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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 28

By VOA News April 28, 2022

Recap of April 28:

FIGHTING
* Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post that authorities were gathering details about possible casualties after two explosions rocked a central district of Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Thursday evening.
* A blast in a residential neighborhood injured three on Thursday in Zaporizhzhya, a strategic city between areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and the rest of the country.
* A senior U.S. defense official on Thursday said that there are now 92 Russian battalion tactical groups inside Ukraine and that Russia is making "slow and even...incremental progress" in the eastern Donbas region, though there has been "continued pushback by the Ukrainians."

HUMANITARIAN
* U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after talks in Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Thursday that his organization was doing all it could to enable the evacuation of a steel plant where fighters and civilians are holed up in the city of Mariupol.
* Russia has handed over 33 Ukrainian soldiers, including 13 officers, in an exchange of prisoners of war with Ukraine.
* Rape accounts have proliferated in Ukraine as reports of abuses by Russian troops have increased, although much of the war zone is still difficult to access.
* Ukraine's prosecutor general says that 10 Russian soldiers who tortured civilians in the town of Bucha have been identified.

DIPLOMACY
* President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for $33 billion to support Ukraine - a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war against Russia - as well as new legal tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs.
* U.S. President Joe Biden is rejecting the idea that Russia's war in Ukraine could grow into a larger proxy conflict between Russia and the United States and NATO allies that may even bring the world closer to nuclear confrontation.

ECONOMY
* Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act which it said increased the threat to global food security posed by disruptions to spring sowing and the blocking of Ukrainian ports during the war.
* Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who holds this year's Group of 20 (G-20) presidency, underscored his country's support for Ukraine but did not confirm President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's earlier statement indicating he has been invited to the economic forum's November summit in Bali.
* US aid package to Ukraine includes $500 million for US farmers to grow more food crops, especially wheat.

NUCLEAR
* Radiation levels in a part of Chornobyl's exclusion zone where Russian troops dug trenches in the highly contaminated soil are elevated but still well within the safe range, the U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief said.

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

8:22 p.m.: For the first season in over a decade, Indian farmer Rajensingh Pawar is selling his new wheat crop to private traders instead of the state stockpiler, as a global wheat price rally gives India's suppliers a rare profitable export window, Reuters reports.

Strong demand following Russia's invasion of Ukraine means growers are receiving the highest prices ever for their crops, while also easing pressure on the state's grain procurement agency which racks up huge debts as a buyer of last resort.

The boom times have come as Pawar and his peers harvest a record Indian wheat crop, giving growers a rare opportunity to sell the grain just as global prices hold near all-time highs.

7:49 p.m.: Veronika Remisova, Slovakia's deputy prime minister, told a news conference Thursday that Russia has destroyed entire cities and the lives of millions of people in Ukraine and when the war is over Russia should pay to rebuild the country and restore its cultural heritage.

But then she added what she said was "quite an unorthodox view." After the war is over, Russia must not end up isolated and alone like North Korea.

7:15 p.m.: The North Carolina National Guard packed up military equipment to send to Ukraine on Thursday.

▢️ U.S. soldiers load howitzers bound for Ukraine onto aircraft at March Air Reserve Base in California. πŸ‘‰Biden Wants $33 Billion in New Ukraine Aid https://t.co/pcNPLylHox pic.twitter.com/Y45lljieGk

β€” The Voice of America (@VOANews) April 28, 2022

6 p.m.: Russia fired two missiles at the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Thursday evening and one of them struck the lower floors of a 25-story residential building, injuring at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the blasts hit the central Shevchenko district, according to Reuters reports.

The State Emergency Service said one blast damaged an unnamed facility while the other occurred in a residential building nearby. Parts of the ground and first floors were destroyed by fire, it said in an online post.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the officials' accounts of missile strikes.

5:15 p.m.: The Biden administration is asking Congress to approve $500 million for the U.S. farm sector, in a bid to woo domestic wheat producers to double-crop their fields.

The effort comes as global grain prices have surged, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted shipments of corn and wheat. Both countries are key suppliers of wheat and corn.

The request aims to increase the production of U.S. food crops - particularly wheat - which are experiencing a global shortage due to the war, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture official.

4:45 p.m.: The world's largest security body, the OSCE, formally announces the end of its eight-year mission in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports.

