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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 20

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Security force members aid an injured man following a Russian bombing of a factory in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, on April 19, 2022.

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

Recap of April 20:
FIGHTING
* Russia's latest ultimatum to Ukrainian fighters holding out in Mariupol expired on Wednesday afternoon with no sign of mass surrender.
* Russia assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long and poured more troops into Ukraine in a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.
* The Russian defense ministry has proposed that relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine should have to apply to military rather than civilian authorities for compensation payments, imposing an extra level of secrecy around its war losses.
* Ukraine’s former prime minister says his country must win the conflict with Russia or “be exterminated.”
* Russia said on Wednesday it had conducted a first test launch of its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new and long-awaited addition to its nuclear arsenal which President Vladimir Putin said would make Moscow's enemies stop and think.
HUMANITARIAN
* In less than two months since Russian troops started the war in Ukraine, 5 million Ukrainians have left their country and 7.1 million are displaced internally— the largest conflict-related internally displaced population in the world.
* Moscow has deported 500,000 people from Ukraine to Russia, a leading member of the parliament in Kyiv told European lawmakers on Wednesday, calling on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing.
DIPLOMACY
* Ukraine is ready to hold a "special round of negotiations" with Russia in the besieged city of Mariupol without any conditions, negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted on Wednesday.
SANCTIONS
* The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities, including a Russian commercial bank and a virtual currency mining company.
* The European Union is preparing new measures to prevent Russia from evading sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.

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

9:15 p.m.: A Russian sports coach spoke out against the war in Ukraine and twice tore down a pro-invasion “Z” sign from the door of a school in the Siberian village of Buryatia. Valery Yakovlev said he didn’t like children being “programmed” with pro-war symbols. Harutyun Mansuryan reports for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

8:07 p.m.: When news that the guided-missile cruiser Moskva had sunk off Crimea reached Tamara Grudinina, nearly 9,000 kilometers to the east, she sent a text message to a number belonging to the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet asking about the whereabouts of her son, Sergei, 21, a sailor serving on the fleet's flagship. She said she received a response: "Your son has gone missing. We are sorry." Grudinina still doesn't know what happened to her son. And she's far from the only parent wondering what happened aboard the Moskva on April 14. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

6:55 p.m.: According to Newsweek, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the reportedly successful test launch Wednesday by the Russian military of the nuclear-capable Sarmat ICBM, which he claims is able to evade all modern anti-missile defenses. "This truly unique weapon will force all who are trying to threaten our country in the heat of frenzied, aggressive rhetoric to think twice," he is said to have quipped in televised remarks following the launch.

5:50 p.m.: As Russia doubles down on its war in Ukraine, the country’s humanitarian needs are growing exponentially. Trouble is, U.S. charities are seeing a slowdown in donations at the same time. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias looks at how these nonprofits and their volunteers are adapting.

 Giving for Ukraine’s Victims Slows Even as War Intensifies
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5:00 p.m.: A Ukrainian woman who survived the Nazi occupation of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has died while hiding in a basement during Russia's siege of the port. Chabad.org said 91-year-old Vanda Obyedkova, an active member of Mariupol's Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, died in a basement "freezing and pleading for water" in early April after being trapped in the city for weeks during intense shelling by Russian forces. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

4:12 p.m.: Ukraine is ready to hold a "special round of negotiations" with Russia in the besieged city of Mariupol without any conditions, negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted on Wednesday. He said the talks could be "one on one. Two on two. To save our guys, (the far right) Azov (battalion), military, civilians, children, the living and the wounded."

4:08 p.m.: The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities, including a Russian commercial bank and a virtual currency mining company, hoping to target Moscow's evasion of existing sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. Treasury Department said it designated a virtual currency mining company for the first time, alongside more than 40 people and entities led by U.S.-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, Reuters reported.

4:01 p.m.:
Tom Birkhoff was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and adopted by a U.S. family over 15 years ago. But now that his home country has been attacked by Russia, he started a donation drive to help Ukraine. Birkhoff sends needed goods and raises money which he sends to his childhood friend for distribution in Kharkiv. VOA’s Nina Vishneva has the story.

3:35 p.m.: With Moscow’s war on Ukraine nearing its third month and Russia increasingly feeling the bite of Western sanctions, numerous Cold War-era terms are creeping back into everyday life in ways that may have many Russians wondering what they were so nostalgic for. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has collected a partial list of words, phrases, and concepts that many thought had been left behind in the world of 1984, but which have made a striking comeback.

