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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 15

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Local residents walk in front of a residential building damaged in the course of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 13, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of April 15
FIGHTING
* Kharkiv regional Governor Oleh Sinehubov said seven people, including a 7-month-old child, were killed in shelling of a residential neighborhood in the city.
* The Mariupol city council said on Telegram local residents report Russian troops are digging up bodies previously buried in residential courtyards and not allowing any new burials “of people killed by them.”
HUMANITARIAN
* Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba sent a message on Twitter wishing Jewish communities in Ukraine and around the world a Happy Passover.
DIPLOMACY
* Italy’s ambassador has arrived back in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and has reopened the Italian embassy, which will become fully operational on Monday.
* Moscow said 18 members of the European Union mission in Russia must leave the country.
SANCTIONS
* Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address, said, "The next package of sanctions against Russia must include an abandonment of Russian oil."
ECONOMY
* The International Monetary Fund is "preparing for the massive reconstruction effort that will be required," IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said.
* About 1.25 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds are still on commercial vessels blocked in Ukrainian seaports due to Russia’s invasion.

The latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

9:41 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN that between 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died so far in the war with Russia and another 10,000 have been injured.

9:20 p.m.: The bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following Russia's withdrawal — most of them fatally shot, police said Friday, an indication that many people were "simply executed,” according to an Associated Press report.

8:37 p.m.: Finland's European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen says it is "highly likely" that Finland will apply for NATO membership, just hours after Russia warns of unspecified "consequences" should it and Sweden join the military alliance, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

7:11 p.m.: In his night video address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “The number one task is to speed up the restoration of peace. Our Armed Forces are doing it brilliantly. They are repelling the occupiers' attacks. They are carrying out counterattacks. Our diplomats must continue their activity in all possible directions, at all possible levels. Both official and unofficial.” He added, “The next package of sanctions against Russia must include an abandonment of Russian oil. In general, the democratic world must admit that money for Russian energy resources is in fact money for the destruction of democracy. When these decisions are made, we will all be able to see that peace is approaching.”

6:18 p.m.: VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer has published a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations. This includes how the impacts of Ukraine’s war is being felt globally, an update on the risk of sexual violence and trafficking for Ukrainian women and children, and an update on the visit of International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan to the Ukrainian town of Bucha where workers dug up bodies from mass graves.

5:50 p.m.: A Ukrainian woman has given Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty a detailed account of how she was raped by a Russian Army soldier. To protect her privacy, her face was pixelated her name is not being disclosed. Ukrainian police have been informed of the case. (WARNING: viewers may find the content of this video disturbing.)

4:26 p.m.: France will make housing and family benefits available for Ukrainian refugees once the emergency lodging phase is over, the country's interior ministry said Friday, according to Reuters. France will give displaced Ukrainians the right to access aid for personal housing with family supplements, as well as benefits for family maintenance, it said in a statement. According to the ministry, more than 57,000 Ukrainians have entered France since Russia invaded their country on February 24, and more than 41,000 have been granted "temporary protection."

4:01 p.m.: Italy’s ambassador has arrived back in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and has reopened the Italian Embassy, which will become fully operational on Monday, Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s minister of state for international cooperation, tweeted Friday, “It is a symbol of Italy that wastes no time, never stops believing in diplomacy and persistently seeks peace.” The French ambassador also announced Friday that his embassy would reopen in Kyiv shortly, after relocating operations to Lviv for a month, The Kyiv Independent reported.

3:04 p.m.: The International Monetary Fund is preparing for the reconstruction of Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent reported Friday. “We are preparing for the massive reconstruction effort that will be required,” Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, said at an event organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The IMF has already increased its emergency funding to $1.4 billion to help Ukraine, Georgieva said. “We know from global experience that conflict is the enemy of development and prosperity,” she said.

2:21 p.m.: The governor of the Kharkiv region said seven people, including a 7-month-old child, were killed in shelling of a residential neighborhood in the city, The Associated Press reported. Oleh Sinehubov said Friday in a Telegram post that 34 other people were wounded. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been heavily hit by shelling and rocket attacks during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The city’s position about 25 miles south of Russia and 100 miles north of the separatist eastern regions of Ukraine gives it significant strategic importance.

2:02 p.m.: Agence France-Presse on Friday published a fact box about the Russian warship Moskva on Twitter.

1:26 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently made a direct appeal to U.S. President Joe Biden for the United States to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” The Washington Post reported Friday, citing people familiar with their conversation. Biden did not commit to specific actions during that call, the newspaper reported. The label can be applied to any country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” the newspaper said, citing a State Department fact sheet. The list currently includes four countries: North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Syria.

