Russia announces expulsion of 40 German diplomats in tit-for-tat move — as it happened | News | DW | 26.04.2022

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Russia announces expulsion of 40 German diplomats in tit-for-tat move — as it happened

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it has made 40 German diplomatic staff "persona non grata." US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a visit to Kyiv.

USA - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin und Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new US aid to Ukraine after returning to Poland from a trip to Kyiv.

  • Russia declares 40 German diplomatic mission staff 'persona non grata'
  • Blinken, Austin announce aid, diplomatic surge in visit to Kyiv
  • Finland and Sweden reportedly to submit NATO applications jointly in mid-May
  • Missiles reportedly hit five train stations in central and western Ukraine
  • Russia announces ceasefire at Mariupol steel plant, Ukraine says no agreement made

These live updates are now closed. For our latest from April 26, click here

Mariupol authorities say new mass grave found

Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol, said a new mass grave had been identified 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the city.

Several victims were located there, though authorities are trying to identify how many victims are in the unmarked graves.

Over the past several days, satellite photos have shown what appear to be images of mass graves on the outskirts of the city. 

Mariupol has been under siege for two months, with 100,000 civilians remaining trapped in the city. The remaining Ukrainian forces in the city are holding out in a sprawling steel factory. Ukrainian officials have been trying for weeks to secure the safe evacuation of civilians. 

Should Russian forces succeed in completely capturing Mariupol, they will have a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.

Watch video 04:24

Photos suggest mass graves outside Mariupol: DW's Mathias Bölinger

Russian foreign minister warns 'real' danger of third world war developing 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state television that NATO weapons deliveries mean that the alliance is "in essence" engaged in war with Russia through a proxy, adding that Western arms deliveries in Ukraine would be "legitimate targets" for Russian forces. 

"Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once [by Russian forces]. How can it be otherwise?" Lavrov said. "NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war," he added. 

In another interview late Monday, Lavrov vowed peace talks with Ukraine would continue even as he warned of a "real" danger of the conflict in Ukraine escalating into a third world war. 

"The danger is serious, it is real, you can't underestimate it," Lavrov told the Interfax news agency.

The foreign minister also told Russian state television that Moscow wants to reduce the chance of "artificially" elevating the risks of a nuclear conflict.

"This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable," Lavrov said. 

When asked if the current situation in Ukraine was comparable to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Lavrov said that "back then there were actually only a few rules, written rules."

However, Lavrov said that during that time, there were "clear rules of conduct" and a channel of communication between the leaders of the US and Soviet Union that doesn't exist today.

The foreign minister also criticized Ukraine's approach to negotiations following Russia's invasion of the country on February 24. Lavrov accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of "pretending" to negotiate.

He told Russian news agencies the content of peace talks would depend on the military situation and added, "Good will has its limits. But if it isn't reciprocal, that doesn't help the negotiation process."

"We are continuing to engage in negotiations with the team delegated by Zelenskyy, and these contacts will go on," Lavrov said.  

UK defense minister promises armored vehicles with missile launchers

UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the British government believes Russia has lost approximately 15,000 soldiers since Russian forces invaded Ukraine February 24. By contrast, Ukraine has claimed 22,000 Russian troops were killed since the invasion.

Russia has acknowledged only 1,351 military deaths.

Additionally, Wallace said the UK believes Russia lost 60 jets and helicopters, 2,000 armored vehicles and 530 tanks, saying they were either destroyed or captured, some by Ukrainian tractors. 

Ukraine has stated Russian losses of materiel at 181 fighter jets and 154 helicopters, 2,258 military vehicles and 884 tanks.

Wallace added Russia deployed 120 tactical battalion groups during the invasion of Ukraine, amounting to 65% of Russia's total infantry units. Wallace said at least 25% of Russia's ground forces are no longer combat ready.

The UK defense secretary said his country would soon send "a small number" of Stormer armored vehicles equipped with missile launchers.

Watch video 03:55

Security expert: 'Sending arms is neither illegal nor unusual'

European Commission President addresses Russia on India visit

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in New Delhi that Russian aggression in Ukraine is a direct threat to European security.

