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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 26

By VOA News April 26, 2022

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

9:15 p.m.: Drone giant DJI Technology said it will temporarily suspend business in Russia and Ukraine, making it the first major Chinese company to halt sales to Russia since the country invaded neighboring Ukraine in February.

"DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions," the privately held company said in a statement late Tuesday, Reuters reports. "Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine."

Although Western firms have pulled out of Russia in protest, many Chinese companies have stayed there, taking a cue from Beijing's stance of refraining from criticism of Moscow over the invasion.

DJI is the world's largest maker of consumer and industrial drones.

8:30 p.m.: Germany's vice chancellor says his country has come "very, very close" to independence from Russian oil and an embargo on deliveries would now be manageable, The Associated Press reports.

Germany, which has Europe's biggest economy, has said so far that it aims to end Russian oil imports by the end of this year.

Russian gas imports, however, are a bigger issue for Germany. Berlin has said that it will need longer to do without gas supplies from Russia.

7:59 p.m.: Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda urged German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to supply Ukraine with Leopard battle tanks, adding that Germany should speed up the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.

"I am not in the position of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. I can only say what I would do in his place: I would deliver tanks," Nauseda was quoted by Funke media group as saying on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, Germany announced its first delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, after weeks of pressure at home and abroad.

7:23 p.m.: Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday dismantled a huge Soviet-era monument in the center of Kyiv meant to symbolize friendship between Russia and Ukraine, a response to Moscow's invasion, Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.

The statue was underneath a giant titanium "People's Friendship Arch," erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union, Reuters reports.

As a crane lifted the monument off its moorings and gradually lowered it to the ground, a crowd of around 100 people cheered and shouted "Glory to Ukraine" and other slogans.

6:48 p.m.: India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) is struggling to find a vessel to ship 700,000 barrels of crude from Russia's Far East, in a growing sign that complex trades involving one of Moscow's biggest partners are being interrupted by Western sanctions, sources say.

Several Indian companies including ONGC have stakes in Russian oil and gas assets, and India has been buying more Russian crude since Moscow invaded Ukraine, snapping up the popular Urals crude grade, while other buyers have shunned Russian exports, Reuters reports.

However, Moscow's ability to ship that grade, which requires vessels that can break through ice, is becoming harder because shippers don't want to risk their reputations and the increasing difficulty for Russian assets to find insurance coverage.

6:22 p.m.: The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on six people it described as Russian military intelligence officers who had conducted cyberattacks affecting critical U.S. infrastructure, Reuters reports.

The six officers work in a cyber-focused unit of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and were involved in a 2017 global malware attack that infected the computers of several private U.S. entities, including a hospital system, the U.S. State Department said.

The 2017 "NotPetya" cyberattack crippled parts of Ukraine's infrastructure and damaged computers in countries around the globe, including France, Germany, Italy and the United States, causing billions of dollars in estimated damage.

Russia denies any involvement in the incident.

5:50 p.m.: The Ukrainian city of Lviv has become a temporary home to thousands of Ukrainians as they fled the fighting after Russia invaded on February 24.

So, too, has Liv become a refuge for thousands of pets, domestic dogs and cats, that have been lost or abandoned since Russia attacked.

In one of the shelters where animals are taken from war zones, 150 dogs and almost 200 cats are currently being looked after. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Current Time has the story.

5:21 p.m.: Thanks at least partly to the censorship within Russia, President Vladimir Putin has the "political space" to end his invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

"Given the massive Russian backing for what he is doing, given the apparent obliviousness of the Russian media about what is really happening in Ukraine, the paradox is that Putin has far more political space to back down (and) to withdraw," Johnson told TalkTV, Agence France-Presse reports.

As a result, Putin could tell the Russian people that the operation launched in Ukraine has been "accomplished," and that it has been "technically a success," Johnson said.

4:42 p.m.: Officials in Poland and Bulgaria said Tuesday that Russia is suspending their countries' natural gas deliveries after they refused to pay for their supplies in Russian rubles.