The body was the only international organization monitoring the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but was forced out after Russia vetoed an extension of its mission last month

3:45 p.m.: As Russia's war on Ukraine enters its third month, questions have swirled about whether a negotiated solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin is possible. Kenneth Dekleva, a psychiatrist who previously worked with the U.S. State Department, dismisses any speculation that Putin is unstable and therefore impossible to deal with. "He's not crazy. He's a rational actor, and in his mind, he knows exactly what he's doing," says Dekleva. "He is an extremely savvy, highly intelligent and ruthless longtime leader who's now been in power for over 22 years." VOA's Dora Mekouar has this story.

3:10 p.m.: Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act which it said increased the threat to global food security posed by disruptions to spring sowing and the blocking of Ukrainian ports during the war, Reuters reported. Asked about the allegations, the Kremlin said it had no information on the matter. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement that it "strongly condemns the criminal actions of the Russian Federation in the so-called expropriation of crops from farmers in the Kherson region" of southern Ukraine.

2:30 p.m.: As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Maryan Kushnir filmed what he described as cluster bombs falling on the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region, a soldier examined a burned impact area and explained that both sides are mainly using artillery now with little direct contact. The soldier told him that the Russian aim is to demoralize Ukrainian troops, but he said it is not working.

2:13 p.m.: Valerie Bendersky was just seven when he fled to Kazakhstan to escape the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. Nearly 80 years later he has had to abandon his homeland once again, this time in the face of Russian invaders. Bendersky is one of almost 300 Jewish Holocaust survivors from Ukraine who have been given refuge in Israel since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the former Soviet republic two months ago. "I have lived through two tragedies," the 85-year old said, speaking from his new home in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv: "I was fleeing from Hitler then, now I have fled from Putin. Naturally, it is hard," he told Reuters, speaking in Russian.

2:01 p.m.: Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Thursday that Russia struck the capital Kyiv with cruise missiles even though the U.N. Secretary General and the Bulgarian Prime Minister were in the city on official visits.In a message on Twitter, Kuleba called the attack a "heinous act of barbarism." Earlier Thursday, the mayor of Kyiv said authorities were still gathering information about potential casualties and damage caused during the two blasts.

1:51 p.m.: A court in Moscow has fined Twitter for failing to delete content the government deems illegal amid Russia's crackdown on social-media networks. The Magistrate Court of the Taganka district ruled on Thursday that Twitter must pay 3 million rubles ($40,000) for failing to take down materials with instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails, propagating the Nazi swastika, and offending Russia and its national anthem and flag.

1:47 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after talks in Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Thursday that his organization was doing all it could to enable the evacuation of a steel plant where fighters and civilians are holed up in the city of Mariupol, Reuters reported. "At the present moment I can only tell you we are doing everything we can to make it happen," he said after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy said: "I trust and believe - just as many relatives of those people who are blocked in Azovstal [steel plant] do - that the Secretary-General and we will be able to have a successful result." Earlier Thursday Guterres visited three towns outside of Kyiv which Russian forces once occupied. "Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians," he says in a video clip shared on Twitter.

Wherever there is war, the highest price is paid by civilians, @antonioguterres said today after visiting towns around Kyiv impacted by the war. pic.twitter.com/aL2LHrDqT6

β€” UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) April 28, 2022

1:42 p.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statementThursday after U.S. President Joe Biden requested $33 billion in supplemental funding for aid to Ukraine. "When the House takes up this request, we look forward to a strong, bipartisan vote," she said. "The House is working on every front to support Ukraine. Today, we send to President Biden's desk legislation to revive the consequential Lend-Lease initiative that turned the tide of World War II and will ensure the efficient delivery of further supplies to Ukraine and other Eastern European nations," she stated. "Yesterday, the House passed new legislation to seize assets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs who are funding this invasion and sell them to fund Ukraine's eventual reconstruction," she added. "Today, and every day, Congress and the Country remain ironclad in our commitment to backing the brave people of Ukraine as they carry on this righteous fight."

1:38 p.m.: Violence has escalated in recent days in and around the Donbas Region as Russia's invasion of Ukraine entered what the Kremlin called a new "phase." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty compiled this photo essay on the fight for eastern Ukraine.