Speaking at a geopolitical conference, von der Leyen said that Russia was: "Targeting and killing innocent civilians. Redrawing borders by force. Subjugating the will of a free people. This goes against core principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter."

She added that Russia's "unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine" would be a "strategic failure." She said the EU was "doing all we can to help Ukraine fight for its freedom."

Germany wants to secure the grain supply from Ukraine by rail

The German government wants to use rail transport to arrange alternative means of exporting grain from Ukraine.

"I am committed to ensuring that the 20 million tons of grain can be transported to avert a global food catastrophe," Michael Theurer, a Bundestag member with a role at the Transport Ministry, told the German business daily Handelsblatt.

According to Theurer, talks were being held with the Ukrainian railways and other European railways — with Deutsche Bahn also set to play a role. Owing to the blockade of Ukrainian ports, it is not currently possible to export Ukrainian grain by sea.

Both Russia and Ukraine are among the most prolific exporters of wheat on the planet.

On April 23, Ukraine and Poland announced that they would create a joint logistics company to increase the volume of rail transportation of Ukrainian goods to the EU and world markets via Europe.

Russia says Trans-Dniester hit with explosions

Russian state-run media outlets are reporting explosions near a government building in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova, where Russia backs its proxy forces who call themselves separatists.

Trans-Dniester, also referred to as Transnistria in English, is a narrow strip of land on the east bank of the Dniester River, sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova. The breakaway region seceded from Moldova after a brief military conflict in 1992 following the break up of the former Soviet Union.

Earlier, Putin accused the West of "terror" while urging prosecutors to be tough after Russia accused "neo-Nazis" from Ukraine of attempting to assassinate numerous Russian state media personalities and bosses including presenter Vladimir Solovyev and state media head Margarita Simonyan.

Sweden and Finland agree to submit NATO applications

Finnish newspaper Italehti reports Finland and Sweden have agreed to submit NATO applications at the same time during the week of May 16.

Swedish paper Expressen writes that its sources confirm there is an agreement between the two countries. 

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is scheduled to arrive in Stockholm in the middle of that week.

Berlin says Russia's expulsion of diplomats 'not justified'

Germany Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has condemned Russia's announcement that it will expel 40 German diplomatic staff.

The move by Moscow was said to by a symmetrical response to Germany's expulsion of the same number of staff from Russian diplomatic missions earlier this month.

However, Baerbock said the Russian staff expelled from Germany had been spies, rather than diplomats.

"We expected today's step, but it is in no way justified," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

Baerbock said that the 40 Russian diplomats expelled by Berlin "did not serve diplomacy for a single day" while those who were expelled by Russia had "not done anything wrong."

Watch video 02:42

Russia expels German diplomats: Leonie von Hammerstein reports

Russia declares 40 German diplomats 'persona non grata'

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it has declared 40 employees of German diplomatic institutions in Russia "persona non grata."

In a statement, the ministry said it had summoned Germany's ambassador in Moscow and handed him a note. The ministry said it was "a symmetrical response" to the German government's decision to expel 40 Russian diplomats from Germany on April 4.

Moscow's letter of protest said statements made at the time by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock were unacceptable.

Baerbock had spoken of "a significant number of members of the Russian embassy, undesirables who have worked every day here in Germany against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it also objected to "insinuations" Baerbock had made about events unfolding in Ukraine.

An assessment by the German news agency DPA said the number corresponded to about one-third of the German diplomatic corps in Russia.

The RIA news agency also reported that Russia's foreign ministry has said that unfriendly actions against Russians will not go unanswered. It cited the ministry as saying Moscow could seize assets held in Russia as a response.

Greenpeace activists chained their boat to Russian tanker in Norway

Greenpeace activists in Norway have chained their boat to a Russian oil tanker in protest oil imports from Russia.

The aim was to prevent the shipping of thousands of tons of oil to Norwegian ports, Greenpeace Norway said on its website.

The four activists, who held up banners with "Stop fuelling the war" and "Oil fuels war" from three small boats and kayaks, called on the Norwegian government to halt the import of Russian fossil fuels.

"I'm shocked that Norway is operating as a free port for Russian oil, when we know it is financing Russian President Vladimir Putin's war," Frode Pleym, Greenpeace's head in Norway, said.

