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Up to 9,000 bodies feared to be in mass grave near Mariupol, Ukrainian official says

Kyiv has been desperately seeking ways to evacuate the soldiers and thousands of civilians still trapped in the strategically vital city without much food or aid.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed “success” in Mariupol but ordered his forces not to storm the site where the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the besieged port city is holding out.

Ukrainian officials said Thursday that an apparent mass grave in a village outside the devastated city may contain as many as 9,000 bodies.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko compared the site to the Kyiv ravine where Nazi forces killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

“The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol,” he said. “This is the new Babi Yar. Hitler then killed Jews, Roma and Slavs. And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians.”

Ukrainian forces have held out under weeks of heavy bombardment that has devastated much of Mariupol and prompted international condemnation of Moscow's tactics. Kyiv has been desperately seeking ways to evacuate the soldiers and thousands of civilians still trapped in the city without much food or aid.

The fate of Mariupol and the broader Russian offensive in the east have prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to call again on his country’s allies for urgent supplies of weapons — an appeal the United States looks set to meet, with President Joe Biden announcing a new $800 million military aid package in remarks Thursday morning.

Zelenskyy: Nations need to prepare for ‘complete severance of any relations with Russia’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he told the World Bank that his country needs support and called for further isolation of Russia.

“Every country in the world needs to prepare now for the possible complete severance of any relations with Russia,” he said.

Zelenskyy said he told the World Bank, an international organization that mainly lends money to developing countries, that Ukraine needs five things.

Among them were support, as well as the exclusion of Russia from international financial institutions, a tax targeting Russia and transactions to help pay to rebuild Ukraine after the war.  Zelenskyy said Russia is the aggressor and should pay for violating global stability.

World Bank President David Malpass said the physical damage to Ukraine's buildings and infrastructure from Russia's invasion is estimated at $60 billion and will increase as the war continues, Reuters reported.

Vice President Harris: Invasion of Ukraine will be ‘strategic failure for Russia’

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that Russia’s attack on its neighbor Ukraine will prove to be a failure for Moscow.

The United States, the European Union and other countries have imposed tough sanctions on Russia in response to the Feb. 24 invasion, which many countries have condemned as unprovoked and unjustifiable. Russia has also been accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

“Let’s be very clear about where we stand in terms of Russia: As far as I’m concerned — and I think, objectively, many people will agree — that their invasion of Ukraine has not only been steeped in atrocities, but will prove to be a strategic failure for Russia,” Harris said in San Francisco.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced $800 million in new military assistance for Ukraine, including 72 more howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds.

Russia has suffered setbacks in its attack, and it announced an offensive focused on Ukraine’s east this month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared victory in the besieged and devastated city of Mariupol. Some Ukrainian soldiers — and civilians — are holed up in a steel plant there.

Harris made the comments the same day Russia's foreign ministry announced measures to ban her and some other U.S. officials from traveling to Russia. Biden was prohibited from entering Russia in March.

Russia, Ukraine argue at U.N. over blame for rising food prices

The Associated Press

Russia and Ukraine squared off at the United Nations on Thursday over whether Russia’s war is to blame for rising food prices and hunger around the world.

Between them, the two countries account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley exports, and millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia depend on them for affordable bread and noodles. Ukraine also is a major corn supplier and the biggest exporter of sunflower oil.

“As long as Russia persists in its efforts to invade Ukraine, the threat of hunger will be looming over many countries throughout the globe,” Ukrainian counselor Natalia Mudrenko said Thursday at an informal U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss conflict and hunger.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov argued that sanctions, trade wars, the coronavirus pandemic and Western economic policies were shaking up the global food, energy and financial markets.

Chumakov said Russia’s critics were trying to deflect focus from sanctions and the “economic egoism of the developed countries during the pandemic.”

Ukraine’s top prosecutor accuses Russia of paying Ukrainian children for military information

Ukraine’s top prosecutor accused Russian forces Thursday of paying teenagers and children for information about the Ukrainian military. 

In a statement, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said authorities had identified eight children who participated in the apparent scheme.

In Kharkiv, the prosecutor said, a 12-year-old provided details about the location of military equipment, checkpoints and personnel through Telegram and over the internet. Venediktova didn't say how much the child was paid.

Venediktova said a similar effort was documented in Luhansk.

Venediktova didn't provide other details about the alleged effort. She said it appeared to violate the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Russia rejects Easter truce, Zelenskyy says

Russia rejected a proposal for a truce during Orthodox Christian Easter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday.