The governments of the two European Union and NATO members said Russian energy giant Gazprom informed them it was halting the gas supplies starting Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.

The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that "unfriendly" foreign buyers would have to pay the state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of dollars and euros.

4 p.m.: Canada will change its sanctions law so that seized and sanctioned foreign assets can be redistributed as compensation to victims or to help in rebuilding a foreign state from war, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said, Reuters reports.

Canada is among a number of countries to have imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a "special operation."

The changes that Canada aims to bring to its sanctions law will mean that funds or property seized from Russia could be paid out to help rebuild Ukraine or to those impacted by Russia's invasion.

3:15 p.m.: When 10-year-old Zahar Shvets fled Mariupol, he could not leave behind his beloved pet parrot, Sonic. Now, along with his mother, Halyna, they have found sanctuary in Montenegro after the owner of an apartment reached out on social media, saying that her own memories of the 1990s Balkan wars prompted her to provide them accommodation. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

2:30 p.m.: Thousands of domestic dogs and cats have been lost or abandoned since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24. One of the shelters where animals are taken from war zones is in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where 150 dogs and almost 200 cats are currently being looked after. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

2:14 p.m.: With the backdrop of Russia's war in Ukraine, an increasing number of experts are warning of worldwide food shortages. Some experts say the war will put long-term food security in jeopardy. Azerbaijan's food supply relies heavily on imports from Russia and Ukraine. Officials and analysts agree that basic food prices have risen dramatically during the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Prime Minister Ali Asadov stated at a recent government meeting that food inflation had climbed 18% in the past three months. VOA's Tapdig Farhadoglu and Dilshad Aliyarli have this report.

2:01 p.m.: Russia's President Vladimir Putin says Moscow still hopes to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Ukraine, even as the fighting has continued, The Associated Press reported. Speaking at a Kremlin meeting Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Putin said Ukrainian negotiators have changed their position on the issue of the status of Crimea and separatist territories in eastern Ukraine. Guterres criticized Russia's military action in Ukraine as a flagrant violation of its neighbor's territorial integrity. He also urged Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians trapped at a giant steel mill in Mariupol surrounded by Russian forces. Putin responded by claiming that the Russian forces have offered humanitarian corridors, charging that Ukrainian defenders of the plant were using civilians as shields and not allowing them to leave.

1:56 p.m.: A new phase of the Ukraine war is shaping up in the eastern part of the country, where Russian troops are aiming to overcome early setbacks and pummel Ukrainian forces in a long-distance ground battle. But succeeding with its new war goals will be no simple task for a Russian military that has lost some 15,000 personnel since its February 24 invasion. While far larger than the Ukrainians, the Russian forces are seen by Western and Ukrainian officials as demoralized and increasingly depleted. To find out more about the battles ahead, Radio Free Europe/Radio Libertyspoke with Margarita Konaev, a fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

1:43 p.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the war in Ukraine has already weakened Russia's capability, The Associated Press reported. Austin said after meeting allies and partners at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany Tuesday that, since Russia began the invasion, its land forces have sustained "pretty substantial" casualties, as well as lost a lot of equipment and used a lot of precision-guided munitions. He said that "they are, in fact, in terms of military capability, weaker than when they started, and...it'll be harder for them to replace some of this capability as they go forward because of the sanctions and the trade restrictions that have been placed on them." Austin reiterated that "we would like to make sure, again, that they don't have the same type of capability to bully their neighbors that we saw at the outset of this conflict."

1:35 p.m.: The United States and its allies pledged new packages of ever heavier weapons for Ukraine during a meeting on Tuesday at a German air base, brushing off a threat from Moscow that their support for Kyiv could lead to nuclear war. U.S. officials have switched emphasis this week from speaking mainly about helping Ukraine defend itself to bolder talk of a Ukrainian victory that would weaken Russia's ability to threaten its neighbors, Reuters reported.

