Pelosi leads delegation to Kyiv; heavy shelling continues in Ukraine’s east

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Heavy shelling continues in Donetsk, Ukraine says

A woman carries a bottle of water as emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russian forces are continuing their onslaught in eastern Ukraine, with 14 shelling attacks reported in the Donetsk region last night, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior Affairs.

“Last night, Russian troops shelled Donetsk region 14 times. The Russians killed civilians. There are also wounded, including children aged 5, 6, 7 and 14,” the ministry said in an update on Telegram.

“At least 24 civil facilities were destroyed: residential buildings, a kindergarten, a community center, and a factory.”

Ukraine said Russia used aircraft, multiple launch rocket systems, tanks and heavy artillery to fire at Mariupol, Lyman, Avdiivka, Dobropillya, Ocheretyn, Drobyshevo, Novosilka, Dibrovo, Pisky.

Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, has been a longtime focus for Russia and is home to a separatist “republic,” along with Luhansk. Both are in the Dombas region, a strategic target for Russia, with political, ideological and economic importance.

U.S. lawmakers visit Kyiv with the message: ‘America stands firmly with Ukraine’

A U.S. Congressional delegation visited Ukraine Sunday — the first to do so since Russia’s invasion of the country in February.

“Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unmistakable and resounding message to the entire world: America stands firmly with Ukraine,” the group said in a statement.

The lawmakers met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, who posted a visit of their meeting on Telegram.

“He conveyed the clear need for continued security, economic and humanitarian assistance from the United States to address the devastating human toll taken on the Ukrainian people by Putin’s diabolic invasion – and our delegation proudly delivered the message that additional American support is on the way, as we work to transform President Biden’s strong funding request into a legislative package,” the statement went on to say.

The delegation consisted of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jim McGovern, Chairman Gregory Meeks, Chairman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Bill Keating and Congressman Jason Crow. All members, bar Lee and Keating, entered Ukraine.

They are now in Poland and due to visit the country’s capital, Warsaw.

— Katrina Bishop

Russia wants to impose ‘strong political and economic influence’ over Kherson, UK says

A Ukrainian soldier stands outside a school hit by Russian rockets in a southern Ukraine village. The U.K. Ministry of Defence said Russia has been seeking to legitimise its control of Kherson since seizing it in March.

Bulent Kilic | Afp | Getty Images

Russia is introducing its currency into the Ukrainian city of Kherson from today, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.

In its latest intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry said Russia has been seeking to legitimize its control of the city since seizing it in March and is looking to exert “strong political and economic influence” in the area.

“Recent statements from this administration include declaring a return to Ukrainian control ‘impossible’ and announcing a four-month currency transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the Russian rouble. The Russian rouble is due to be used in Kherson from today,” the tweet said.

Kherson is a strategically important port city for Russia, just over 100 km from Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“Enduring control over Kherson and its transport links will increase Russia’s ability to sustain its advance to the north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control over Crimea,” the U.K. added.

Also on Sunday, Russia’s state-controlled media claimed that Ukraine “nationalists” had shelled the villages of Kiselevka and Shiroka Balka in the Kherson region. Those claims cannot be independently verified by NBC.

Separately, the Kyiv Independent reported this weekend that mobile and internet services had been shut down in the Kherson oblast (or administrative district).

Katrina Bishop

Nancy Pelosi visits Kyiv

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Ukraine’s capital.

Posting a Telegram video which shows the pair meeting and shaking hands, Zelenskyy described the United States as a “leader in strong support” for Ukraine.

“Meeting with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv. The United States is a leader in strong support of Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression. Thank you for helping to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state!” he wrote, according to an NBC translation.

— Katrina Bishop

‘Every Russian soldier can still save his own life’: Zelenskyy urges invading troops not to fight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy switched into Russian in his nightly video address to urge Russian soldiers not to fight in Ukraine, saying even their generals expected that thousands of them would die.

He said Russia has been recruiting new troops “with little motivation and little combat experience” for the units that were gutted during the early weeks of the war so these units can be thrown back into battle.

He said Russian commanders fully understand that thousands of them will die and thousands more will be wounded in the coming weeks.

“The Russian commanders are lying to their soldiers when they tell them they can expect to be held seriously responsible for refusing to fight and then also don’t tell them, for example, that the Russian army is preparing additional refrigerator trucks for storing the bodies. They don’t tell them about the new losses the generals expect,” Zelenskyy said late Saturday.

“Every Russian soldier can still save his own life. It’s better for you to survive in Russia than to perish on our land,” he said.

— Associated Press

Poland struggles to house 2.9 million refugees; Warsaw rental prices soar

A Ukrainian boy walks past temporary beds at a refugee center in Warsaw on April 19.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia attacked in late February, and the country that has taken in more than half of them is showing signs of strain.

NBC News reported over the weekend that Poland has given shelter to about 2.9 million Ukrainians, but the NATO country is running low on everything from classrooms to housing.

The population of Warsaw, Poland’s capital, has grown by 15 percent since the war started.

Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski visited the United States this week to ask for more help from the international community, NBC News said. He warned that Warsaw is unable to absorb another wave of refugees.

Thousands of Poles have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes, but many have already filled their spare rooms.

The number of Warsaw apartments available for rent has fallen, NBC News said, with rental prices rising more than 30 percent since the end of February.

Read the full NBC News report here.

— Ted Kemp

Sweden says Russian plane violated its airspace

Two Swedish Air Force jets fly over their home territory in 2021.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Sweden says a Russian military plane has violated Swedish airspace.

The incident happened late Friday in the Baltic Sea near the island of Bornholm.

In a statement Saturday, the Swedish Armed Forces said a Russian AN-30 propeller plane flew toward Swedish airspace and briefly entered it before leaving the area.

The Swedish Air Force scrambled fighter jets that photographed the Russian plane.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish public radio that the violation was “unacceptable” and “unprofessional.”

In a similar incident in early March four Russian warplanes violated Swedish airspace over the Baltic Sea.

Sweden and neighboring Finland are both considering NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has warned that such a move would have consequences, without giving specifics.

Associated Press

Ukraine says 20 civilians evacuated from besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 26, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

A Ukrainian commander said 20 civilians were evacuated Saturday from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to a video posted to Telegram and translated by NBC News.

Earlier in the day, Russian state media had reported that 25 civilians were evacuated from the plant. CNBC could not independently confirm either claim.

In recent weeks, Russian forces had all but surrounded the strategic coastal town of Mariupol making the steel facility the city’s last stronghold.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he personally requested that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov coordinate an evacuation for civilians trapped in the steel facility during in-person talks in Moscow last week. Following discussions in Moscow, Guterres traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

— Amanda Macias

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