Sunday evening.

The European Commission will need to issue a recommendation on Ukraine’s compliance with the necessary membership criteria, he added.

“We expect the recommendation ... to be positive, and then the ball will be on the side of the E.U. member states.”

Zhovkva added that Ukraine expects to attain the status of a candidate country for E.U. accession in June during a scheduled meeting of the European Council.

The European Council is to meet June 23-24, according to the schedule on its website.

“Next, we will need to start accession talks. And once we hold those talks, we can already talk about Ukraine’s full membership in the E.U.,” Zhovkva said

Shelling kills 18, injures scores in Kharkiv, Zelenskyy says


Eighteen people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in the past four days in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Sunday.

On Sunday, five people were killed and 20 injured when a missile and artillery fire hit the city center and the Saltivka suburb, regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said earlier.

Reuters could not independently verify the number of people killed.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that Russia’s shelling of Kharkiv has been constant.

“This is nothing but deliberate terror: mortars, artillery against ordinary residential quarters, against ordinary civilians,” he said.

Mariupol teeters as Ukrainians defy surrender-or-die demand

The Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — The shattered port city of Mariupol appeared on the brink of falling to Russia on Sunday in what would give Moscow its biggest victory of the war yet and free up troops to take part in a potentially climactic battle for control of Ukraine’s industrial east.

Russia estimated 2,500 Ukrainian fighters were holding out at a hulking steel plant in the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, much of which has been reduced to a smoking ruin during a merciless seven-week siege.

Moscow gave the city’s defenders a surrender-or-die ultimatum with a midday deadline, saying those who laid down their arms were “guaranteed to keep their lives.” But the fighters ignored it, just as they rejected previous ultimatums.

“We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal vowed on ABC’s “This Week.” He said Ukraine is prepared to end the war through diplomacy if possible, “but we do not have intention to surrender.”

Ukraine asks G-7 for $50 billion in financial support


Ukraine has asked members of the Group of Seven leading nations for $50 billion in financial support and is considering issuing zero percent coupon bonds to help it cover a war-linked budget deficit over the next six months, the president’s economic adviser, Oleh Ustenko, said Sunday.

Speaking on national television, Ustenko said the options were being actively discussed.

Pope Francis' Easter message raises concern of nuclear warfare

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — In an Easter Sunday message aimed at the world but heavily focused on Ukraine, Pope Francis raised two worries — the risk of nuclear warfare and the possibility that other armed conflicts around the world will go unnoticed.

In a speech from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope quoted a declaration in the 1950s in which scientists posed the question: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?”

The pope has repeatedly made pleas for a cease-fire and negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. In his Easter message, Francis lamented that “so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing.”

He expressed hope that the war in Europe will “also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow” in situations “that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget.” Among the places he cited were Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. He singled out Yemen, which is suffering from a conflict “forgotten by all, with continuous victims.”

Ukrainian foreign minister says takeover of Mariupol could end talks

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s foreign minister described the situation in Mariupol as dire and heartbreaking Sunday and said Russia’s continued attacks could be a “red line” that ends all efforts to reach peace through negotiations.

Dmytro Kuleba said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the remaining Ukrainian military personnel and civilians in the port city are basically encircled by Russian forces.

He said the Ukrainians “continue their struggle” but that the city effectively doesn’t exist anymore because of massive destruction.

Kuleba said Ukraine has been keeping up “expert level” talks with Russia in recent weeks in hope of reaching a political solution for peace. But citing the significance of Mariupol, he echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in saying the elimination of Ukrainian forces there could be a “red line” that stops peace efforts.

Biden alludes to Ukraine in Easter message

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said he’s praying on Easter for those living in the “dark shadow” of war, persecution and poverty.

Biden said in an Easter message Sunday that he is also praying for peace, freedom, basic dignity and respect for all of God’s children.