3:28 p.m.: Ukraine accused Russian forces on Wednesday of failing to observe a local ceasefire agreement long enough to allow large numbers of women, children and elderly people to flee the besieged city of Mariupol, Reuters reported. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the humanitarian corridor "did not work as planned today." She wrote on Facebook that "due to the lack of control over their own military at the place, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire," adding that “due to their own disorganization and negligence, the occupiers could not provide the timely transport of people to the meeting point where dozens of our buses and ambulances were waiting." Russia did not immediately respond to Vereshchuk's remarks.

3:17 p.m.: Hundreds of Ethiopians reportedly have been lined up for days outside the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa this week in hopes of being recruited to fight for Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine. But the embassy has dismissed claims it is recruiting foreign fighters and says the Ethiopians are there to show their solidarity with Russia. Some of the volunteers are motivated by economics. They are desperate to get a job, even a potentially deadly job overseas, because they are unemployed. VOA’s Gelmo Dawit has this story.

3:12 p.m.: Ukraine’s military has increased the size of its fleet of fixed-wing aircraft after receiving spare parts and repairing damaged aircraft, the Pentagon said. Ukraine has defied expectations of allies and military experts by not only keeping its air force operational nearly two months after the start of Russia’s invasion but actually repairing aircraft and, apparently, adding to its inventory. On Tuesday Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional aircraft as well as parts, but clarified on Wednesday that no fixed-wing aircraft had been provided so far to Ukraine’s military, Reuters reported.


2:46 p.m.: Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby provided a readout of a meeting between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Polish Minister of National Defence Mariusz Blaszczak in Washington Wednesday. They met to discuss ongoing security assistance in Ukraine, amongst other things. “Secretary Austin commended Poland on the important role it continues to play to help the Ukrainian people resist Russia’s invasion and seek refuge from violence,” according to a statement.

2:34 p.m.: Russia said on Wednesday it had conducted a first test launch of its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new and long-awaited addition to its nuclear arsenal which President Vladimir Putin said would make Moscow's enemies stop and think. Putin was shown on television being told by the military that the missile had been launched from Plesetsk in the country's northwest and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east. The Sarmat has been under development for years and so its test-launch is not a surprise for the West, but it comes at a moment of extreme geopolitical tension over the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

2:21 p.m.:
A Ukrainian woman who survived the Nazi occupation of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has died while hiding in a basement during Russia's siege of the port. Chabad.org said 91-year-old Vanda Obyedkova, an active member of Mariupol's Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, died in a basement "freezing and pleading for water" in early April after being trapped in the city for weeks during intense shelling by Russian forces. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

2:13 p.m.:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko walked out of a Group of 20 meeting Wednesday as Russia’s representative started talking, The Associated Press reported. Several finance ministers and central bank governors also left the room, according to an official familiar with the meetings, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the event was not public. Some ministers and central bank governors who attended the meeting virtually turned their cameras off when the Russian representative spoke, the person said.

1:40 p.m.: About 6,000 Ukrainians have been granted humanitarian visas in Australia. The visas will allow the Ukrainian refugees to work and study for up to three years. But Australia's decision to grant humanitarian visas to Ukrainians has been criticized by campaigners who say it ignores the plight of other asylum seekers. The government rejects that claim, insisting its policies give priority to the most vulnerable. VOA’s Phil Mercer reports.

1:13 p.m.: Ukraine’s president said a major Russian offensive was beginning across the south and east of the country. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published this photo essay of what photojournalists witnessed on April 19-20.

12:52 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asking them to meet with him in their respective capitals, as he seeks a diplomatic solution to the war. “The secretary-general said: at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law,” Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. Dujarric said there has been no reply yet, VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported Wednesday.

12:33 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks. Earlier Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was waiting for a response after it had handed a document to the Ukrainian side, Reuters reported.

12:19 p.m.: Several Ukrainian celebrities and social media influencers have been banned from entering Russia for 50 years, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

12:11 p.m.: Japan enacted a law on Wednesday formally revoking Russia’s “most-favored nation” trade status over its invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Tokyo stepped up sanctions amid revelations of Russian military atrocities against civilians. The stripping of Russia’s trade status is Japan’s latest move against Moscow and is part of a list of sanction measures Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces last month that also include a decision to expel eight Russian diplomats and trade officials.