1:33 p.m.: Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post that authorities were gathering details about possible casualties after two explosions rocked a central district of Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Thursday evening. Reuters eyewitnesses had earlier reported the sound of two blasts in the city.

1:29 p.m.:

⚑️⚑️ Two loud explosions heard in central Kyiv. Smoke is rising above the city center. Explosions can indicate either that a missile hit the city, or that it was intercepted by air defense.

β€” The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 28, 2022

1:26 p.m.: A blast in a residential neighborhood injured three on Thursday in Zaporizhzhya, a strategic city between areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and the rest of the country. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.

1:04 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Thursday, in opening remarksbefore the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, said: "This brutal war of aggression being committed by Russia against Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the power and purpose of American diplomacy." He added: "The budget request that you have before you actually predates the crisis, but fully funding it is critical to ensuring that Russia's war in Ukraine is a strategic failure for the Kremlin and also serves as a powerful lesson for those who might consider following the same path."

12:52 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden is rejecting the idea that Russia's war in Ukraine could grow into a larger proxy conflict between Russia and the United States and NATO allies that may even bring the world closer to nuclear confrontation, The Associated Press reported. At an event at the White House where Biden asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in aid to Ukraine, the president said Thursday that the idea of a larger proxy war was concerning but "not true." He blamed Russian authorities for exaggerating such speculation, saying "it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure" with the invasion of Ukraine.

12:47 p.m.: Residents of the village of Yahidne in Ukraine's northern Chernihiv region say that over 300 of them were held in a school basement for 28 days in March by Russian forces. They say that they were only allowed out once per day for 20 minutes and that several villagers were shot by soldiers. Correspondent Borys Sachalko with Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this story.

12:36 p.m.: Russia has handed over 33 Ukrainian soldiers, including 13 officers, in an exchange of prisoners of war with Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday. "We are also bringing home 12 civilians," Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Five of the troops exchanged on Thursday had been wounded, she said. Vereshchuk did not say how many Russians were involved in the exchange, Reuters reported.

12:23 p.m.: A senior U.S. defense official on Thursday said that there are now 92 Russian battalion tactical groups inside Ukraine and that Russia is making "slow and even...incremental progress" in the eastern Donbas region, though there has been "continued pushback by the Ukrainians." He said that U.S. security assistance is focused on giving Ukraine systems with which Ukrainian forces are familiar or can be trained on quickly. VOA's National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin monitored the press briefing and shared details on Twitter.

Day 63 of #Russian invasion of #Ukraine: +1,900 missile launches since start of invasion - most of missile / airstrikes vs Ukraine in #Mariupol & #Donbas, per a senior US defense official

β€” Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) April 28, 2022

12:11 p.m.: Two powerful blasts were heard on Thursday in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters. The blasts were heard in the southern part of the city. It was not immediately clear what caused them and whether there were any casualties or damage. Russia has in recent days reported what it says are a series of attacks by Ukrainian forces in Belgorod and other southern regions which border Ukraine, and has warned that such attacks raise a risk of significant escalation. Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but has described the incidents as payback and "karma" for Russia, nine weeks after it invaded its neighbor. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West earlier on Thursday of openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia, and warned it not to "test our patience".

12:05 p.m.: Rape accounts have proliferated in Ukraine as reports of abuses by Russian troops have increased, although much of the war zone is still difficult to access. Now, shaken by reports of rape in Ukraine, Bosnian war crimes survivors are urging Ukrainian women to document everything. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

11:48 a.m.: A British man has been killed in Ukraine and a second is missing, Britain's foreign office said on Thursday. "We can confirm that a British national has been killed in Ukraine and we are supporting their family," a foreign office spokesperson said. "We are aware of a British national who is missing in Ukraine ... we are urgently seeking further information." The foreign office said it was unable to provide any further information, Reuters reported.

11:43 a.m.: Poland's border guard agency says that it has recorded 3 million crossings into Poland from neighboring Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, while there have been 904,000 crossings into Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said Thursday that the number includes people who cross a number of times because, for example, they regularly do shopping in Poland and then go back. Polish authorities say some 1.6 million refugees have applied for and received special ID numbers that will allow them to work and receive free health care and education in Poland.