1:29 p.m.:
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following with concern reports of new security incidents in the Transnistrian region of Moldova and on Tuesday urged all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions, VOA's U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. The United Nations continues to fully support the OSCE-led Transnistrian Settlement Process in the 5+2 format, based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Moldova, the U.N. Secretary-General's spokesman said.

1:23 p.m.: The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern about the tensions in a Russian-backed separatist region of Moldova, The Associated Press reported. The ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Ukraine "resolutely supports Moldova's territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and condemns attempts to draw the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova into the full-fledged war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine." Trans-Dniester, a strip of land with about 470,000 people, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases about 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, nominally as peacekeepers.

1:14 p.m.: The U.S. Secretary of State said Tuesday that getting military equipment to Ukraine is now happening in "as little as 72 hours" after making the decision, VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reported.

#BreakingNews @SecBlinken said from the moment a decision is made in the US to supply a certain weapon to Ukraine until it ends up in Ukrainian forces' hands -"we are now making it happen in as little as 72 hours."

β€” Cindy Saine (@cindysaine) April 26, 2022

1:10 p.m.: From "When Putin leaves" or "When Putin dies," to "We need to throw more powerful weapons in there," or "Ukraine should be completely wiped off the face of the Earth," Moscow residents shared with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty their ideas of when they think the military confrontation with Ukraine will end.

12:25 p.m.: Two U.N. agencies are launching multi-billion-dollar appeals to assist the soaring number of refugees from Ukraine and people displaced inside the country. VOA's Lisa Schlein has this story.

12:16 p.m.: Russia was removed Tuesday as host of the 2023 world championship in men's ice hockey that was to be played in Vladimir Putin's home city of St. Petersburg, The Associated Press reported.Citing "concern for the safety and well-being of all participating players, officials, media and fans," the International Ice Hockey Federation announced the decision after its ruling council met.

12:10 p.m.: One of the most famous anti-war protesters in St. Petersburg is 77-year-old artist Yelena Osipova, who is known by many as "the conscience of the city." Osipova openly expresses her views even though more than 15,000 people have already been detained in Russia for participating in peaceful protests. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

11:56 a.m.: Nuclear engineer Liudmyla Kozak was part-way through a 12-hour overnight shift at the defunct Chornobyl plant when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and workers heard loud explosions from the edge of the so-called exclusion zone around the site. The workers were about to witness the most dramatic events at the plant since the 1986 nuclear disaster, whose 36-year anniversary was marked by a vigil on Tuesday. "They captured us, then let us return to our work stations after long negotiations," said Kozak. As days went by, the Ukrainian authorities and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly called for the release of the exhausted staff, who operate radioactive waste facilities. Kozak said Russian troops used a facility on the plant's territory as a base for attacks closer to Kyiv, which is 62 miles from the plant. Reuters has this story.

11:48 a.m.: The International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted a video clip of Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaking with reporters at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant Tuesday. He said, "there is a lot of work to be done after the occupation of this plant" by Russian forces in February and March. He said his team has been working with the Ukrainian regulator, and that they expect to assess the situation, to do some repair work, and to plan ahead for more activities.

.@IAEAorg is here in #Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant to deliver equipment, conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguards monitoring systems. #Ukraine updated the IAEA on the current nuclear and radiation safety, and security situation of πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ nuclear installations. pic.twitter.com/Z54I0YhjRF

β€” Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) April 26, 2022

11:40 a.m.: Ukrainian farmers in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia which borders the frontline of the military conflict with Russia are now wearing body armor to plough their fields, Reuters reported.A week after the war started, grad rockets began falling right next door to the fields where contract farmer Yuri worked. He now drives a tractor in a bulletproof vest and a ballistic helmet provided by his employer - kit he says he is used to from time spent doing military service. Farmers in the surrounding fields are following suit. Although shelling in the area has increased in recent weeks, Yuri, 41, and his colleague Oleksii are determined to plough the fields this spring.