Pleym is among the activists who chained their boat to the Russian tanker's anchor chain off the Oslofjord terminal.

Norwegian police later said they had arrested 20 Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists who blocked the Russian tanker.

Members of Greenpeace sail next to a Russian tanker as part of a protest against delivering Russian oil to Norway.

Greenpeace members, who had their boat chained to a Russian tanker, held the banners "Stop fuelling the war" and "Oil fuels war"

Estonian PM urges Germany to act now, not later

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has told DW that her country expects Germany to show strong leadership and deter Russian aggression.

The comments come with the German government facing criticism over its reluctance to ban Russian oil and send heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine.

"Our neighbors' problems today are our problems tomorrow," said Kallas. "If we don't help our neighbors when their house is on fire, the fire will also catch your house."

Watch video 02:33

Estonian PM Kaja Kallas: 'Our neighbor's problems today are our problems tomorrow'

Kallas welcomed Germany's commitment to NATO's Article 5 on collective defense. However, she said tough decisions now could reduce the likelihood of an attack against the alliance further down the line.

"Germany has said Article 5 is ironclad and Germany will come to help if necessary, but then it is also important for everybody, including Germany, to make those decisions so that we make NATO stronger — and there will be no need to come to any help at all."

"Of course, gas or oil could be expensive, but freedom is really priceless," Kallas said, adding: "Strong sanctions, hitting hard, would be something that would maybe end this war."

No agreement with Russia on Mariupol corridor — Ukrainian deputy PM

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that Kyiv had not reached any agreement with Moscow on establishing a humanitarian corridor out of the southeastern city of Mariupol.

Russia said it would open a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

"It is important to understand that a humanitarian corridor opens by the agreement of both sides," Vereshchuk said on Telegram. "A corridor announced unilaterally does not provide security, and therefore is not a humanitarian corridor."

Head of Ukrainian Railways: We keep running operations

In an interview with DW, Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said that five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were significantly damaged on Monday after the numerous rocket strikes.

"Today in the morning, the Russians shelled five stations. Some stations were shot twice. Some stations were shelled once and some missiles were blocked by Ukraine’s air defense system," he told DW.

The Russian troops "shelled stations, bridges, tracks and railway stations hundreds of times. And meanwhile, we suffer much. But we keep running operations," Kamyshin said.

Watch video 04:43

Ukraine's rail chief: 'We suffer much, but we keep running operations'

According to Kamyshin, the railway maintains the "lifeline of the country," because the air space above Ukraine cannot be used because of the war. "We don't have airplanes. We have only cars and trains now," he said.

The still-operational rail links in the country have also come into political focus in recent weeks, with various foreign leaders using the trains to visit Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine. 

"All Western leaders who arrived to Ukraine, arrived by train. […] We call it Iron Diplomacy, and we will keep bringing more people to Kyiv. For us, it's important to give the opportunity to those leaders who want to show their support of Ukraine by visiting Kyiv, to travel to Kyiv safe, and travel back safe," Kamyshin said.

Watch video 02:41

Courageous rail workers keep Ukraine running amid war

Biden names new US ambassador to Ukraine

President Joe Biden has named Bridget Brink as the new US ambassador to Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.

Bridget Brink currently represents the United States in Slovakia.

Brink's nomination must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Earlier on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that US diplomats would begin to return to Ukraine starting next week.

Watch video 02:08

US pledges more arms funding for Ukraine

No southern Ukraine secession referendum plans — Russian Foreign Ministry

Russia's foreign ministry has denied claims that Moscow is planning a referendum on the secession of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson.

"I have not heard anything about that," deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told journalists.

Rudenko also said that a face-to-face meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers was not planned at present. Moscow has accused Kyiv of dragging out negotiations and claims to have handed over proposals to Ukraine last week, which Kyiv has denied.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday accused Moscow of planning to "falsify" a referendum in parts of Ukraine's south that are under Russian control after Russia's Central Military District (CFD) command said that Moscow was planning to seize the region.

