Russian strikes hit Kyiv amid UN chief’s visit; Ukraine plans evacuation of civilians from last Mariupol holdout

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Russian strikes in Kyiv injure 10 people amid UN leader’s visit

Russian strikes in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Thursday hit residential buildings and wounded 10 people, Ukrainian emergency services said.

Witness reported large explosions in Kyiv’s northwestern Shevchenkivsky district that left windows blown out and parts of buildings blackened. It came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited the city, and as Ukrainian residents begin to return.

“Shocked and appalled about the Russian missile strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Russia demonstrates again its blatant disregard for intl law by bombarding a city while @UN Secretary General @antonioguterres is present, alongside Bulgarian PM @KirilPetkov,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet.

— Natasha Turak

Russia may be preparing to hold ‘sham referenda’ in Ukraine, U.S. ambassador says

Russia may be preparing to stage “sham referenda” in Ukraine’s south and east — in areas it has illegally seized since Feb. 24 — to legitimize its illegal invasion and assert control there, said the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Russia is planning to force Ukraine’s government to surrender, including dissolving all local municipal governments, while setting up new government structures in “liberated” territories under Russian control, ambassador Michael Carpenter said in a speech to OSCE.

He added that Russian officials and so-called separatists are developing plans for a new government and constitution.

“This planning includes a moratorium disallowing legitimate Ukrainian leaders and those supporting Ukraine’s legitimate government from any leadership positions,” Carpenter said.

A Ukrainian soldier in front of a residential building destroyed by a Russian artillery strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Russia is likely to intensify ongoing deportations of Ukrainians, said the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

He added that the plans are “straight out of Russia’s playbook” of orchestrating “so-called referenda in the Ukrainian regions of Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk — each time with faked high percentages of public support” and installing puppet regimes there.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and the country has been supporting a separatist rebellion in the Donbas — made up of Ukrainian cities Luhansk and Donetsk — since 2014.

Carpenter added that Russia is likely to intensify ongoing deportations of Ukrainians.

“We should expect Russia to intensify its ongoing forced transfers of local populations from areas of Ukraine’s south and east to Russia or Russia-controlled parts of the Donbas via so-called “filtration camps,” Carpenter said.

— Chelsea Ong

Ukraine plans an operation to get civilians out of Mariupol’s blockaded steel plant

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

Ukraine says it has a plan to evacuate the roughly 1,000 civilians who are holed up in the massive Azovstal steel plant complex in the besieged city of Mariupol.

“An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said, without further elaboration.

The site has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in an otherwise Russian-occupied city.

Mariupol, a strategic port city in Ukraine’s south and just 30 miles from the Russian border, has seen some of the most brutal bombardment of the entire Russian campaign, and has been cut off from electricity, food, and most humanitarian aid since the start of March. Satellite imagery has revealed what Western and Ukrainian officials believe are mass graves just outside the city.

Russia’s defense ministry has in past days said it was opening a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the steel plant. But multiple previous attempts have failed, with Kyiv blaming Russian forces for not holding their fire to allow safe passage. Moscow, meanwhile, blames Ukrainian forces for the failure.

— Natasha Turak

Battle for Donbas is Russia’s main focus, but Ukrainian resistance is limiting its gains: UK MoD

The battle for Donbas is Russia’s primary focus, as it aims to take over Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the U.K. Ministry of Defence wrote in its daily intelligence update Friday.

So far, significant Ukrainian resistance is hampering Moscow’s progress, it added.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (or administrative districts), “fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

“Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces.”

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine’s prosecutor identifies 10 Russian soldiers accused of Bucha atrocities

A grave digger arranges flowers atop the grave of a woman as her husband and son watch on April 20, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has identified 10 Russian soldiers she previously accused of atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has identified 10 Russian soldiers she said were involved in the atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.

Iryna Venediktova appealed to the public on Facebook to help gather evidence against those soldiers whom she said were “involved in the torture of peaceful people.” They were from Russia’s 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Ground Forces Brigade whose work President Vladimir Putin recently honored, the AP said.

“During the occupation of Bucha, they took unarmed civilians hostage, killed them with hunger and thirst, kept them on their knees with hands tied and eyes taped, mocked and beat them,” she reportedly said, adding that the soldiers threatened to shoot the civilians and looted houses.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Bucha, calling for an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

— Chelsea Ong

U.S. Embassy in Kyiv says staffer was killed in war in Ukraine

A woman walks past the closed United States Embassy to Ukraine on April 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

John Moore | Getty Images

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv says one of its employees was killed in the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

“Volodymyr, who took leave from his job as an Embassy bodyguard to rejoin the army and defend Ukraine,” the U.S. mission in Kyiv wrote.

“We will never forget his kind spirit, dedication, and bravery. Our deepest condolences go to his family and friends,” the embassy wrote in a tweet.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers Wednesday that the Biden administration is working on reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

— Amanda Macias

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