11:34 a.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Tuesday after hosting defense talks involving more than 40 countries, calling the meeting "productive" and saying "We're all determined to help Ukraine win today and build strength for tomorrow." He said allies will now hold monthly meetings to coordinate aid to Ukraine, adding "We don't have any time to waste...We've got to move at the speed of war." Addressing the possibility of more nuclear threats from Russia, he said "We certainly will do everything in our power...to make sure it doesn't spin out of control" and "Nobody wants to see a nuclear war. Nobody can win it. It's unhelpful and dangerous to rattle sabers." VOA's National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin monitored Austin's remarks and shared the details on Twitter.

Happening now: @SecDef Lloyd Austin calls talks at #Ramstein Air Base, #Germany "productive""We're all determined to help #Ukraine win today & build strength for tomorrow" pic.twitter.com/opsok2qfwW

β€” Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) April 26, 2022

11:29 a.m.: The Russian military has warned it could strike Ukrainian "decision-making centers" in the Ukrainian capital and said it wouldn't be stopped by the possible presence of Western advisers there, The Associated Press reported. The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday accused the U.K. of making statements encouraging Ukraine to use Western weapons to carry out strikes on Russian territory. It directly pointed at U.K. Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey, who told Times Radio that it was "not necessarily a problem" if Ukraine's British-donated weapons were used to hit sites on Russian soil. The Russian military so far has avoided striking presidential, government and military headquarters in Kyiv during its campaign in Ukraine.

11:21 a.m.: The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday posted a message on Twitter commemorating the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and noted - in the context of the current Russian military assault on Ukraine - that "disregard for nuclear safety in Ukraine is extremely reckless."

On the 36th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, we recognize the extraordinary bravery and endurance of the plant's workers who were unable to leave for nearly a month after πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί forces seized the facility on Feb. 24. πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί disregard for nuclear safety in πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ is extremely reckless. pic.twitter.com/ObMSgbrM8F

β€” U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) April 26, 2022

11:13 a.m.: The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency says it was possible that an accident could have occurred when Russian troops seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant recently, The Associated Press reported. Russian forces moved into the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone in February, and withdrew in March. Russian forces continue to hold a working power plant in Zaporizhzhia. Speaking on a visit to the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant Tuesday, on the 36th anniversary of the meltdown there, Rafael Mariano Grossi said "Clearly, the physical integrity of one nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, was compromised, we also had situations where the external power was interrupted including here (Chernobyl) so there were a number of events that were compromising the normal operations of any nuclear power facility," Grossi said.

11:02 a.m.: Global food and fuel price shocks linked to the Russia-Ukraine war are set to last until at least the end of 2024 and raise the risk of stagflation, the World Bank said in its latest Commodities Market Outlook report. In its first comprehensive analysis of the war's impact on commodity markets, the bank, which provides loans and grants to low- and middle-income countries, said the world faces the biggest commodity price shock since the 1970s. It is being aggravated, it said, by restrictions in food, fuel and fertilizer trade that are exacerbating already elevated inflationary pressures around the world, Reuters reported.

10:32 a.m.:
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reading an opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, said his recent trip to Ukraine's capital Kyiv with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin left an "indelible impression," VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reported. Blinken said in Kyiv, they saw the signs of a vibrant city coming back to life, people walking, sitting and eating outside. "The Ukrainians have won the battle for Kyiv," he said.

10:26 a.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the world was galvanized against Russia's two-month-old invasion of Ukraine as he hosted defense talks at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Tuesday involving over 40 countries, Reuters reported."Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here," Austin said at the start of talks. U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned that Ukraine needed more security assistance to help it defend against an unfolding and potentially decisive Russian onslaught in the east. He said the coming weeks were "critical." "Time is not on Ukraine's side," Milley said during closed-door remarks provided to reporters traveling with him. "The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room." Milley added: "The Ukrainians will fight. We need to make sure they have the means to fight."