1:21 p.m.: Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba sent out a message on Twitter Friday wishing Jewish communities in Ukraine and around the world a Happy Passover and appealing for unity in the struggle for peace.

1:18 p.m.: Pope Francis presided at a solemn Good Friday service recalling the last hours in the life of Jesus, with the shadow of the war in Ukraine hanging over the most somber day in the Christian calendar, Reuters reported. The Good Friday service is one of the few events where the pope does not deliver a homily, leaving it to the preacher of the papal household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa. "This year we celebrate Easter not to the joyful sound of bells, but with the noise in our ears of bombs and explosions not far from here," Catalamessa said, referring to the war in Ukraine. Paraphrasing the biblical peace call to "beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks," Cantalamessa spoke of beating "missiles into factories and homes".

12:49 p.m.: A senior U.S. defense official confirmed Friday that Ukrainian forces struck the Russian warship Moskva with two Neptune missiles causing it to sink, The Washington Post reported. The confirmation comes after Ukrainian forces said that they had attacked the cruiser in the Black Sea, while Russian officials had claimed the ship experienced a fire. Russia’s Defense Ministry warned it will step up attacks on Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv in retaliation for strikes on Russian assets. Blasts were reported outside Kyiv on Friday, with Russian forces in a statement claiming to have fired missiles on a suburban factory that produces Ukrainian defense weapons.

12:23 p.m.: How big a loss to Russia is the sinking of the Moskva missile cruiser, the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet? Reuters has this report.

12:09 p.m.: Russia said Friday that 18 members of the EU mission in Russia must leave the country, Agence France-Presse reported. "Eighteen employees of the EU Delegation to Russia have been declared 'persona non grata' and will have to leave the territory of the Russian Federation in the near future," the foreign ministry said in a statement. Russia is seeking to maintain relations with the European Union, which is one of its largest commercial and economic partners, but might drastically revise these relations, Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament), said on Friday, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

11:58 a.m.: Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Friday that Ukrainians have high expectations that visiting officials from the International Criminal Court, including Prosecutor Karim Khan, will be able to collect evidence of atrocities that can lead to justice for victims.

11:37 a.m.: North Macedonia has declared six Russian diplomats personae non gratae for violating diplomatic norms and ordered them to leave the country, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday. “These individuals were carrying out activities that are contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and will have to leave the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia in the next five days," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The Russian Embassy said the allegations were "completely unfounded" and warned of "serious consequences." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

11:21 a.m.: Around 1.25 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds are still on commercial vessels blocked in Ukrainian seaports due to Russia’s invasion, Reuters reported. Part of the cargo may deteriorate in the near future, Ukraine’s farm minister Mykola Solskyi told the newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda on Friday. Ukraine used to export almost all its grain and oilseeds via seaports and now is forced to find new routes as its ports are blocked. “There are currently 57 vessels with 1.25 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds,” Solskyi said. Solskyi said that everything depended on the condition of the holds of the vessels and if the grain is stored for more than three months, “problems arise and part of the cargo can be spoiled.”

11:14 a.m.: Mariupol's City Council said Friday that local residents report Russian troops are digging up bodies previously buried in residential courtyards and not allowing any new burials “of people killed by them.” It said in a statement on the messaging app Telegram, “Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies will be taken is unknown.” The claim could not be independently verified. Earlier this month, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to the city to dispose of the corpses of victims of the siege.

10:42 a.m.: War crimes are violations of international humanitarian law. Intentionally targeting civilians and committing acts of torture and rape are war crimes. No single document codifies all war crimes. VOA looks at how such charges could potentially be applied to Russian soldiers in Ukraine and to Russia’s leadership itself.

Video Explainer: How Could Russians Accused of War Crimes in Ukraine Face Prosecution?
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10:06 a.m.: Ukraine said Friday it was trying to break Russia’s siege of Mariupol and that fighting raged around the southern city’s Illich Steel and Iron Works and port, Reuters reported. Ukraine's defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said that, for the first time since the start of its invasion, Russia used long-range bombers to attack Mariupol. Motuzyanyk said Russia was concentrating its efforts on seizing the cities of Rubizhne, Popasna and Mariupol. “The situation in Mariupol is difficult and hard. Fighting is happening right now. The Russian army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city,” Motuzyanyk said. “But as of now the Russians haven’t managed to completely capture it,” he told a televised briefing.