Watch video 05:00

Demonstrations against Russian referendum plan in Kherson

'Right now I'm talking to you from a bunker' says DW correspondent

DW correspondent Emmanuelle Chaze said that half of the $700 million in military assistance announced by the US will go directly to Kyiv, and half will go to NATO allies that have been supporting Ukraine.

Watch video 03:21

Airstrikes near Lviv: DW's Jan-Philipp Scholz reports

Speaking from the western city of Liviv, Chaze added that $165 million worth of ammunition will be delivered to Ukraine.

Chaze said that the situation in Mariupol is "dire," adding that Ukrainian soldiers and hundreds of civilians are still trapped in the Azovstal steel plant in the city. She added that there would soon be water shortages in the area.

"Right now, I'm talking to you from a bunker because most of the country is on air strike alert," Chaze reported.

"The offensive is continuing. Mariupol is still being shelled," Chaze said. "This is the everyday life here in Ukraine."

Watch video 02:34

US pledges arms funding for Ukraine: DW's Emmanuelle Chaze reports from Lviv

Russia investigates large oil depot fire in Bryansk region near Ukraine

Russia said on Monday it would investigate the cause of a large fire that erupted in the early hours of the morning at an oil storage facility in the city of Bryansk 154 kilometers (96 miles) northeast of the border with Ukraine.

According to Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations, nobody was hurt in the incident.

The ministry said in a statement that the fire had broken out at a facility owned by oil pipeline company Transneft at 2 a.m. Moscow time (23:00 GMT).

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which has denied or not responded to previous suggestions that it has struck targets inside Russia.

Last month, Russia said two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil reservoir in Russia's Belgorod region that borders Ukraine, causing a fire.

Two oil storage facilities on fire in Bryansk, Russia

Two oil storage facilities on fire in the Russian city of Bryansk, just 150 kilometers from the Ukrainian border

Russia announces ceasefire around Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Russia's Defense Ministry said its troops would "unilaterally cease any hostilities" to allow civilians to leave the besieged steel plant Azovstal in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol. The ceasefire is set to begin at 2 p.m. Moscow time (1100 GMT) on Monday.

The ministry said any civilians trapped at the facility could leave in whichever direction they chose.

On April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he cancelled plans to storm the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. He said he wanted the plant to be securely blockaded instead.

However, Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal plant reported heavy shelling and Russian attacks in recent days.

Azovstal is the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the key port of Mariupol.

Germany's Steinmeier meets Ukrainian Holocaust survivors

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Ukrainian Holocaust survivors in Berlin and said that he hoped that refugees in Germany would feel safe from further attacks.

Steinmeier met the survivors during a visit to a care facility in Berlin's eastern neighborhood of Marzahn.

The six Holocaust survivors told Steinmeier stories of their escape from Ukrainian cities, which in some cases lasted several days. The four women and two men were brought to Germany with the help of Jewish organizations.

According to a spokesperson for the president's office, around 70 Holocaust survivors from Ukraine who are in need of serious care have so far been admitted in 11 German cities.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stands alongside Holocaust survivors who fled Russia's invasion of Ukraine

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Holocaust survivors in Berlin who fled Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Russia 'greeted' Ukraine on Easter with missile strikes, Zelenskyy said

In a morning video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia "greeted" Ukraine with missiles strikes over the weekend, when Orthodox Easter was celebrated. The majority of population in both Russia and Ukraine are Orthodox Christians.

"Why was this blow needed at Easter? There is no military threat from which this could protect Russia. This is just a deliberate destruction of life in Ukraine. Destruction that did not stop even on the biggest Orthodox holiday," Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president also spoke about yesterday's visit by top US officials. "Assistance to Ukraine was the number one issue in talks with representatives of the United States of America, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin," Zelenskyy said.

"We share the same understanding with the United States: when democracy wins in one country, it wins all over the world. When freedom is defended in one country, it is defended all over the world," said the Ukrainian president.

In his address, Zelenskyy also mentioned the morning air raids in the Vinnytsia, Rivne, Lviv and Odesa regions. However, he did not provide any information on the rocket attacks reported at train stations in western Ukraine.

Ukraine reports deadly rocket attacks in central Vinnytsia region

Two towns in Ukraine's central Vinnytsia region came under fire on Monday, causing an unspecified number of deaths and injuries, according to local officials.

