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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 23

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Residents look at their house destroyed by a Russian bomb in Chernihiv on April 22, 2022.

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

Recap of April 23
FIGHTING
* Russian troops attempt to storm steel mill in Mariupol, Ukranians say.
* Ukrainian forces retook three villages near the border with Russia after "fierce battles," according to the governor of Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region.
* Ukraine announces a countrywide curfew for the night of the Orthodox Easter.
* Another mass grave has been found outside Mariupol, according to city officials.
* Russia intensifying barrage on all cities in the Luhansk region as it presses its offensive in the east, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region said.
* At least 21,600 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, Ukraine's armed forces reported.

HUMANITARIAN
* Up to 5.2 million Ukrainians have left the country since Russia began a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, the U.N. refugee agency said.
DIPLOMACY
* Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his call for a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to "put an end to the war."
* Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would meet with him in Kyiv on Sunday. The White House, State Department and Pentagon declined to comment.
ECONOMY
* Poland and Ukraine signed an agreement that would increase cooperation in the railway transport sector, helping Ukraine maintain its trade exchange with foreign countries.

NUCLEAR
* Ukraine has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency for "a comprehensive list of equipment" it needs to operate nuclear power plants during the war with Russia.

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

8:52 p.m.: As the battle for Mariupol continues, Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops are inside the plant along with civilians sheltering in its underground tunnels.

Earlier Saturday, the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, which has members holed up in the plant, released the video of around two dozen women and children, The Associated Press reported. Its contents could not be independently verified, but if authentic, it would be the first video testimony of what life has been like for civilians trapped underground there.

The video shows soldiers giving sweets to children who respond with fist-bumps. One young girl says she and her relatives “haven’t seen neither the sky nor the sun” since they left home Feb. 27.

7:24 p.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy answered questions from the Ukrainian and international media during a rare live question and answer session in Kyiv. During the session, Zelenskyy said Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens not only demonstrated great internal unity, but also managed to unite European countries and the whole world around them.

6:51 p.m.: IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Ukraine has asked his agency for "a comprehensive list of equipment" it needs to operate nuclear power plants during the war with Russia, Reuters reported on Saturday. The list includes radiation measurement devices, protective material, computer-related assistance, power supply systems and diesel generators, Grossi said, according to Reuters.

5:07 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight Easter mass conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly backed the Kremlin leader's "special military operation" in Ukraine, Reuters reported. ​

4:23 p.m.: Poland and Ukraine signed an agreement that would increase cooperation in the railway transport sector that would help Ukraine maintain its trade exchange with foreign countries, The Associated Press reported. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki met in Krakow, Poland. The move would help Ukraine maintain its trade exchange with foreign countries as the Russian invasion is affecting its ports, the AP reported. ​

3:15 p.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv on Thursday. There is "no justice and no logic" in Guterres visiting Russia first, Zelenskyy said. ​

2:18 p.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Kyiv on Sunday. "Tomorrow, the American officials are coming to visit us. I will meet the defense secretary [Lloyd Austin] and Antony Blinken," Zelenskyy told reporters Saturday, in what would be the first official visit by U.S. government officials since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

A State Department spokesperson told VOA in an email on Saturday: "We decline comment." The Pentagon also could not confirm the information to VOA. The White House also declined to comment.

1:35 p.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his call for a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to "put an end to the war," Agence France-Presse reported. "I think that whoever started this war will be able to end it," Zelenskyy said at a news conference held at a metro station in the heart of Kyiv. He said that he was "not afraid to meet" with Putin if it would lead to a peace deal between their two countries.

12:59 p.m.: On the eve of the Orthodox Easter, Ukraine announced a nationwide curfew, The Associated Press reported.

12:57 p.m.: British officials said Saturday that Russians troops hadn’t gained significant new ground despite announcing a renewed offensive along the eastern front, The Associated Press reported.

12:35 p.m.: Ukraine blamed Russian forces for obstructing its attempt to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol. "The evacuation was thwarted," Mariupol city official Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram, Reuters reported. He said that around 200 people gathered at the evacuation meeting point, but that Russian forces "dispersed" them. Other residents were reportedly told to board buses destined for Russian-controlled Dukuchayevsk, which is about 80 kilometers to the north.

11:36 a.m. At least 21,600 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in a Facebook post Saturday. According to the post, Russia also has lost 854 tanks, 2,205 armored personnel carriers, 1,543 vehicles, 403 artillery systems, 143 multiple launch rocket systems, 69 anti-aircraft defense systems, 154 helicopters, 177 aircraft, 76 fuel tanks, 182 unmanned aerial vehicles and 8 vessels.