9:43 a.m.: Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said Friday that if Sweden and Finland become NATO members, the two countries will turn into a new “frontier” in Russia’s confrontation with NATO, and the “negative consequences for peace and stability in northern Europe are obvious,” The Kyiv Independent reported.

9:38 a.m.: The Biden administration appears set to discuss the international economic impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and, potentially, Ukraine’s reconstruction as part of the November G-20 summit agenda. VOA’s White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this story.

US Set to Include Ukraine in G-20 Agenda
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9:26 a.m.: Britain has sanctioned the director of the Chelsea soccer club and another associate of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for their close association with the Russian tycoon. The government said it had imposed a freezing order on $10 billion worth of assets linked to the two men, saying it was the largest asset freeze ever imposed by the government. "We are tightening the ratchet on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin," British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. "We will keep going with sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the details.

9:13 a.m.: The Deputy Head of the Kyiv City State Administration, Mykola Povoroznyk, said Friday that around 40,000-50,000 people come back to Ukraine's capital city every day, despite repeated cautions by Kyiv’s mayor that threats remain, The Kyiv Independent reported. More than 870,000 Ukrainians who fled abroad since the Russian invasion on February 24 have now returned to their home country, the U.N. said in its latest emergency update, expressing concern about deteriorating food security inside the country, as well as potential shelter challenges for people if returning to their homes is no longer viable.

9:02 a.m.: A large explosion has struck the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, the site of a missile strike on a train station a week earlier that left more than 50 dead and dozens wounded. Associated Press journalists in the city heard the sound of a rocket or missile and then the blast, followed by sirens wailing Friday. It was not immediately clear what was hit or whether there were casualties.

8:58 a.m.: The world’s largest commercial cargo transport aircraft, the Mriya, lies in ruins at its home airfield of Hostomel, in Ukraine, following heavy fighting with Russia, according to The Kyiv Independent. The Mriya, which is Ukrainian for “aspiration,” was built in the late 1980s by the manufacturer Antonov in Kyiv. At the time, it was designed as part of the Soviet space program and in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Mriya was re-purposed for commercial cargo transportation. Throughout its 30 years in service, it set over 200 world records. Wherever it arrived in the world, it was met with crowds of mesmerized fans and aviation spotters waiting for hours near runway strips to watch the Mriya’s landing.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by the Antonov An-225 Mriya aircraft, destroyed by Russian strikes, at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.
A Ukrainian serviceman walks by the Antonov An-225 Mriya aircraft, destroyed by Russian strikes, at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.

8:49 a.m.: Russia's communications regulator has blocked access to the Russian-language website of The Moscow Times, the newspaper said on Friday. The Moscow Times said its Russian-language website was blocked after it published what authorities call a false report on riot police officers refusing to fight in Ukraine. Russian authorities have blocked a number of independent media outlets and publications in their attempts to control coverage of the country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

8:42 a.m.: The head of the U.N. World Food Program said people are being "starved to death" in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and he predicted the country's humanitarian crisis is likely to worsen as Russia intensifies its assault in the coming weeks. WFP executive director David Beasley also warned in an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv that Russia's invasion of grain-exporting Ukraine risks destabilizing nations far from its shores and could trigger waves of migrants seeking better lives elsewhere.


8:37 a.m.: 8:37 a.m.: Seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces opened fire on buses carrying civilians in the Ukrainian village of Borovaya, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office told Ukraine’s Suspilne news website Friday. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are working to establish the circumstances of the attack, Dmytro Chubenko said. He added that investigators are also establishing the routes and destination of the vehicles transporting civilians across the Russian-controlled territory around Borovaya, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

8:33 a.m.: Ukrainian citizens can use a government app to submit requests for compensation for homes destroyed by Russian forces, and so far, Ukrainians have filed over 77,000 property damage complaints, the Kyiv Independent reported Friday.

8:27 a.m.: A warship sinks, accusations of atrocities, war crimes, and genocide mount, and despite a relentless clampdown, determined Russians find ways to protest President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. Steve Gutterman with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty pulled together some of the key developments in Russia over the past week and some of the takeaways going forward.

7:46 a.m.: A Ukrainian military factory outside Kyiv that produced missiles allegedly used to hit Russia's Moskva warship was partly destroyed by overnight Russian strikes, an AFP journalist at the scene saw Friday. A workshop and an administrative building at the Vizar plant, which lies near Kyiv's international Zhuliany airport, were seriously damaged. Russia had earlier announced it had hit the factory using Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles. The strike came a day after Ukraine claimed it had destroyed Russia's Moskva warship, which Moscow later said had sunk. Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday it would increase strikes aimed at the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in response to Ukrainian strikes on Russian targets.