“This shows very well how the leaders of this state actually treat the Christian faith, one of the most joyful and important holidays,” he said in a video address.

“But we remain hopeful,” he said. “Hope for peace. Hope that life will overcome death.” 

Russian officials did not immediately comment on the proposal.

In the address, Zelenskyy also thanked the U.S. after President Joe Biden pledged $800 million in heavy artillery weapons, ammunition, dozens of howitzers and 121 “ghost” drones.

 The military aid is “all that we expected,” he said.

Officials warn of mass grave near Mariupol with as many as 9,000 bodies, calling it the 'new Babi Yar'

An apparent mass grave in a village outside the devastated city of Mariupol may contain as many as 9,000 bodies, Ukrainian officials said Thursday.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Mariupol City Council said satellite images captured by the U.S. defense contractor Maxar showed mass graves that were 20 times larger than a burial site discovered this month in the city of Bucha, outside Kyiv, according to an NBC News translation.

Seventy bodies were found in that grave, the council said. The officials said the site in the village of Mangush could hold 3,000 to 9,000.

An overview of the cemetery and the expansion of new graves on April 3.
An overview of the cemetery and the expansion of new graves on April 3.Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

In a statement, Maxar said the graves began to appear toward the end of March and continued to expand in April. The company said the apparent graves were dug in four rows, each about 280 feet long.

The City Council said the bodies may have been buried in layers. 

NBC News could not immediately confirm the report, nor could it confirm local media reports cited by Maxar describing Russian soldiers taking bodies of people killed in Mariupol to the site.

In a Telegram post, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko compared the site to the Kyiv ravine where Nazi forces killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

“The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol,” he said. “This is the new Babi Yar. Hitler then killed Jews, Roma and Slavs. And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians.”

Zelenskyy gets John F. Kennedy award for defending democracy

The Associated Press

BOSTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is among five people named Thursday as recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for acting to protect democracy.

Zelenskyy was chosen because of the way he has “marshaled the spirit, patriotism and untiring sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in a life-or-death fight for their country” as Russia pours in troops and assaults cities and towns, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said.

The foundation said four U.S. officials were chosen for standing up for free and fair elections as the system is challenged in ways it has never been before.

They are: Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Fulton County, Georgia, elections worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

Holocaust survivor dies in Mariupol basement during Russian attack

Eight decades ago, she survived the German invasion of Ukraine by hiding in a basement. And when the Russians invaded in March, she went underground again to escape the terror.

But this time, 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova did not emerge alive from her hiding place in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

“Why is this happening?” Obiedkova reportedly asked as Russian artillery pounded her city and the outgunned Ukrainians fought pitched battles in the streets with Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Not long after that, Obiedkova died on April 4, her rabbi said.

Read the full story here.

Refugee advocates concerned about Ukrainian humanitarian parole program

Abigail Williams

Julia Ainsley and Abigail Williams

The Biden administration’s plan to offer humanitarian parole to Ukrainians raises urgent questions, refugee advocates and resettlement agencies warned Thursday, even while welcoming the creation of a temporary safe haven to those fleeing the war.

"As with the parole of Afghans into the United States last fall, access to basic services for Ukrainians paroled here will require an act of Congress,” Refugee Council USA said in a news release after the new program was announced.

“And like Afghans paroled into the country, Ukrainians will not have a pathway to permanent status absent swift Congressional leadership," it said.

Refugee Council USA is an umbrella association of the nine national resettlement agencies in the U.S. and 20 other nonprofits that advocate for refugees asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced populations.

Advocates also expressed concern about the impact this will have on U.S. support for other populations in need of resettlement.

“The world has focused on Ukraine. Well, let’s remember that there are other nations as well especially in Africa, especially black migrants that are experiencing the same traumatic situations,” Refugees Congress’s Dauda Sesay said in a briefing with reporters.

UNICEF launches campaign to help children without parental care

NBC News

LVIV, Ukraine — The United Nation Children's Fund in Ukraine launched a campaign Thursday to provide advice and guidance to child protection authorities and caregivers on how to support children without parental care.

The ultimate aim of "Leave no Child Alone" is to prevent child rights violations, the humanitarian organization said in a news release.

The campaign provides information and legal advice on how to support children without parental care, as well as guidance on temporary home and care options will bolster the protection of these extremely vulnerable children.

The campaign will scale up access to a chatbot tool on Telegram where people can volunteer to provide temporary shelter in their family to a child who got lost or lost their family, said Maryna Lazebna, minister of social policy in Ukraine.