11:39 a.m.: International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi briefed journalists Thursday on the situation at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, following his return from Ukraine. Radiation levels in a part of Chornobyl's exclusion zone where Russian troops dug trenches in the highly contaminated soil are elevated but still well within the safe range, the U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief said. "There was an increase (in radiation levels) but this increase is still significantly below the authorized levels for workers in an environment with this type of radiation," Grossi told a news conference.

πŸ”΄ LIVE NOW: IAEA Director General @RafaelMGrossi briefs journalists upon his arrival from #Ukraine.πŸŽ₯ Livestream ↓ https://t.co/EjJXzIbtgr

β€” IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) April 28, 2022

11:31 a.m.: The European Commission on Thursday warned buyers of Russian gas they could breach sanctions if they converted gas payments into rubles, as officials struggled to clarify the EU's stance on Moscow's payments scheme, which has sowed confusion in the bloc. Russian gas giant Gazprom cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after they refused to pay for gas in rubles, marking Moscow's toughest response yet to sanctions imposed by the West over the conflict in Ukraine. The escalation follows a decree issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month requiring that countries Moscow deems "unfriendly" must pay for gas in rubles under a new payment scheme, Reuters reported.

11:27 a.m.:
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for $33 billion to support Ukraine - a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war against Russia - as well as new legal tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs, Reuters reported.The vast funding request includes over $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance to the government and $3 billion in humanitarian and food security aid. "We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom," Biden said at the White House. "The cost of this fight - it's not cheap - but caving to aggression is going to be more costly."

10:45 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden delivered remarks regarding "support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia's brutal war" on Thursday morning, speaking from the White House Roosevelt Room. A White House fact sheet published after Biden's address provided more information about his request to Congress for additional funds "to help ensure Ukraine's democracy prevails over Putin's aggression."

10:21 a.m.: Russia's relentless digital assaults on Ukraine may have caused less damage than many anticipated. But most of its hacking is focused on a different goal that gets less attention but has chilling potential consequences: data collection. Ukrainian agencies breached on the eve of the invasion include the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversees the police, national guard and border patrol. A month earlier, a national database of automobile insurance policies was raided. The hacks, paired with prewar data theft, likely armed Russia with extensive details on much of Ukraine's population. The Associated Press has this story.

10:04 a.m.: Weeks after publicly supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov has left his post. Uzbek presidential spokesman Sherzod Asadov said on April 27 that Komilov left the post of foreign minister to move to another job - deputy secretary of the presidential Security Council. Komilov abruptly disappeared from public view immediately after he told lawmakers in a speech on March 17 that Uzbekistan did not recognize the Moscow-backed separatist-controlled districts in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known as the Donbas. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

9:51 a.m.: NATO is ready to maintain its support for Ukraine in the war against Russia for years, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday. He spoke after the Kremlin warned that Western arms supplies to Ukraine, including heavy weapons, posed a threat to the security of the European continent "and provoke instability," Reuters reported. "We need to be prepared for the long term," Stoltenberg told a youth summit in Brussels. "There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years."

9:33 a.m.: Ukrainian fighters in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol said Russian airstrikes hit a military field hospital and killed soldiers, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday.

9:27 a.m.:
Russia is preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters being evacuated from a vast steel works in the southern city of Mariupol because it wants to capture them, the local governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Thursday, according to Reuters.Hundreds of fighters and some civilians are holed up in the Azovstal steel works, their last redoubt in Mariupol. Russian forces have been pummeling the factory after laying siege to Mariupol for weeks. "They [want to] use the opportunity to capture the defenders of Mariupol, one of the main [elements] of whom are the... Azov regiment," Kyrylenko told a briefing, referring to a group of fighters that Moscow has vilified. "Therefore the Russian side is not agreeing to any evacuation measures regarding wounded [Ukrainian] troops."

9:13 a.m.: According to Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, female soldiers and officers make up about 15 percent of Ukrainian army combat forces. Since 2014, more than 30,000 Ukrainian women have become combat veterans. Those numbers have shot up since the Russian invasion. VOA's Mariia Prus has the story.

9:02 a.m.: Ever since Russian forces took the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson in early March, residents sensed the occupiers had a special plan for their town, The Associated Press reported Thursday.Residents believe Russian troops have not yet besieged or terrorized the city - as they did in Bucha and Mariupol - because they are planning to hold a referendum to create a "People's Republic of Kherson" like the pro-Russia breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine. Ballots are already being printed for a vote to be held by early May, Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova warned this month.