11:19 a.m.: Russia’s standing in the G-20 is not likely to be threatened by its invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reports. Russia was kicked out o​f the Group of Eight industrialized nations (G-8) when it invaded Ukraine back in 2014. At the time, the G-8 renamed itself the G-7. But Russia remains a member of the G-20, which represents industrial and emerging-market countries. A consensus of member countries is required to boot Russia from the G-20, but several countries, including China, Brazil and South Africa, have indicated that they support keeping Russia in the group.

10:27 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reports that at least five people are dead after a Russian strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, according to the office of Ukraine's president. Earlier on Saturday, city officials reported that a missile strike hit "infrastructure" in Odesa.

10:19 a.m.: Ukrainian forces retook three villages near the border with Russia after "fierce battles," according to the governor of Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region. "Our units kicked Russian troops out of the settlements of Bezruki, Slatine, Prudyanka," Oleg Sinegubov said on Telegram, adding that the Ukrainians "secured their positions," Agence France-Presse reported. Sinegubov said the battles occurred Friday morning.

9:45 a.m.: Up to 5.2 million people have left Ukraine since Russia invaded it on February 24, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse. The U.N. says 1,128,000 people have fled so far in April, while 3.4 million left in March. Poland, Romania and Russia have received the most Ukrainian refugees. Women and children account for 90% of those who left the country. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are banned from leaving as they might be called up for military service.

9:16 a.m.: Russian forces are attacking a steel mill that is the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port city of Mariupol, according to an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office. Oleksiy Arestovich said during a briefing on Saturday that Russian forces have resumed airstrikes on the Azovstal steel plant and are trying to storm it, The Associated Press reports. The Ukrainian statement came two days after Russia President Vladimir Putin declared that Mariupol, with the exception of Azovstal, had been “liberated” by the Russians. Putin had ordered his forces not to storm the plant but to block it off instead.

9:06 a.m.: On the eve of Orthodox Easter, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said he hoped Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine would end quickly, but he did not condemn it, Reuters reported. Patriarch Kirill is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has made statements in the past in support of Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

8:59 a.m.: A missile struck infrastructure in Odesa, a Ukrainian port city, on Saturday, according to local authorities in an online statement. Reuters reported that city officials gave no further details. "Odesa was hit by a missile strike. Infrastructure has been hit," the statement said.

7:57 a.m.: Russia is intensifying its barrage on all cities in the Luhansk region as it presses its offensive in the east, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region said Saturday, according to Reuters. In televised remarks, Governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian forces are pulling back to new defensive lines to regroup and preserve units.

7:46 a.m.: Another mass grave has been found outside Mariupol, according to city officials, The Associated Press reported. The city council posted a satellite photo showing what it says is a mass grave that could hold the bodies of at least 1,000 people. The mass grave is reportedly outside the village of Vynohradne, east of Mariupol. Earlier this week, satellite photos showed what appeared to be rows and rows of freshly dug mass graves in the town of Manhush, west of Mariupol. The Russians have been accused of trying to conceal the slaughter of civilians in Mariupol.

6:00 a.m.: The New York Times reports that Britain plans to reopen its embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, for the first time since closing it in February. It's the 21st country to do so.

5:09 a.m.: The BBC reports that nearly 3 million people have fled to Poland from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began Feb. 24. But in recent weeks, more and more people are heading back to Ukraine. The Polish Border Guard said that on Friday, more people entered Ukraine from Poland than vice versa. Almost 24,000 entered Ukraine and about 17,700 entered Poland.

4:03 a.m.: Ukrainian officials say they'll attempt another evacuation from Mariupol on Saturday, CNN reports. There are about 100,000 people left in the besieged city.

3:09 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K.'s defense ministry says Russia has made no major gains in the past 24 hours. Additionally, it says, Russian air and sea forces have not been able to establish control in either domain.

2:18 a.m.: Al Jazeera, citing an update from the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, reports that Russians seek to "starve out" the civilians and soldiers in the Azovstal steel plant.

1:16 a.m.: The Telegraph reports that France and Germany evaded an arms embargo to sell weapons to Russia. They sent equipment, which included bombs, rockets, missiles and guns, to Moscow despite an EU-wide embargo on arms shipments to Russia, introduced in the wake of its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the newspaper says.

12:01 a.m.: The Washington Post reports that a new website, Mariupol Life, aims to track the city's missing residents. The growing database includes the names, addresses, birth dates and sometimes last-known locations of the missing.

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

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