11:58 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that "illegal" restrictions on Russian companies by Western states ran counter to World Trade Organization rules and told his government to update Russia's strategy in the WTO by June 1. Speaking at a government meeting on the country's metals industry, Putin said that Western countries had banned Russia from buying components needed to produce rolled metal, steel sheets and other products. Earlier on Wednesday Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian metals companies were facing "hostile attitudes" from what Moscow calls unfriendly countries, and that Russia would come up with a plan to combat this. Reuters reported.

11:46 a.m.: A photographer with Agence France-Presse traveled to the Ukrainian town of Irpin, outside the capital Kyiv, and captured images of fresh graves to bury those killed during Russia’s invasion.

11:32 a.m.: The U.N. World Food Program says it is scaling up delivery of food aid into previously inaccessible areas of Ukraine’s conflict but too many areas remain out of reach. The World Food Program estimates nearly half of the country’s population of 44 million is worried about finding enough to eat. Among them, it says, are some six million people in desperate need of food and cash assistance. VOA’s Lisa Schlein has this story.

11:03 a.m.: Montenegro said on Wednesday it had banned Russian state-controlled media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik as part of sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine, following in the steps of the EU that the small Balkan state hopes to join. The European Union banned the two outlets last month over what it called their "systematic information manipulation and disinformation" over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

10:51 a.m.: Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of the war in Ukraine, the All England Club announced Wednesday. Wimbledon begins June 27. Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, said in a statement, “We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.” Wednesday’s move signals the first time a tennis tournament has told players from Russia and Belarus they are not welcome, The Associated Press reported.

10:32 a.m.: Israel’s defense minister on Wednesday authorized the supply of helmets and vests to Ukrainian rescue services after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart, an official Israeli statement said, signalling a shift in Israel’s position on providing such equipment. A mediator in the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Israel has condemned the Russian invasion but has limited itself to humanitarian relief, Reuters reported.

10:14 a.m.: Ukraine’s former prime minister says his country must win the conflict with Russia or “be exterminated.” In a wide-ranging interview from an undisclosed location in Ukraine, ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who held office between 2014 and 2016, warned of "very bloody and severe battles" as Russian forces seek control over Donetsk, Luhansk, and other parts of eastern Ukraine seven weeks into the war. Vazha Tavberidze with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

9:31 a.m.: India is expected to reduce shortages of wheat on global markets created by the war in Ukraine as overflowing warehouses help it step up exports. Although India is the world’s second biggest wheat producer after China, it has been a small exporter, selling wheat mostly to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and some Middle Eastern markets. But as supplies from Russia and Ukraine are threatened by the war, India is eyeing markets across Africa and Asia. VOA’s Anjana Pasricha has this story.

9:24 a.m.: Moscow has deported 500,000 people from Ukraine to Russia, a leading member of the parliament in Kyiv told European lawmakers on Wednesday, calling on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing. "Half a million of Ukrainian citizens were deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation without agreement from their side," said Mykyta Poturayev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament's humanitarian committee. Reuters could not independently verify the figure given by Poturayev, who did not give details or supporting evidence. Reuters has submitted a request for comment to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

9:09 a.m.: Israel is willing to host a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Russian news agency TASS reported Wednesday. The Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Ben Zvi, said in an interview with TASS, that it is ready to do so. "However, they (Putin and Zelenskyy) need to make a decision," he said. Israel would consider it "a great honor" to host possible talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents. "We will be happy to host such a meeting in Jerusalem," Ben Zvi told TASS.

8:58 a.m.: The Russian defence ministry has proposed that relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine should have to apply to military rather than civilian authorities for compensation payments, imposing an extra level of secrecy around its war losses. Russia already classifies military deaths as state secrets even in times of peace and has not updated its official casualty figures in Ukraine for nearly four weeks, Reuters reported.

8:42 a.m.: In less than two months since Russian troops started the war in Ukraine, 5 million Ukrainians have left their country and 7.1 million are displaced internally— the largest conflict-related internally displaced population in the world, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency, or UNHCR. “The war in Ukraine has triggered one of the fastest-growing displacement and humanitarian crises ever,” Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, told VOA.

8:34 a.m.: A growing majority of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO, a poll showed on Wednesday, as policy-makers in both Sweden and Finland weigh up whether Russia's invasion of Ukraine should lead to an end to decades of military neutrality, Reuters reported. The poll by Demoskop and commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper showed 57% of Swedes now favored NATO membership, up from 51% in March. Those opposed to joining fell to 21% from 24%, while those who were undecided dipped to 22% from 25%. The March poll was the first to show a majority of Swedes in favor of joining NATO.