8:51 a.m.: Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who holds this year's Group of 20 (G-20) presidency, underscored his country's support for Ukraine but did not confirm President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's earlier statement indicating he has been invited to the economic forum's November summit in Bali. VOA's Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

8:46 a.m.: The European Union should penalize countries that use rubles to pay for Russian gas, Poland's climate minister said, following Moscow's decision to cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to do so, Reuters reported.EU member states appear split on how they can keep paying for gas without breaching European sanctions imposed over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Many nations in Europe remain heavily reliant on Russian energy imports. Poland, one of the EU's staunchest proponents of punitive sanctions against Moscow, says the bloc should ban purchases of Russian gas altogether.

8:39 a.m.: Tensions are rising in the eastern Moldovan region of Transnistria, a de facto separatist region, as authorities there blame Ukraine for a recent series of attacks on government facilities. Kyiv denies this, and observers say the danger is rising hat Russia could use the attacks as an excuse to pen a new front against Ukraine or against Moldova itself. VOA's Ricardo Marquina has this story from the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

8:27 a.m.: Russia on Thursday accused the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) of handing information on the location of Russian and pro-Russian forces to Western and Ukrainian intelligence, Reuters reported. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made the allegation during a briefing with reporters but did not provide evidence for it. She said investigators from the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, which is backed by Russia, would provide additional proof. The OSCE has a monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.

8:18 a.m.: Ukraine's prosecutor general says that 10 Russian soldiers who tortured civilians in the town of Bucha have been identified, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday.

⚑️ Prosecutor General: Ukraine identifies 10 Russian soldiers who tortured civilians in Bucha.According to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine identified 10 Russian soldiers from Russia's 64th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade who have looted and tortured civilians in Bucha.

β€” The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 28, 2022

8:11a.m.: The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered in Ukraine's Kyiv region since Russia's invasion and 50-70% of them have bullet wounds from small arms, Kyiv police said on Thursday according to Reuters.Kyiv regional police chief Andriy Nebytov said in a video posted on Twitter that most of the bodies had been found in the town of Bucha, where hundreds of corpses have been discovered since Russian forces withdrew. Ukraine says the civilians found dead in Bucha were killed by Russian forces during their occupation of the area. Reuters has not been able to verify the number of people found dead in Bucha or the circumstances of their deaths.

8:06 a.m.: A series of alleged attacks inside Transdniester, a breakaway region of Moldova, has triggered a stream of people to leave and deepened fears that Russia is bent on expanding its war beyond Ukraine. The alleged attacks - which have caused many to flee, with cars streaming out of Transdniester and heading toward the rest of Moldova - come after recent saber-rattling from a senior Russian military officer. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

8:01 a.m.: Local Ukrainian officials are accusing Russia of stealing over 2,000 works of art from museums in the southern city of Mariupol, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday.

7:51 a.m.: Germany is seeking closer ties with countries that share its democratic values in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and India, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday in Tokyo on his first visit to the region.The Ukraine crisis, which has highlighted Germany's energy reliance on Russia, is spurring Berlin to take security risks more into account in its foreign and trade policy and to strengthen ties with allies, Reuters reported.

7:28 a.m.:
The Director-General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Thursday denounced the killings of two journalists who were found in the Ukrainian towns of Yahidne and Bucha by local residents. Their bodies were found in early April, VOA's Press Freedom Editor Jessica Jerreat reported.

"I deplore the killings of Roman Nezhyborets and Zoreslav Zamoysky," said Director-General Audrey Azoulay in a statement. "I call on the relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances of these killings and bring those responsible to justice," she said. Nezhyborets was a video technician for the television broadcaster Dytynets, and Zamoysky was a freelance contributor to local news media including Information Portal and Hromada Priirpinnia who covered the war on his Facebook page, UNESCO said.

"UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions," the statement said. UNESCO also tracks the number and location of journalists around the world who have been killed.