Over 15,000 Ukrainian families and more than 500 organizations from abroad have already submitted their applications for screening and review through the chatbot, Lazebna said.

Zelenskyy calls on Portugal to support ban on Russian gas

The Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Portugal to support a European ban on Russian gas and oil to help his country’s war effort.

Speaking via video conference to the Portuguese parliament on Thursday, Zelenskyy asked the European Union member to help “speed up” sanctions and the delivery of more military aid.

“I hope that you will also advocate a boycott of Russian oil and gas on the EU level,” he said. “The Russian occupiers killed people purely for entertainment, killed them inside their homes and in vehicles in which children were traveling.”

The Ukrainian leader drew a parallel between his country’s fight against Russian aggression and Portugal’s 1974 Carnation Revolution, the military coup by left-leaning officers that overthrew an authoritarian regime and ushered in democracy.

“The Portuguese know how to rid themselves of a dictatorship. … I know that our nations understand each other,” he said during his speech that earned him a standing ovation by lawmakers.

Pentagon says Ukraine receiving unmanned aerial vehicles developed specifically for war against Russia

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby provided more details Thursday on the new military aid package being provided to Ukraine. The "Phoenix Ghost" is a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle that was developed specifically for the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. Air Force and AEVEX Aerospace developed it in a matter of months to respond to specific requirements from Ukraine. The UAV is similar to the one-way drone like the Switchblade, but Kirby declined to give too many specifics about its capabilities.

The Phoenix Ghost will require some minimal training for Ukrainian service members already trained on drones, Kirby said. A senior defense official said the first flights with the equipment announced in Thursday’s package will leave the United States in the next 24-48 hours and the first rounds will be in Ukrainian military hands by the end of the weekend.

19 Ukrainians released from Russian captivity in second prisoner swap this week

The Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine -- 19 Ukrainians were released from Russian captivity Thursday in a second prisoner swap to take place this week, Ukraine’s deputy PM Iryna Vereschuk said in a Facebook post that same day.

“Another prisoner exchange has taken place. This time, there are wounded people among those released, which is very important. Now they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo a course of rehabilitation,” Vereshchuk wrote.

Later on Thursday, Ukrainian media reported that the former captives include nine civilians and ten military personnel, two of whom are officers.

Their release comes on the heels of a prisoner swap Tuesday, which saw 76 Ukrainians, including 60 soldiers, return to their families.

Russia sanctions 29 Americans, including Mark Zuckerberg

Russia has sanctioned Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, part of a response to the U.S. sanctioning multiple Russian companies and citizens with ties to the Kremlin.

Zuckerberg is one of 29 Americans who can no longer enter the country, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday. Others include White House officials like Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, journalists who have reported on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and business leaders like Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic. Facebook didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

In March, Russia announced it would ban its citizens from accessing Facebook after the company blocked Russian state news channels like RT and Sputnik.

South African president talks to Zelenskyy

The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has held a 20-minute phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ramaphosa, who has avoided criticizing Russia for any aggression, on Thursday confirmed the call, which took place on Wednesday evening, in a tweet in which he said he urged negotiations to resolve the war.

“I had a telephone conversation with President @ZelenskyyUA of Ukraine to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and its tragic human cost, as well as its global ramifications,” Ramaphosa said on Twitter. He said the two leaders agreed “on the need for a negotiated end” to the conflict.

The Ukrainian president also described the call in a tweet: “Had a phone conversation with @CyrilRamaphosa. Told about our resistance to Russian aggression. Discussed the threat of a global food crisis, deepening relations with the Republic of South Africa and cooperation within international organizations.”

The call comes seven weeks after Ramaphosa spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the war. The South African leader has also spoken to President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the war in Ukraine.

'No evidence yet' that Mariupol has fallen to Russia, Biden says

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

President Biden said Thursday that there is no evidence that Russia has taken control of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. 

Biden made the comments at the White House when he announced a new aid package to Ukraine. 

Asked about Putin claiming control over Mariupol and its significance, Biden said, “Well, first of all, it’s questionable whether he does control Mariupol.”

Biden said Putin “should allow humanitarian corridors” to form to allow people in a steel plant and buried under rubble to get out of the city. 

“That’s what any, any head of state would do in such a circumstance,” Biden said. “And so there is no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.” 

Biden admin to announce plan to begin bringing Ukrainian refugees to the U.S.

