Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced a preliminary agreement with Russia for the evacuation of around 6,000 civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine on April 20. 56 days into the war, more than five million people have been forced to take refuge abroad, according to the latest figures released by the UN.
Fighting in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbass region is intensifying as Russian forces seek to breach Ukrainian defenses, according to the latest updates from British military intelligence.
As Russian troops push forward with a new offensive across the east of the country, local authorities pressure Moscow to evacuate civilians and President Volodymyr Zelensky urges the West for arms shipments.
The Ukrainian Army in the port city continues to resist in what is considered its last bastion there: the Azovstal steel plant, where dozens of civilians are also found.
These are the main news of the day:
- 07:18 (BOG) Finnish parliament opens debate on NATO membership
Finland’s parliament has opened debate on whether to seek NATO membership after Russia’s war in Ukraine sparked a surge in political and public support for joining the military alliance.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said her country would decide “quite quickly, in a few weeks” whether to finally apply to join the alliance.
Legislators received last week a “white paper” commissioned by the government that evaluated the implications of joining the political-military organization.
The report made no recommendations, but emphasized that without NATO membership, Finland does not enjoy security guarantees despite currently being an allied country.
Finnish media reports that around half of Finland’s 200 parliamentarians now support joining NATO, while only around 12 oppose it.
- 7:03 (BOG) Boris Johnson urges Russia to treat captured Briton with “compassion”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the Russian state to treat Britons captured in the war in Ukraine “humanely and compassionately.”
His remarks came after news broke of the Kremlin forces’ arrest of Aiden Aslin, a Briton who joined the Ukrainian marines.
Johnson added that these are not mercenaries as Moscow has pointed out to foreigners who have joined in support of the Ukrainian forces.
“Although we actively discouraged people from going to that theater of the conflict, I understand that (Aslin) had been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time and his situation was very different from that of a mercenary,” Johnson added.
- 06:41 (BOG) Norway sends 100 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine
The Norwegian government reported that it handed over about 100 French-made Mistral anti-aircraft missiles to Ukrainian forces.
Built in the late 1980s by defense group Matra, which later merged with European missile developer MBDA, the Mistral is a very short-range surface-to-air missile. It can be used in vehicles, boats and helicopters, or be portable.
- 6:23 (BOG) Russia protests ban at Wimbledon tennis tournament
The Kremlin has called the ban on Russian players from this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament in the UK “unacceptable.”
“Since Russia is a strong tennis country, the competitions will be affected by this (…) Making athletes hostage to political intrigues is unacceptable. I hope that the players do not lose their fitness,” said the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in a telephone press conference.
All Russian tennis players are banned from the tournament, including world number two Daniil Medvedev, as well as Belarusians, as punishment for the war launched against Ukraine.
Boris Johnson’s government, through the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, asked on several occasions that Russian athletes had to declare their independence from Vladimir Putin in writing to prevent them from making any kind of gesture in favor of Russia during the event. .
- 06:12 (BOG) Ukraine halts Russian advance on Izyum and Sloviansk
Ukrainian forces stopped an advance of the Russian Army from the city of Izyum, in the northeast, towards nearby Sloviansk, assured the adviser to the President of Ukraine, Oleksiy Arestovych.
“There they have concentrated their forces, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not achieving it,” he said.
Arestovych also said that the Ukrainian military in the besieged city of Mariupol have held on, despite persistent Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant where they are entrenched.
- 6:03 (BOG) UN: More than 5 million Ukrainians have taken refuge in foreign countries
In its latest update on the humanitarian situation, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that the number of people who have fled abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 is now 5,010,971.
Another 7.1 million citizens are displaced within Ukraine, according to the latest assessment by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Figures indicate that more than a quarter of the nation’s population, from 44 million before the conflict, has fled the country or been internally displaced in less than two months.
- 5:41 (BOG) Another Russia ultimatum to Ukraine wins at besieged Mariupol plant
Russia’s latest ultimatum to Ukrainian fighters holding out at the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol to surrender has won again.
Moscow had indicated that it would “once again” offer Ukraine the option to “stop fighting and lay down arms” starting at 2:00 p.m. Moscow time on Wednesday, April 20.
In a statement issued in the morning hours, the Russian Defense Ministry published that its forces opened a humanitarian corridor from the plant “for the withdrawal of the Ukrainian military and militants of nationalist formations” to “voluntarily lay down their arms”, as well as to evacuate civilians.
🇺🇦 “We are probably facing our last days, if not hours.”
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) April 20, 2022
The same offer was made a day before. However, “as of 22:00 (Moscow time) on April 19, 2022, no one used the specified corridor,” the Russian ministry added.
The Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine’s last major stronghold in the strategic city overlooking the Sea of Azov, has been hit with bunker-busting bombs, kyiv said. Local television has broadcast images of hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children, who take refuge in that factory.
- 5:28 (BOG) Ukraine says it has agreed a humanitarian corridor with Russia, in Mariupol
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on her Telegram account that local authorities have agreed on a humanitarian corridor with Russia to evacuate thousands of civilians from the port city of Mariupol, in the southeast of the country.
“We managed to agree in advance on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly (…) Civilians are instructed to gather at 2:00 pm (11:00 am GMT) and then the column will head to Zaporizhzhia through Berdyansk. Vereshchuk,” he stated.
However, the official added that due to the difficult security situation, changes to the route may occur. Therefore, she asked to follow the official announcements.
For his part, the city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said in a television interview that they hope to send 90 buses to the town to evacuate around 6,000 women, children and the elderly.
Boichenko said some 100,000 civilians remained in Mariupol and that tens of thousands had been killed by Russian air and artillery strikes.
With Reuters, AP and local media
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