10:18 a.m.: The International Atomic Energy Agency posted a message on Twitter Tuesday commemorating International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. The IAEA's chief is in Ukraine this week "to lead the IAEA's first full-fledged assistance mission of safety, security and safeguards experts to the country," according to an IAEA statement. "The team will arrive at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on Tuesday to deliver equipment, conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguards monitoring systems," it said.

Tuesday is International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. Amid the war in Ukraine, the safety & security of nuclear power plants is more important than ever. Get updates from @iaeaorg: https://t.co/e4ajjPqU6w pic.twitter.com/V05mNDs3Wv

β€” United Nations (@UN) April 26, 2022

10:12 a.m.: The powerful secretary of Russia's Security Council said on Tuesday that Western and Ukrainian government policy was leading towards the break-up of Ukraine, Reuters reported.The comments from Nikolai Patrushev amounted to a warning that Russia's war in Ukraine could lead to a carve-up of the country, for which Moscow would seek to pin the blame on its opponents. His comments, nearly nine weeks into the war, provided the latest indication that Moscow - despite saying at the outset that it had no intention to occupy Ukraine - is set on breaking up the country.

9:50 a.m.:

⚑️Putin tells Erdogan that Russia already captured Mariupol, no more fighting in city.Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said that Kyiv should give Ukrainian defenders blocked on the territory of Azovstal steel plant in besieged Mariupol "an order to lay down their arms."

β€” The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 26, 2022

9:46 a.m.: As Russian forces tightened their siege of Mariupol and missiles rained down, Mykhailo Puryshev drove into the city six times last month to evacuate its citizens, somehow surviving despite his red van being all but destroyed. The 36-year-old Ukrainian, who once ran a nightclub in the city, said he evacuated more than 200 people on his six perilous trips and others began to join him in convoy into his hometown. Reuters has this story.

9:28 a.m.: Ukrainian officials were reporting more civilian deaths as Russian forces stepped up attacks Tuesday, The Associated Press said. Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai noted three people died after Russian shells hit a residential building in Popasna. Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko of the neighboring Donetsk region said two people were killed and six wounded in the region. To the north in Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said shelling of civilian areas killed three people and wounded seven more. Further south, regional authorities in Zaporizhzhia said a missile strike killed at least one person and wounded another. The U.N. human rights office said Tuesday it has counted 2,729 people killed and 3,111 injured in fighting since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, though that is likely to understate the real toll.

9:01 a.m.: Gallup released polling dataTuesday indicating that Americans widely favor admitting up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the country, a policy the U.S. government is pursuing. It said 78 percent of those polled between April 1-19 favor the move, the highest level of support for any refugee situation Gallup has polled on. "Americans' approval today for admitting Ukrainian refugees is widespread, with large majorities of all major demographic subgroups -- by gender, age, education and region -- in favor of the proposal," Gallup said in a statement. "Support for admitting Ukrainian refugees is also bipartisan with 92% of Democrats, 79% of independents and 61% of Republicans approving," the polling organization noted.

8:42 a.m.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday dismissed Kyiv's proposal to hold peace talks in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and said it was too early to talk about who would mediate any negotiations. Lavrov, speaking after a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, said Russia was committed to a diplomatic solution via talks on Ukraine, Reuters reported.

8:33 a.m.: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Russia's foreign minister on Tuesday that he is ready to fully mobilize the organization's resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol. "Thousands of civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and many have evacuated," Guterres told a news conference with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "The United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol," he said, proposing coordinated work with the Red Cross to allow those holed up inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to leave. Speaking about reports of possible war crimes in Ukraine, Guterres said he was concerned, and that they required an independent investigation, Reuters reported.

8:20 a.m.: Ukrainian forces in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol say that Russia launched 35 airstrikes overnight on the steel plant where they are based, injuring civilians there, the Kyiv Independent reported Tuesday.