Alexandra Bacallao

Julia Ainsley and Alexandra Bacallao

The Biden administration on Thursday will announce a plan to begin bringing Ukrainians fleeing war to the U.S., addressing a promise the president made nearly a month ago to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

The new plan will require Ukrainians to have a sponsor in the U.S. who can “attest to their ability to support them,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters.

An online portal will open on April 25 to allow sponsors to upload documents as part of a process to ensure Ukrainians can be sponsored but that sponsors are not seeking to exploit the Ukrainians they take in.

Read the full story here.

Cut off in Mykolaiv

Max Butterworth

Mykolaiv, Port City Near Black Sea, Faces Continued Shelling
Residents collect water in Mykolaiv's city center after access to running water was cut off on April 12 because of heavy shelling. Anastasia Vlasova / Getty Images

Mariupol under ‘complete’ Russian control, says Kremlin spokesman

NBC News

The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol “has been liberated” and is “under complete control” of the Russian military, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a briefing Thursday. 

Asked by a reporter if the Russians would consider allowing Ukrainian civilians and troops safe passage out via humanitarian corridors now that the city was “under the influence of the Russian military,” Peskov corrected the reporter. 

“Not under the influence, but under complete control,” he said. 

Some Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are still holding out in the Azovstal steel plant. Putin has ordered Russian forces not to storm the plant.

Peskov added that there was still a chance for trapped Ukrainians to flee the city.

“There was, and still, is an opportunity for Ukrainian servicemen to lay down their weapons and walk out through the corridors.”

Human Rights Watch finds ‘litany of apparent war crimes’ in Bucha

Human Rights Watch has documented “a litany of apparent war crimes” by Russian forces in Bucha, a town northwest of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

“Nearly every corner in Bucha is now a crime scene, and it felt like death was everywhere,” Richard Weir, crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the detailed report released Thursday. “The evidence indicates that Russian forces occupying Bucha showed contempt and disregard for civilian life and the most fundamental principles of the laws of war.” 

Researchers were in Bucha, the site of some of the most horrific violence uncovered so far in the war, from April 4 to 10 — just days after the Russians withdrew. They found evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture, “all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity,” according to the report.

Estonia and Latvia declare Russian actions in Ukraine as war crimes

Estonia and Latvia have recognized Russia’s actions in Ukraine as war crimes, their parliaments said Thursday.

“Parliament of Latvia has officially declared atrocities committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine as genocide,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said on Twitter.

Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, cries while holding the coffin of her son Vadym, 48, who was killed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, during his funeral in the cemetery of Mykulychi, on the outskirts of Kyiv on April 16, 2022.
Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, cries while holding the coffin of her son Vadym, 48, who was killed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, during his funeral in the cemetery of Mykulychi, on the outskirts of Kyiv on April 16, 2022.Rodrigo Abd / AP

“These have consisted of murders, enforced disappearances, deportations, imprisonment, torture, rape, and desecration of corpses,” the Estonian parliament said in a statement, calling other countries to do the same.

“These crimes are ideologically incited by the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation and its national propaganda authorities,” it said. 

‘The Russians physically can’t take Azovstal,' says Ukraine presidential adviser

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said Thursday that the Russians know they will not succeed in their efforts to capture the Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout for Ukrainians in the strategic city of Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly told his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu not to storm the site. 

“They can’t physically take Azovstal, they understand that,” Ukraine presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said Thursday in response to Putin’s comments about the site, according to the verified Telegram channel of the Office of the Ukrainian President. “They have suffered huge losses there. Our defenders continue to hold it.”

“This preliminary proclamation of victories, without waiting for either Easter or May 9, shows that the Russians have realized the futility of their last active operation at this stage of the war,” he added, referring to the Easter celebration for members of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine this Sunday and Russia’s annual Victory Day, celebrated on May 9, which commemorates Russia’s World War II triumph.

War in Ukraine makes fossil fuel transition a national security issue

The world’s transition away from fossil energy has become a matter of national and global security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to energy industry experts.

But that transition is still a decadeslong project. In the near-term, a quick shift away from Russian energy will mean a need to embrace some dirtier options and a re-evaluation of more contentious alternatives, including nuclear power.

The situation highlights some of the bigger challenges around the world’s shift to green energy, which is not without its own geopolitical wrinkles. Some worry the race to electrify could intensify U.S. and European reliance on China. 

Read the full story here.

U.K. sanctions key Russian army generals

The U.K. government unveiled new sanctions on Thursday targeting top Russian army leaders and Russian corporate leaders.