The cities of Zhmerynka and Koziatyn were struck by "rocket fire," local governor Serhiy Borzov said on Facebook. The attacks reportedly targeted "critical infrastructure" in the region, he said. Both cities are important railway junctions on the route from Kyiv to western Ukraine.

Borzov also said the strikes caused deaths and injuries, but he did not give any numbers.

Railway stations struck by missiles — Ukrainian railway chief

Five train stations in central and western Ukraine have been hit by missile strikes, according to the head of the country's railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin.

"Russian forces are systematically destroying the infrastructure of our railways," Kamyshin said on his Telegram channel.

Kamyshin added that trains are being forced to alter routes and schedules for security reasons.

Reports of missile attacks also emerged in the western city of Lviv and southwestern city of Vinnytsia.

According to Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of the western Lviv region, an explosion occurred on Monday morning at the traction substation of the Krasne railway station as a result of a missile strike.

One missile was destroyed by Ukrainian air defense. The missiles flew to western Ukraine from the southeast, Kozytskyy wrote on Twitter.

He added that the missiles were likely fired from Russian strategic aircraft. He had no information yet about possible victims.

Kyiv needs long-range fires and tanks — US Defense Secretary

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the nature of the fight in Ukraine had changed and that Kyiv now needs long-range fires for both artillery and missiles, as well as tanks.

Austin said that he and Blinken had discussed "security assistance" and "training" with Ukrainian officials. He said that the meeting was to talk about things that would "enable us to win the current fight and also build for tomorrow."

"We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," Austin said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stand in front of US and Ukrainian flags and a golden Ukrainian coat of arms

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to reporters following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Austin is scheduled to go to the Ramstein US Air Base in western Germanyon Tuesday to speak with allies on how best to support Ukraine.

The Secretary of Defense said it is difficult for the US to track what happens to weapons transferred to Ukraine as there are no US forces on the ground, but added that he spoke to Kyiv to make sure weapons were tracked as best as possible.

Russia 'failing' in its war aims — Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press conference following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russia has been "failing" when it came to its war aims in Ukraine, while Kyiv is "succeeding."

"Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine," Blinken said. "That has failed."

Blinken said that Russia's military was underperforming and its economy was "in shambles" due to sanctions and a mass "exodus" from the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boarding a plane

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Poland before making a trip to Kyiv to discuss military assistance to Ukraine with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"A sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin's on the scene," Blinken said, adding that US support for Ukraine will continue until Kyiv sees "final success."

Blinken said that Washington was committed to the return of American diplomats to Ukraine starting next week, and that US President Joe Biden intended to nominate a new ambassador to the country.

Asked about his impression of the situation on the ground, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said "things are beginning to get back to normal" in Kyiv, but noted that "that's in stark contrast to what's going on" in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Russia has made minor advances in some areas — UK Defense Ministry

Britain's defense ministry said in an intelligence update that Moscow has made minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

However, "Russia has yet to achieve a breakthrough" due to insufficient logistical and combat support, the ministry said.

According to the intelligence update, Ukraine's defense of Mariupol has exhausted Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness. The ministry added that the fact that Moscow chose not to attack the Azovstal steelworks means "Russian units remain fixed in the city and cannot be redeployed."

Moscow claimed victory in the long-besieged southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol late last week, a claim Ukraine and its Western allies have disputed.

British intelligence said that Russia's defense ministry has proposed compensation for the families of deceased serviceman be overseen by military rather than civilian officials. Britain's defense ministry believes this "reflects a desire to hide the true scale of Russia's losses from the domestic population."

Watch video 01:57

Ukraine war: Russia's renewed ambitions in the east

Russia increased military spending to $65.9 billion in 2021

World military expenditure surpassed the $2 trillion mark (€1.8 trillion) for the first time in 2021, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI).

The report released on Monday shows Russia increased its military expenditure to $65.9 billion in 2021 to reach 4.1% of its GDP.

It was the third consecutive year of growth and Russia's military spending. Moscow was the fifth largest spender in the world, behind the United States, China, India and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine's military spending has risen by 72% since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. It spent $5.9 billion, or 3.2% of the country's GDP, in 2021.