8:12 a.m.: A Moscow court has ordered the seizure of $7 million worth of Google's property and funds in Russia, news agencies said, in a lawsuit concerning restrictions the U.S. tech firm has placed on the YouTube channel of a prominent television firm. Alphabet Inc.'s Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported. YouTube, which has blocked Russian state-funded media globally, is under heavy pressure from Russia's communications regulator and politicians. Russia has blocked some other foreign internet firms, including Meta Platforms Inc.'s Facebook and Instagram, as it battles to control information flows after sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24. YouTube remains available for now.

8:01 a.m.: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, The Associated Press reported. The call comes in the wake of Turkish diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis over Russia's war in Ukraine, including by hosting Ukrainian and Russian negotiators for talks in Istanbul late last month. Talks stalled after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of committing war crimes. Putin later said peace efforts were at a dead end. Ankara, which maintains close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has presented itself as a neutral broker to end the fighting.

7:57 a.m.: Russia already has a weakened military and is in a weakened state after its war on neighboring Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Tuesday before a meeting of NATO allies and partners. "They are a weaker military. They are a weaker state right now they are and again further isolating themselves," Kirby said in an interview with CNN. "We want Russia not to be able to threaten their neighbors again in the future." He added, "Its economy is in tatters. Its military has been depleted in many ways, not completely, but certainly they have suffered casualties and they have suffered losses in this invasion of Ukraine." Kirby did not give further details on his assessment of the state of Russia's military, Reuters reported.

7:43 a.m.: Germany's defense minister says her country will enable the delivery of self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht made the announcement at a U.S.-hosted meeting on arming Ukraine at the United States' Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to the text of her remarks Tuesday provided by her ministry. Lambrecht also reiterated plans for eastern European allies to send Soviet-era material to Ukraine, and then have Germany fill the resulting gaps. She said Germany is working together with the U.S. to train Ukrainian troops on artillery systems on German soil.

7:21 a.m.: Ukraine's state-run atomic energy company said Russian missiles flew at low altitude over Europe's largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, and reiterated warnings that Russia's invasion could lead to a "nuclear catastrophe," Reuters reported.

Energoatom said cruise missiles had flown over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during an air strike which local authorities said hit a commercial building in the city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least one person. "Missiles flying at a low altitude directly over the site of the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant), where there are 7 nuclear facilities with a huge amount of nuclear material, poses huge risks," Petro Kotin, Energoatom's acting chief, said.

Meanwhile, Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was due to visit the Chornobyl nuclear power plant on Tuesday, the anniversary of the explosion and fire there on April 26, 1986. Grossi is leading a team of nuclear safety and security experts to Ukraine this week to "deliver equipment, conduct radiological assessments, and restore safeguards monitoring systems," according to the IAEA.

7:05 a.m.:

#Ukraine - On the eastern front, Ukraine struggles to keep up morale. #BohodaroveπŸ“Έ @YasuyoshiChiba #AFP pic.twitter.com/5xwEW5HnbL

β€” AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) April 26, 2022

6:53 a.m.: Shoulder-fired Stinger missiles are in hot demand in Ukraine where they have successfully stopped Russian assaults from the air, but U.S. supplies have shrunk and producing more of the anti-aircraft weapons faces significant hurdles. Challenges include complications related to ramping up production, reluctance by the U.S. to redirect valuable manufacturing capacity to decades-old technology, and fears among defense firms that they would be stuck with unwanted arms when the Ukraine war winds down, according to interviews with U.S. officials and defense firms, Reuters reported.

6:47 a.m.:
A top British government official says Russia is making "unsound" military decisions because of President Vladimir Putin's desire to secure some kind of victory in Ukraine by May 9, when Russia marks its victory in World War II, The Associated Press reported.

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said Tuesday that Russian forces were "giving away whatever advantage they may have won" by launching an offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region before enough troops were assembled. He told Sky News that Putin's "desire to stand there on the steps of the Kremlin on May 9 and be a hero, means that thousands of Russian lives are going to be lost and the Russians are going to hand over the numerical advantage that they should have."