“Today’s new wave of sanctions hits the generals and defence companies that have blood on their hands,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Amongst those sanctioned are Lt. Col. Azatbek Omurbekov, a commanding officer accused of involvement in the atrocities in Bucha, Col. Gen. Andrey Serdyukov, commander of Airborne Forces, and Oleg Belozyorov, CEO and Chairman of Russian Railways. Ilya Kiva, the expelled Ukrainian parliamentary member who publicly supported Russia’s actions, was also sanctioned, the foreign office said in a statement.

The U.K. government has so far sanctioned $1 trillion worth of global assets from Russia banks and oligarchs and their families, which have a net worth of $250 billion.

Kharkiv mayor says city under intense bombardment


Anastasiia Parafeniuk


Mithil Aggarwal, Anastasiia Parafeniuk and Reuters

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, is under intense bombardment by Russian forces, Mayor Ihor Terekhov has said.

A residential building suffered a direct hit and two markets were destroyed overnight from shelling, he said on Thursday in a televised address., with rescuers currently extinguishing fires. He added that while 30 percent of the northeastern city's population has evacuated, around 1 million people remain.

“The Russian aggressor is bombing the city of Kharkov with fury and bitterness today,” he said.

Danish premier pledges more weapons as she and Spanish PM visit Kyiv


Denmark’s prime minister on Thursday pledged to send more weapons to Ukraine during a trip to Kyiv, where she and her Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez were meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a gesture of support.

Mette Frederiksen also visited the badly damaged town of Borodyanka, which has been retaken after Russian troops pulled back from the region around Kyiv. 

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, at left, and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, right, pose for pictures with Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna in Kyiv on Thursday. Borja Puid De La Bellacasa / AFP - Getty Images

“We intend to deliver more weapons to Ukraine because that is what is most needed,” Frederiksen told the Danish channel TV2 as she walked around the town surrounded by armed soldiers.

Many Americans say Biden not tough enough on Russia

The Associated Press

Many Americans still question whether President Joe Biden is showing enough strength in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, even as most approve of steps the U.S. is already taking and few want U.S. troops to get involved in the conflict.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 54 percent of Americans think Biden has been “not tough enough” in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Thirty-six percent think his approach has been about right, while 8 percent say he’s been too tough.

But as the war has dragged on, Americans’ desire to get involved has waned somewhat. Thirty-two percent of Americans say the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict. That’s ticked back down from 40 percent last month, though that remains slightly higher than the 26 percent who said so in February. An additional 49 percent say the U.S. should have a minor role.

Putin meets defense minister in Moscow

Max Butterworth

Russian President Vladimir Putin sat across from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a rare public appearance about the war since the invasion began. AP

Russia shutters consulates of Baltic states, declares staff 'persona non grata'

Russia's foreign ministry has announced it is shuttering the consulates of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In a statement, it said that the consulates of the three Baltic states in St. Petersburg, as well as the Latvian and Estonian offices in Pskov, will be closed.

The ministry said it summoned the countries' ambassadors to notify them of the decision and to protest their military assistance to Kyiv. All non-Russian personnel of the consulates have been declared “persona non grata,” and asked to leave the country, it said.

'We are doing everything we can' for Mariupol, Zelenskyy says

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Mithil Aggarwal and Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Thousands of civilians and military personnel remain trapped in Mariupol as Russia continued to block evacuation efforts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

"We are doing everything we can," he told Ukrainian media. “It is more like a terrorist operation by the Russian Federation against Mariupol and the inhabitants of this city, than a war,” he added.

Ukraine's president added that about a thousand civilians were sheltering in the Azovstal steel plant with the port city's last military defenders, but that despite efforts to create humanitarian corridors they could not get out due to the threat of Russian shelling. 

Putin claims Mariupol 'success,' orders forces not to storm Ukrainian stronghold

Max Burman

Associated Press

Max Burman and Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed "success" in the strategically vital Mariupol but ordered his forces not to storm the site where the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance is holding out.

In a move that would seemingly deprive the Kremlin of the ability to declare it had fully captured the key port city, Putin told his defense minister that to spare Russian lives they should ensure that "not even a fly" can get in or out of the Azovstal steel plant.

Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister, told Putin that the stronghold was "fully blocked" while the rest of the city had been "liberated."

Return of 'deported' civilians from Russia will be another 'war' for Ukraine, presidential adviser says

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Mithil Aggarwal and Anastasiia Parafeniuk

The return of people who were “forcibly deported” to Russia will be another “war” for Ukrainians, presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak has said.