7:17 a.m.: A Ukrainian soldier holed up in a steel works in Mariupol said his forces would fight for as long as needed and he urged world leaders to find a way to save civilians and the hundreds of troops trapped in Russia's "medieval" siege. Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, 39, a deputy commander of Ukraine's Azov Regiment, spoke in an interview with Reutersfrom the steel works that is the last redoubt for the port city's defenders. Russian forces have reduced large parts of Mariupol to ruins around the vast complex and its underground catacombs, where Palamar and a Ukrainian contingent are making a last stand. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claimed control of the city last week, said the plant should be sealed off so that "not a fly" could escape. "As long as we're here and holding the defense... the city is not theirs," Palamar said.

6:58 a.m.: A majority of U.S. adults say misinformation around Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a major problem, and they largely fault the Russian government for spreading those falsehoods, The Associated Press reported Thursday.A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 61 percent of people in the United States say the spread of misinformation about the war is a major problem, with only 7 percent saying it's not a problem. Misleading social media posts, fake pictures or videos and propagandized headlines have proliferated on websites, from TikTok to Facebook, since Russia's assault on Ukraine began in February.

6:32 a.m.:

#UKRAINE UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (4R) walks during his visit in Borodianka, outside KyivπŸ“Έ Sergei Supinsky #AFP pic.twitter.com/kcMdZxWONW

β€” AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) April 28, 2022

6:28 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to three towns outside Ukraine's capital Kyiv Thursday, visiting sites in Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin. VOA's U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer shared a transcript of remarks made by Guterres to the press at each stop:

Borodianka:
"When I see those destroyed buildings, I must say what I feel. I imagined my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black. I see my granddaughters running away in panic, part of the family eventually killed. So, the war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. And when one sees these situations our heart, of course, stays with the victims. Our condolences to their families, but are emotions are that there is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century. Look at that."

Bucha: (speaking at the Church of the St Andrew the First-Called All Saints)
"When we this horrendous site, it makes me feel how important it is [to have] a thorough investigation and accountability. I am glad that International Criminal Court is seized of the situation and that the prosecutor's office was already here. I fully support the International Criminal Court and I appeal to the Russian Federation to accept to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. But when we talk about war crimes, we cannot forget that the worst of crimes is war itself."

Irpin: (speaking at the destroyed Irpinsky Lipki residential complex)
"This horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately, always true: civilians always pay the highest price. Innocent civilians were living in these buildings. They were paying the highest price for a war for which they had not contributed at all. And this is something everybody should remember, everywhere in the world. Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians."

6:24 a.m.: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has decried the "absurdity" of Moscow's war in Ukraine as Russia steps up its large-scale offensive in the east more than two months after it invaded its neighbor. The UN chief, who arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow the day before, toured several towns just outside Kyiv - including Bucha and Borodyanka - where the corpses of civilians, some showing signs of torture, were found after Russian troops withdrew earlier this month. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

6:21 a.m.: Ukraine's banking system has proven remarkably resilient despite the stresses of the war, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday.

Experts feared that the Ukrainian banking system would collapse in the event of an all-out war.But the system remained functional."For everyone, it is just a miracle," one expert told the Kyiv Independent.https://t.co/4pyshUBrq7

β€” The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 28, 2022

6:16 a.m.: British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday it would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics to cripple their supply of food, fuel and munitions but they were unlikely to use British weapons to do so, Reuters reported.Tensions between Britain and Russia increased this week when Moscow accused London of provoking Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia, saying there would be an immediate "proportional response" if it continued.

Wallace said under international law Ukraine had every right to defend itself. "Part of defending itself in this type of invasion is obviously where Ukraine will go after the supply lines of the Russian army because without fuel and food and ammunition, the Russian army grinds to a halt and can no longer continue its invasion," he told BBC TV.

Wallace said Britain had sent artillery to Ukraine that was being used within Ukraine on Russian forces, but he added that it had not, and was unlikely, to send weapons that could be used for longer-range attacks. Wallace also denied that NATO was locked in a proxy war with Russia but said the West would provide increasing support to Ukraine if the Russian attacks continued. "Sometimes that will include planes and tanks," he told Times Radio.

6:09 a.m.: The International Monetary Fund says the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia "are exacerbating the divergence in recovery prospects for the Middle East and Central Asia." In a report titled Divergent Recoveries in Turbulent Times, the IMF said."Prospects for oil and gas exporters in the Middle East and North Africa have improved, while countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia face a particularly challenging outlook given linkages to Russia and Ukraine."