Heappey also rejected Russia's claim that NATO is provoking Russia by arming Ukraine, calling accusations of aggression by the alliance "utter nonsense."

6:38 a.m.: Poland is imposing sanctions on 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, the interior minister said on Tuesday, as it seeks to increase pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Poland this month passed a law allowing it to freeze the assets of Russian entities and ban imports of coal from Russia, above and beyond sanctions imposed jointly by European Union countries, Reuters reported.

6:21 a.m.: Moldova's government convened a special security meeting as the Transdniester region went on "high alert" Tuesday following more incidents there, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. President Maia Sandu has convened Moldova's Supreme Security Council after authorities in separatist Transdniester claimed that two radio relays were damaged by blasts and a military unit was targeted in the latest alleged incidents in the Moscow-backed territory amid rising tensions in the region, which borders war-torn Ukraine. Sandu is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. local time (1200 GMT/UTC) on Tuesday. The Kremlin, meanwhile, said it was closely following events in Transdniester.

6:17 a.m.: Three Russian pilots suspected of bombing civilian buildings in the Kharkiv and Sumy regions are among at least seven Russian military personnel that Kyiv is preparing war crimes charges against, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office told Reuters. It said the other individuals include two operators of a rocket launcher who allegedly shelled settlements in the Kharkiv region and two army servicemen suspected of murdering a Kyiv area resident and raping his wife. The prosecutor's office said it had notified the individuals that they are suspects and the investigations are ongoing, adding no charges had been filed with the court. It didn't name the suspects or provide evidence to support the allegations. It said some of the suspects were held as captives, without specifying where, while other charges were being prepared in absentia.

6:05 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that he wants to do "everything possible to end the war as soon as possible and to do everything possible to minimize the suffering of the people."

Citing the impacts on "vulnerable populations in other parts of the world," Guterres said the war is impacting food, energy and finance with price increases accelerating amid the conflict. Lavrov accused Western countries of flouting the principles of multilateralism in favor of a unilateral approach to the world.

5:30 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General was set to meet with Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday as part of a diplomatic push that includes a scheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday.

"Ultimately, the end goal is to have a halt to fighting and to have ways to improve the situation of the people in Ukraine, lessen the threat that they're under and provide humanitarian aid towards them," Guterres spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

Ahead of Guterres's trip, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on senior Russian officials to ensure safety for civilians in Mariupol as part of the port city is now under Russian forces. "Russian forces now occupying most of Ukraine's southeastern port city of Mariupol should ensure that civilians remaining in the city can leave in safety to Ukraine-controlled territory if they choose," HRW said in a statement on April 26.

5:15 a.m.: The U.N. refugee agency said it expects the conflict could eventually drive 8.3 million people to flee Ukraine. So far, nearly 5.3 million refugees have left the country since Russia invaded in late February, with more than 2.9 million going to Poland.

5:00 a.m.: The U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Tuesday that her country plans to send additional ambulances and fire engines to Ukraine to assist civilians impacted by Russia's invasion.

Appalled by Russia's intentional targeting of innocent civilians in Ukraine. Today @BorisJohnson and I have announced the UK is funding frontline medical expertise and donating more ambulances to bring life-saving care to the people of Ukraine.https://t.co/nzefZInTw4

β€” Liz Truss (@trussliz) April 26, 2022

4:50 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia and Belarus will hold joint drills of their air forces and air defense forces in Belarus, Minsk's defense ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. The drills are said to take place from April 26 to 29, the ministry added.

4:30 a.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of more than 40 countries to discuss security assistance to Ukraine, saying the aim was to "help Ukraine to win the fight against Russia's unjust invasion and to help build up Ukraine for tomorrow's challenges." Lloyd added that Russian President Vladimir Putin "never imagined the whole world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely." The meeting at Ramstein Air base in Germany follows Lloyd's trip, along with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to Kyiv to hear from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about what his country needs.