People attend a Palm Sunday church service on April 17, 2022, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
People at a Palm Sunday church service in Kharkiv, Ukraine.Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Biden didn’t say which war he had in mind. He has been deeply involved in trying to force an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said he is grateful that the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed many people around the world to celebrate by attending religious services and in-person family gatherings. He also acknowledged that the holiest day on the Christian calendar “falls on heavy hearts for those who have lost loved ones and those among us living in the dark shadow of war, persecution and poverty.”

Zelenskyy says Biden should visit Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated a request for President Joe Biden to visit his war-ravaged country, but White House officials have said such a trip is highly unlikely to occur in the near future.

“I think he will,” Zelenskyy said on CNN's "State of the Union." “It’s his decision, of course, about the safety situation. It depends. But I think he’s the leader of the United States, and he should come here to see.”

Zelenskyy invited Biden to visit in a phone call in February, citing the strong signal of solidarity his presence would send.

White House officials have consistently downplayed the idea.

“We did talk about it,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week at the Economic Club of Washington. The “president would love the opportunity to go into Ukraine, but it was not under any serious planning.”

While Russia withdrew troops from positions around Kyiv in recent days, it appears to be on the brink of taking Mariupol, a key strategic stronghold on the Black Sea, as President Vladimir Putin refocuses on conquering eastern and southern regions closer to his border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference along with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia and Latvia, following their talks in Kyiv, on April 13, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a news conference Wednesday with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia after their talks in Kyiv.Sergei Supinsky / AFP - Getty Images

Ukraine prime minister says besieged Mariupol will fight to the end

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s prime minister said Sunday the besieged city of Mariupol hasn’t yet fallen to Russia and that the Ukrainian forces there will fight “to the end.”

In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal appealed for help for the approximately 100,000 Ukrainians who remain trapped in the eastern city without food, water, heat and electricity.

He said some regions of Mariupol remain under Ukrainian control and that Russia doesn’t have full dominance over the city.

Mariupol appeared on the brink of falling to Russian forces Sunday after seven weeks under siege. The Russian military gave a deadline for surrender to a few thousand Ukrainian fighters who were the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, but the Ukrainians didn’t submit.

Shmyhal said Ukrainian forces are still fighting, including in the Donbas region, and that “we do not have intention to surrender.”

Shmyhal said Ukraine is prepared to end the war through diplomacy, if possible. He said surrender isn’t an option, adding that “we will not leave our country, our families, our lands, so we will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war.”

At least two killed by Russian shelling in Zolote, regional governor says

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

At least two people were killed and four others were wounded by Russian shelling on the eastern Ukrainian town of Zolote, the governor of Luhansk said Sunday.

“There is nothing nearby except residential buildings,” Gov. Serhiy Haidai said in a statement posted to his Telegram channel and translated by NBC News. “The Russians purposefully hit the population.”

He added that two floors were destroyed in one of the high-rise buildings."

NBC News could not verify his claim. Russia has repeatedly denied that it is targeting civilians.

New E.U. sanctions on Russia to target Sberbank, European Commission head says


The European Union’s coming sanctions on Russia will target banks, in particular Sberbank, as well as oil, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told a German newspaper.

Bild am Sonntag asked her to name the key points of a planned sixth round of sanctions in an interview published Sunday.

“We are looking further at the banking sector, especially Sberbank, which accounts for 37 percent of the Russian banking sector. And, of course, there are energy issues,” she said.

The E.U. has so far spared Russia’s largest bank from previous sanctions rounds because it, along with Gazprombank, is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas, which E.U. countries have been buying despite the conflict in Ukraine.

She also said the E.U. was working on “clever mechanisms” so oil could be included in the next sanctions.

“The top priority is to shrink Putin’s revenues,” she said.

E.U. commits a further $52 million to help Ukraine

The European Union is allocating a further €50 million ($52 million) to support humanitarian projects in Ukraine and Moldova, it said in a statement Sunday.

The money will go toward emergency medical services, providing access to safe drinking water and hygiene, and support against gender-based violence, the E.U. said.

“With millions of people on the move or trapped in active war zones, the needs in Ukraine are already massive,” said Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner for crisis management. “Now, we need to be prepared for a further increase in Russia’s ruthless attacks on Ukraine, notably in the east.