6:04 a.m.: Human Rights Watch on Thursday warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has worsened the food security crisis in many African countries. "Many countries in East, West, Middle, and Southern Africa rely on Russia and Ukraine for a significant percentage of their wheat, fertilizer, or vegetable oils imports, but the war disrupts global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, increasing already high food prices in the region," HRW said in a statement.Even countries that have few imports from Russia and Ukraine are indirectly impacted by higher world prices for key commodities, the organization said. "Governments and donors should ensure affordable food access in Africa by scaling up economic and emergency assistance and social protection efforts," HRW recommended. "Otherwise, millions of people across the African continent may experience hunger," it warned.

5:59 a.m.: Russia said Thursday that it is worried about increased tensions in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. In a message on Twitter, Russia's Foreign Ministry characterized a series of unexplained explosions this week as "'acts of terrorism aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region."

πŸ’¬#Zakharova: We are concerned about the escalation of tension in #Transnistria. ❗️ We view this as acts of terrorism aimed at destabilising the situation in the region, expect an objective investigation, condemn the attempts to involve Transnistria in the events in #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/z7XG0TyMWM

β€” MFA Russia πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί (@mfa_russia) April 28, 2022

5:51 a.m.: Russia stepped up its assaults on eastern and southern Ukraine Thursday, Reuters reported."The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions," Ukraine's military command said of the situation on the main front in the east.

It said Russia's main attack was near the towns of Slobozhanske and Donets, along a strategic frontline highway linking Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv with the Russian-occupied city of Izyum. The Kharkiv regional governor said Russian forces were intensifying attacks from Izyum, but Ukrainian troops were holding their ground.

Ukraine said there were strong explosions overnight in the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital Russia has captured since the invasion. Russian troops were now shelling the entire surrounding region and attacking towards Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, President Vladimir Zelenskyy's southern home city, Ukraine said.

5:49 a.m.: Al Jazeera, citing Russia's TASS news agency, says air defenses were activated in the Russian city of Belgorod early Thursday.

5:17 a.m.: Reuters reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened "lightning-fast" retaliation against any Western nations intervening on Ukraine's behalf.

"If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast," Putin told lawmakers in St. Petersburg.

"We have all the tools for this, things no one else can boast of having now. And we will not boast, we will use them if necessary. And I want everyone to know that."

His comments came as Russia stepped up attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine on Thursday.

5:01 a.m.: CNN reports that the United States has gotten more than 4,000 applications to sponsor Ukrainians. The Biden administration recently started a streamlined process for Ukrainian refugees and is urging people to use it instead of heading to the U.S.-Mexico border.

4:02 a.m.: Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wants his organization to have access to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the Associated Press reports.

The plant, the largest in Europe, is currently under Russian control. Grossi told the AP the plant needs repairs and that the level of safety at the plant is like a "red light blinking."

3:09 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that Britain's defense secretary, Ben Wallace, speaking to Sky News on Thursday, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin may seek to consolidate any gains in Ukraine.

"I think it's certainly the case that Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives, may seek to consolidate what he's got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014," he said. "Just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country in Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions."

2:04 a.m.: The U.K. defense ministry's latest intelligence update says about 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea "operational zone." Additionally, it says, Russia is unable to replace its lost cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea because the Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships.

1:08 a.m.: Tensions are rising in the eastern Moldovan region of Transnistria, a de facto separatist region, as authorities there blame Ukraine for a recent series of attacks on government facilities. Kyiv denies this, and observers say the danger is rising that Russia could use the attacks as an excuse to open a new front against Ukraine or against Moldova itself. VOA's Ricardo Marquina has the story.

12:48 a.m.: CNN reports that Russian state media says the Kherson region of Ukraine will transition to using rubles from May 1.

12:01 a.m.: The Washington Post reports that Russia has put trained dolphins at the entrance to Sevastopol harbor in Crimea and may be using them to protect a naval base. Recent satellite photos by Maxar Technologies show dolphin pens at the entrance to the harbor, which is a key Black Sea port, the Post reports. A naval analyst said the animals could be used to counter specialist Ukrainian divers trying to enter the port to sabotage Russian warships. Both the U.S. and Russia have previously trained marine mammals for this task, the Post says.

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



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