3:30 a.m.: Police in the Moldovan separatist region of Transnistria say two explosions on Tuesday morning in a radio facility close to Ukrainian border knocked two powerful antennas out of service, The Associated Press reported.

The incident occurred in a small town of Maiac roughly 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the border with Ukraine, according to the region's Interior Ministry. It comes just a day after several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region's capital. No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said.

Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases about 1,500 troops there nominally as peacekeepers, but concerns are high that the forces could be used to invade Ukraine. A senior Russian military official, Rustam Minnekayev, said last week that Russian forces aim to take full control of southern Ukraine, saying such a move would open the way to Transnistria.

2:30 a.m.: British armed forces minister James Heappey said Tuesday he did not think there was an imminent threat of escalation in the war in Ukraine, dismissing comments by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as bravado, according to Reuters.

Earlier Lavrov told the world not to underestimate the considerable risks of nuclear conflict, and said NATO's supply of weapons to Ukraine "in essence" meant that the Western alliance was engaged in a proxy war with Russia. "Lavrov's trademark over the course of 15 years or so that he has been the Russian foreign secretary has been that sort of bravado. I don't think that right now there is an imminent threat of escalation," Heappey told BBC Television.

"What the West is doing to support its allies in Ukraine is very well calibrated ... Everything we do is calibrated to avoid direct confrontation with Russia."

1:40 a.m.: Reuters reported that the European Union aims to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds by the end of the year and to zero by the end of 2027, the bloc's Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told Il Messaggero daily in an interview published on Tuesday.

Gentiloni also told the paper that the EU would cut its own growth estimates for 2022 from a previous target of 4%, adding however that it is too early to say if the slowdown will lead to a stagnation. EU will release its Spring Forecast on May 16, Reuters added.

1:30 a.m.: Russia's invasion of Ukraine, one of the world's largest exporters of wheat, has led to bread prices soaring in importing countries around the world. Zimbabwe is one of the countries affected by the war in Ukraine and the Grain Millers Association of in the country has warned of possible bread shortages after Ukraine was forced to suspend shipping. For VOA, Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare, Zimbabwe.

1:10 a.m.: Ukraine's Antonov An-225 Mriya, a cargo-lift plane with an 88-meter wingspan and the largest of any aircraft in operation, mauled by Russian blasts on April 8 has now be honored with a new stamp, the country's postal service said.

The plane β€” Mriya means "dream" in Ukrainian β€” was once a source of national pride but it was reported destroyed on the fourth day of the fight for the airport according to the Agence France-Presse. The stamp was designed by 11-year-old Sofia Kravchuk, who participated in a competition before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the postal service said.

Ukrposhta plans to soon issue a postmark called "the Ukrainian dream (mriya)," dedicated to Mriya, the world's largest airplane destroyed by the RussiansThis illustration was created before the war by an 11-year old Sophia Kravchuk from the Volyn oblast pic.twitter.com/2MdVcaceTk

β€” Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) April 26, 2022

1:00 a.m.: Britain's defense ministry said Russian forces are "likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions" in eastern Ukraine. A ministry statement said the eastern city of Kreminna "has reportedly fallen" and that Russian forces are moving toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 26 April 2022 Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/agUoc4mRcjπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ #StandWithUkraine πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ pic.twitter.com/vnxIPbDJOZ

β€” Ministry of Defence πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ (@DefenceHQ) April 26, 2022


12:30 a.m.: The United States is planning to host dozens of countries in Germany on Tuesday for talks focused on arming Ukraine. Nike Ching reports.

12:00 a.m.: In the highest-profile U.S. visit since the war began, two of President Joe Biden's top Cabinet members visited Ukraine's capital to offer President Volodymyr Zelenskyy another large arms package and to announce a new top U.S. diplomat β€” as Russia continues its deadly advance. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports.



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