8:29 a.m.: The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, traveled to Ukraine Wednesday on an unannounced visit, to show support for the country as it battles Russia. He traveled to the town of Borodyanka outside the capital Kyiv, and toured the devastation left behind after Russian forces left the area, saying that “war crimes have been committed,” the Kyiv Independent reported.

8:26 a.m.: Ukrainian troops have held up an advance by Russian forces from the northeastern city of Izyum towards nearby Sloviansk, Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said on Wednesday. "They have focused their forces there, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not succeeding," he said in a video address. Arestovych also said that Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol have been holding out, despite persistent Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant, Reuters reported.

8:17 a.m.: The European Union is preparing new measures to prevent Russia from evading sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told a news conference on Wednesday.

8:10 a.m.: The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region says that infrastructure in the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne, as well as several surrounding villages, was destroyed and that electricity, gas and water won’t be restored until the end of the war, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday. Russia recently renewed its military offensive in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

7:53 a.m.: Berlin has chosen not to make public all the weapons it has sent to support Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, adding that Germany would help Kyiv maintain more advanced weapons systems it might buy and train soldiers to use them, Reuters reported. "We have delivered anti-tank missiles, Stingers and other things that we have never spoken about publicly so these deliveries could happen quickly," she said at a news conference in Riga with her Latvian counterpart.

7:41 a.m.: Ukraine’s Armed Forces says that it has received spare parts and components, but no new aircraft from allied partners, The Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

7:35 a.m.: Russia's latest ultimatum to Ukrainian fighters holding out in Mariupol expired on Wednesday afternoon with no sign of mass surrender, Reuters reported. Russian-backed separatists said shortly before the Wednesday deadline that just five people had surrendered, a day after Russia said no-one had responded to a similar surrender call. Ukraine has vowed never to surrender in Mariupol. Russia was hitting the last main Ukrainian stronghold, the Azovstal steel plant, with bunker-buster bombs, Kyiv said. Ukraine says hundreds of civilians are sheltering beneath the factory. Ukraine announced plans to send 90 buses to evacuate 6,000 civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday, saying it had reached a "preliminary agreement" with Russia on a safe corridor.

6:57 a.m.: Russia assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long and poured more troops into Ukraine in a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. If successful, the Russian offensive in what is known as the Donbas would essentially slice Ukraine in two. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow’s forces bombarded numerous Ukrainian military sites, including troops concentrations and missile-warhead storage depots, in or near several cities or villages. Those claims could not be independently verified.

6:34 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden will convene top U.S. military leaders on Wednesday in an annual White House gathering that takes on special significance as the war in Ukraine enters a risky new phase and the United States plans more military aid, Reuters reported. A "variety of topics" will be discussed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military leaders, a National Security Council spokesperson said. While the annual military policy meeting rarely makes news, weighty issues are on the agenda this year, topped by a conflict in Ukraine that officials fear could imperil European security for years to come.

6:21 a.m.: On Wednesday, Russia issued one more ultimatum to Ukrainian forces in the besieged southern port city Mariupol to leave the steel factory where they have been holed up, or face deadly attack. But the Ukrainian commander in Mariupol told The Washington Post: “We will not lay down our weapons,” and said that his soldiers “may be facing our last days, if not hours.”

6:15 a.m.: The number of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the country since Russia invaded in late February has surpassed 5 million, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency. More than half have gone to Poland.

3:10 a.m.: Ukraine and Russia reached a preliminary deal to establish a route to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged southern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. "Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today," she added in a Facebook post.

2:30 a.m.: Norway's defense ministry announced a shipment of about 100 Mistral air defense missiles to Ukraine. A ministry statement said the Norwegian army is phasing out its use of the missiles, but that they are a "modern and effective weapon" that will be useful for Ukrainian forces.

2:00 a.m.: Britain's defense ministry said fighting in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region "is intensifying" as Russia continues to build its military presence in the region and try to break through Ukraine's defenses. "Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country."

1:30 a.m.: Norway's defense ministry announced a shipment of about 100 Mistral air defense missiles to Ukraine. A ministry statement said the Norwegian army is phasing out its use of the missiles, but that they are a "modern and effective weapon" that will be useful for Ukrainian forces.

1:27 a.m.: Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations rejected a request by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’ for a four-day cease-fire during Orthodox Easter holidays, according to The Washington Post.

12:05 a.m.: Russia issued an ultimatum for the remaining Ukrainian troops in the southern city of Mariupol to surrender on Wednesday. Ukraine rejected previous demands of giving up the city, and Russia said a Tuesday deadline passed with no Ukrainian troops laying down their arms

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