He added that the funding would “help people in hard-to-reach areas who are cut off from access to healthcare, water and electricity, and those, who have been forced to flee and leave everything behind.”

Image: BESTPIX - Kharkiv Braces For New Russian Offensive In Eastern Ukraine
Members of the Ukrainian military walk in the debris of ashopping center and surrounding buildings in Kharkiv that were hit by a Russian missile strike on Saturday. Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Ukraine asks G7 for $50 billion to cover budget deficit


Ukraine has asked G7 nations for $50 billion in financial support and is also considering issuing 0 percent coupon bonds to help it cover a war-linked budget deficit over the next six months, the president’s economic adviser Oleh Ustenko said on Sunday.

Speaking on national television, Ustenko said these options were being actively discussed.

Anguish, fury and grief: One woman recounts rape by Russian soldier


Molly Hunter

Mariia Ulianovska

Lawahez Jabari

Molly Hunter, Mariia Ulianovska and Lawahez Jabari

BUCHA, Ukraine — The Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office says numerous women have accused occupying Russian soldiers of rape. This is one of their stories.

Olena told NBC News about her experience first being injured by shrapnel and later getting kidnapped by Russia soldiers who assaulted her.

“I didn’t even try screaming, because there was no one around,” Olena said, shaking her head. “I thought whatever happens, happens.” 

Read the full story here.

Missile attack damages infrastructure in Brovary, near Kyiv, mayor says


A missile attack in early hours of Sunday damaged infrastructure in the city of Brovary, near Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, Igor Sapozhko, mayor of Brovary said in an online post.

There were no details on the extent of the destruction and potential casualties.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the reports.

Full Austrian Chancellor: Putin ‘believes he is winning the war’ in Ukraine

Four high-rise buildings shelled in Severodonetsk

Artem Grudinin

Four high-rise buildings were shelled overnight in the city of Severodonetsk, according to the region’s governor.

In addition to the four buildings shelled, one house was destroyed in Novodruzhesk, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, said Sunday.

Information about possible victims was not immediately available.

The latest attack in Severodonetsk comes after two senior U.S. defense officials said Russia could soon begin the next phase of its military campaign.

In recent days, missile strikes and shelling — some of which have reportedly been deadly — have hit regions including Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv in the east, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava and Kirovohrad in the central Ukraine and Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south.

Attacks continue in Ukraine’s east where renewed Russian offensive expected, U.K. says

NBC News

Russian forces are continuing to redeploy combat and support equipment from Belarus toward Ukraine’s east, where a renewed offensive is expected, the U.K.’s defense ministry said.

Early Sunday, Russian forces shelled four high-rise buildings in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to regional leadership, one of several attacks in the region in recent days.

Despite a shift in operational focus to the east, Russia’s ultimate objective has remained unchanged, the ministry said in its daily update.

“It is committed to compelling Ukraine to abandon its Euro-Atlantic orientation and asserting its own regional dominance,” the ministry said.

Four staffers at Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen injured in attack

Four staffers at a World Central Kitchen operation in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv were injured in a Russian attack on a partner restaurant, the not-for-profit organization’s CEO said Saturday.

In a video posted to social media sites, WCK chief Nate Mook said the four were expected to be “OK,” and that he was going to visit them at a hospital later in the day. At least one person unaffiliated with the kitchen was killed in the strike, he said.

Speaking with mangled structures in the background, Mook said a Russian missile struck the kitchen area of a local restaurant WCK was using as part of a partnership.

The organization has been preparing an estimated 250,000 meals a day for Ukrainians in liberated areas and at border crossings. The effort is part of celebrity chef and WCK founder José Andrés’ ongoing mission to bring food to areas of the world struck by tragedy, disaster and war.

According to The Associated Press, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said three people were killed and 34 wounded by missile strikes in his city Saturday. NBC News has not independently confirmed the WCK missile strike.

Mook described the injured workers in heroic terms, saying, “Coming to work, cooking, for people that are hungry, is an immense act of bravery.”