7:32 a.m.: Several buyers of Russian gas have agreed to switch to payments in rubles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in comments published in the ministry’s in-house magazine Friday, Reuters reported. He did not disclose the identities of customers who had already switched. President Vladimir Putin said last month that buyers of Russian gas from “unfriendly” countries should pay in rubles, a move rejected by European Union authorities under the bloc’s sanctions regime against Moscow.

7:13 a.m.: The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) said Friday that the war in Ukraine created the “oldest” humanitarian crisis in the world, and that reduced mobility makes it harder for the elderly to escape war zones and access humanitarian aid.

6:47 a.m.: Russia said its lead warship in the Black Sea sank on Thursday after an explosion and fire that Ukraine claimed was caused by a missile strike, dealing a blow to Moscow as it readied for new attacks that were likely to determine the conflict's outcome. Britain's defense ministry said Friday that as the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Slava-class cruiser Moskva served a key role. The ship had recently completed an extensive refit designed to improve its capability and had recently returned to operational status in 2021, the report noted. It said this incident means Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia’s Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on March 24, and that this may lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.

6:12 a.m.: As the world focuses on Russia’s war on Ukraine, another conflict is raging — on people’s phones. In the information war, TikTok has become a battlefield. Popular among younger audiences, the platform known for dance videos has, for some, become an information source on the war in Ukraine. With new, unverified content appearing on TikTok by the second, some analysts worry that the platform often serves to mislead its users, numbering 1 billion worldwide. VOA’s Ali Siddiqi and Lori Rampani report that disinformation campaigns may be skewing young people’s view of the war in Ukraine.

6:04 a.m.: Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a video Friday condemning Russia for using deception and false information as a military tactic. It quotes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as saying “If you want to know Russia’s plans, look at what Russia accuses others of.” The Ukrainian government said that spreading disinformation “provides ammunition” for Russia’s war effort and called on the world to only publish verified information about the war in Ukraine, to help Ukraine “close the sky” to stop Russia, and ban all trade with Russia.

5:52 a.m.: Despite Western observers' speculation that forces from the Russian Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked paramilitary organization, would be withdrawing from Libya to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine, analysts who spoke to Al Jazeera expect the mercenary group will continue to stay and support Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army in the country’s civil war.

5:37 a.m.: Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram that nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed for Friday to evacuate civilians, including a passage for civilians trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol.

The post noted that evacuation routes would be open "subject to the cessation of shelling by the occupying forces."

5:10 a.m.: Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday it would increase strikes aimed at the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in response to Ukrainian strikes on Russian targets. Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in one of the country's regions on the border with Ukraine, the Associated Press reports. The Russian ministry said its forces shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter which it said had attacked the village of Klimovo Thursday, and had also shot down a Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 jet, according to Reuters.

4:14 a.m.:

2:30 a.m.: Russia may be in default on some of its debt, according to the business and financial services company Moody's.

Reuters reports that Russia made a payment due on April 4 on two sovereign bonds in roubles rather than the dollars it was required to use for payment.

Russia "therefore may be considered a default under Moody's definition if not cured by 4 May, which is the end of the grace period," Moody's said in a statement.

1:15 am According to The New York Times, Ukrainians who fled their homeland with their dogs are discovering at the U.S. border that, in most cases, their four legged family members not allowed into the U.S. because of the high incidence of rabies in Ukraine.

12:30 a.m.: Russia on Thursday warned the U.S. that the weapons supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. and other NATO countries were "adding fuel" to the conflict and could bring about “unpredictable consequences” the Washington Post reported.

The Post said the U.S. State Department declined to comment on the diplomatic communication, or any U.S. response.

George Beebe, a former director of Russia analysis at the CIA, told the newspaper that if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to experience setbacks, Russia may attack NATO supply convoys delivering weapons in Ukraine, or even hit targets in NATO countries near Ukraine.

"There has been an assumption on the part of a lot of us in the West that we could supply the Ukrainians really without limits and not bear significant risk of retaliation from Russia," he said. "I think the Russians want to send a message here that that’s not true."

12:20 a.m.: Two U.S. lawmakers traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine Thursday, becoming the first U.S. officials to visit since Russia invaded the country February 24. Rep.Victoria Spartz of Indiana and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana – both Republicans – also visited the town of Bucha outside of Kyiv, where the bodies of civilians were found in the streets and mass graves after Russian troops left.

Spartz is the first Ukranian-born person to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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