“After the war, there will be a war to take our people back,” he said in a statement Thursday. Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly deporting large numbers of civilians amid the fighting; NBC News has not verified the claims.

To facilitate their return, Podolyak said, it is first necessary to research who was deported by force and under what conditions. Mediators or representatives of the international community must visit these people, he said.

Ukraine’s tiny neighbor worries it could be next on Putin’s list

Ayman Oghanna

Despite a solid economic performance over the past two decades, Moldova still remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, according to the World Bank.
Despite a solid economic performance over the past two decades, Moldova still remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, according to the World Bank.Ayman Oghanna for NBC News

BENDER, Moldova — On the Dniester River's journey to the Black Sea from its source in Ukraine close to the Polish border, it runs through the tiny country of Moldova. Its banks are home to boar, pheasant and Russian soldiers, who nominally protect a breakaway slice of the country.

Passing through a checkpoint manned by the Operational Group of Russian Forces on the way to Transnistria in early April, one soldier threw himself back in a chair, the flag of the Russian Federation on the shoulder of his camouflage uniform. Another stood, black shoelaces loosely tied, with a rifle slung over his arm. Dug in beside them was an armored personnel carrier. A third uniformed man watched from the shade. 

The river separates not only the Russian-speaking area from the republic of Moldova, but also two competing ideological visions for the region’s future: a Russian-backed enclave under Moscow’s control and the other in the European camp of Western democracies. Following Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the specter of armed conflict looms ever larger over Moldova.

Read the full story here.

Biden set to discuss Russia, Ukraine from White House on Thursday morning

President Joe Biden will "provide an update on Russia and Ukraine" on Thursday, the White House has said.

The president will deliver the remarks from the Roosevelt Room at 9:45 a.m. ET.

U.S. officials have said the Biden administration is preparing another military aid package for Ukraine. Biden on Wednesday called the attack and invasion of Ukraine “Putin’s brutal and unjustified war,” referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine says evacuation urgently needed at Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Mithil Aggarwal and Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Ukrainian officials have demanded an urgent humanitarian corridor from the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold in Mariupol for Ukrainian fighters.

“There are now about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers. They all need to be pulled out of Azovsteel today!” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post Thursday.

She called on the international community to focus its efforts on the plant, calling it a “key moment” for humanitarian efforts. Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his defense minister that Russian forces should not storm the plant but blockade it instead.

Djokovic slams Wimbledon ban on Russian, Belarusian tennis players as ‘crazy’


World tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic said Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is “crazy.”

“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters at the Serbia Open, an ATP 250 event in Belgrade.

“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy,” he said. “When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”

Resistance in Mariupol

Max Butterworth

Image: Russian War On Ukraine: Destruction In Mariupol
A Russian-backed separatist tank in a burning Mariupol neighborhood drives toward the Azovstal plant, one of the final pockets of Ukrainian resistance, on April 16.Maximilian Clarke / Zuma Press

4 evacuation buses left Mariupol on Wednesday

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Mithil Aggarwal and Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Four buses carrying residents of Mariupol left the besieged city through a humanitarian corridor Wednesday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“They spent the night in Berdyansk and are now heading to Vasylivka. We are waiting for them in Zaporizhia soon,” she said in a Telegram post early Thursday. The number of people able to make it out fell far short of the 6,000 Kyiv was hoping for, with fighting continuing around the besieged city.

Ukraine will attempt to evacuate more women, children and the elderly Thursday via buses, Vereschuk said. Authorities will also try arranging evacuation routes from Kherson, she added.

Russian forces advancing toward Kramatorsk as eastern offensive continues, U.K. says

NBC News

Russian forces are advancing toward the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, which has been under heavy rocket attacks, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry has said.

The forces have been moving from staging areas in the Donbas, and the move has been coupled with high levels of Russian air activity aimed at providing support to Moscow’s new eastern offensive, the ministry said in an intelligence update early Thursday.

“Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations,” the ministry said. “This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date.”

China’s Xi reiterates opposition to use of economic sanctions


Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated his country’s opposition to unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction,” without directly mentioning the West’s punitive actions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Delivering a video speech to the annual Boao Forum for Asia gathering on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, Xi warned Thursday that economic “decoupling” and pressure tactics such as severing supply chains would not work.

“China would like to put forward a global security initiative” that upholds “the principle of indivisibility of security,” Xi said. “We should uphold the principle of indivisibility of security, build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the building of national security on the basis of insecurity in other countries.”