Total spending in Europe in 2021 amounted to $418 billion, 3% higher than in 2020 and 19% higher than in 2012. Many European countries have contributed substantial military aid to Ukraine since February 2022, and third-largest spender Germany boosted its military aid budget to €2 billion a little over a week ago.

The United States saw a drop in expenditure in 2021 due to a drop in American spending on research and development. The US is the largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine, having provided an additional $800 million in mid-April and another $322 million this Sunday.

Watch video 02:24

US approves more military aid to Ukraine

Blinken and Austin announce aid, diplomatic surge

The United States will provide Ukraine with $322 million in foreign military financing and has approved a $165 million sale of ammunition to the war-ravaged country.

The announcement came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Sunday.

It was the highest-level visit by an American delegation since the start of the war.

The US officials also pledged further assistance worth $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries, with the $322 million earmarked specifically for Kyiv.

The new money brings the total amount of US military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion, officials said.

The two returned overland to Poland after their meeting. While Blinken was returning to Washington, Austin would head to Ramstein in Germany, for a meeting Tuesday of NATO defense ministers and other donor countries.

Watch video 03:37

Zelenskyy hopes US Foreign and Defense Ministers bring promises of weapons: DW's Rebecca Ritter

Fire at Russian oil depot north of Ukrainian border

A large fire was reported at an oil storage facility in the Russian city of Bryansk. The emergency services ministry told Russian news agencies it was a single large fire.

It was not immediately not clear how the fire started. Bryansk is located about 380 kilometers (236 miles) southwest of Moscow. 

The city is the administrative center of the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine.

Russian officials on Thursday had said Ukrainian helicopters hit residential buildings and injured seven people in the Bryansk region.

There was no immediate indication the fire on Monday at the oil storage facility was related to the war in Ukraine.

EU considering 'smart sanctions' against Russian oil

The European Union is preparing "smart sanctions" against Russian oil imports, the UK newspaper The Times reported.

Quoting the European Commission's executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis, the paper reported that the precise details of the oil sanctions had not yet been agreed but could include a gradual phasing-out of Russian oil or imposing tariffs on imports beyond a certain price cap.

"We are working on a sixth sanctions package, and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo. When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximizes pressure on Russia while minimizing collateral damage on ourselves," Dombrovskis said.

Europe spends around $450 million (€417 million) per day on Russian crude oil and refined products.

Australia, New Zealand show support for Ukraine at ANZAC Day commemorations

The leaders of Australia and New Zealand used their annual speeches on Anzac Day to show support for Ukraine.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand soldiers landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I but is now used to commemorate troops from all conflicts.

"The invasion of Ukraine is a senseless act of war, one that is taking the lives of innocent people. It is a threat to the international laws that a nation like ours relies on — but it is also a threat to our sense of humanity. And that makes it a threat to all of us," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said

New Zealand was physically distanced from the conflict but "inextricably linked" to what it represented, Ardern added.

Across the Tasman sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to the people of Ukraine, who are fighting a Russian invasion.

"On this particular day, as we honor those who fought for our liberty and freedom, we stand with the people of Ukraine who do the same thing at this very moment," Morrison said.

Watch video 03:34

US now clearly willing to provide Ukraine with what they need: military expert

Summary of Sunday's events in Ukraine-Russia crisis

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv. A senior Ukrainian official confirmed the meeting. Zelenskyy was expected to push Washington for more powerful weapons.

Russia's forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol. Ukraine's armed forces command wrote on Facebook that Russian forces were firing and performing "offensive operations" at the Azovstal steel plant.

The UN refugee agency said 5,186,744 Ukrainians have fled since the start of Russia's invasion, an increase of 23,058 on Saturday's figures.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has said it is "extremely concerned" after several of its Ukrainian members were believed to have been arrested in pro-Russian separatist territories in the country's east. In a tweet, the organization said it was using all available channels to facilitate their release.

The UK Ministry of Defense said Russia was planning a "staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation." In 2014, Russia held a sham referendum in Crimea to retrospectively justify its annexation of the territory.

dh, si, lo/sri,rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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