Ukraine calls for strong global response following Kramatorsk train station strike
EU says Russian troops appeared to have committed war crimes
10 routes for civilian evacuations are expected to open Saturday
UK expects Russia's air forces to increase activity in south, east of Ukraine
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UK: Russia still using IEDs to inflict casualties
Russian forces continue to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Ukraine, British military intelligence said Saturday.
The latest statement from UK Defence Intelligence said the IEDs were being used to “inflict casualties, lower morale, and restrict Ukrainian freedom of movement.”
“Russian forces also continue to attack infrastructure targets with a high risk of collateral harm to civilians, including a nitrate acid tank at Rubizhne,” the statement added.
Hours earlier, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Johnson's trip also included a pledge from London of 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems — part of another 100 million pounds (€120 million, $130 million) commitment to delivering high-grade military equipment.
The UK leader also confirmed an additional $500 million in World Bank lending, taking Britain's total loan guarantee up to $1 billion.
Report: Russia could meddle in US elections again
US intelligence officials think that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use Washington's support for Ukraine as justification for a new campaign to interfere in American politics.
The Associated Press cited intelligence officials who said it remains unclear which candidates Russia might try to promote in the next US presidential election.
Putin is widely believed to have authorized measures to support former President Donald Trump in the last two US elections.
Top US intelligence officials are still working on plans for a new Foreign Malign Influence Center, that will focus on foreign influence campaigns by Russia, China and other adversaries.
Moscow: More than 700,000 Ukrainians evacuated to Russia
Russia has evacuated more than 700,000 people from Ukraine to its own territory since its invasion began on February 24, according to Moscow's military.
Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev of the Russian Defence Ministry said almost 27,000 people left for Russia on Saturday alone.
Mizintsev said that 134,000 people had been rescued from the southern port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russian forces since the beginning of March.
Kyiv accuses Moscow of bringing refugees to Russia against their will, which it says is a violation of international law.
Ukraine: Third prisoner swap with Russia underway
Ukraine says 12 Ukrainian soldiers and 14 civilians are returning home following a prisoner exchange with Russia.
"On the order of President Zelenskyy, the third prisoner exchange took place today. 12 of our servicemen are returning home, including one female officer," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.
Fourteen civilians including nine women were also on their way home, she added.
Vereshchuk did not say how many Russians had been released.
Pro-Russian convoys protest in German cities
Pro-Russian convoys have been staged in several German cities. They called for an end to discrimination against Russians, which they say has spiked since its invasion of Ukraine.
Vehicles rolled through Frankfurt, Hanover and Stuttgart — where protesters used the motto "Against Discrimination Toward Russian-speaking People."
"Stop Russophobia" banners were also seen, while some called for an end to intolerance towards Russian-speaking children in schools.
German authorities have banned protesters from supporting the conflict or using the letter "Z," which has become a symbol of Russia's invasion.
A similar convoy in Berlin caused upset last weekend, as it took place on the day that alleged Russian atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were revealed.
More than 400 hate crimes related to the war have been recorded in Germany since the conflict began.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told local media that 308 crimes against Russian nationals were recorded, including 15 acts of violence.
Some 109 crimes against Ukrainians were registered, including 13 acts of violence.
Report: Tank full of nitric acid explodes in Donbas
Ukrainian media say a tank containing nitric acid has exploded in the east of the country.
TV station Hromadske said the blast happened in Rubizhne, in Donbas region.
Local residents have reportedly been ordered to stay indoors and keep their windows shut.
The TV channel said Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional state administration, had reassured the public that there is “no threat” from the leak.
Russia's NTV news channel blamed the blast on the Ukrainian military.
A similar blast involving a nitric acid tank occurred on Tuesday near Rubizhne, a city that Kyiv says the Russians have been trying to seize.
Nitric acid is highly toxic if inhaled, swallowed, or if it comes in contact with skin and mucous membranes.
UK's Johnson declares 'unwavering' support for Ukraine
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed his unannounced visit to Kyiv for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy as "a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine."
"We're setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country's struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign," Johnson tweeted, following the talks.
On Friday, Johnson pledged another 100 million pounds (€120 million, $130 million) in high-grade military equipment, including additional Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.
While in Kyiv, he promised to deliver 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.
Zelenskyy called on the West to provide more weapons to Kyiv while imposing harsher sanctions on Russia, saying they should "follow the UK's example."
The UK leader also spoke out about the discovery of hundreds of civilian bodies in Ukrainian towns near Kyiv last weekend after Russian forces left.
"What Putin has done in places like Bucha and Irpin is war crimes that have permanently polluted his reputation and the reputation of his government," Johnson said.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry later posted a video of the two leaders walking through the streets of Kyiv.
€9.1 billion raised for Ukrainian refugees
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that a donor conference organized by Global Citizen, the United Nations and the Canadian government had raised €9.1 billion ($9.9 billion) for displaced Ukrainians, both internally and as refugees abroad.
On Twitter, von der Leyen wrote, "Today we raised 9.1 billion euros for the people fleeing the invasion, inside Ukraine and abroad. And more will come!"
In addition to the funds generated by the donor conference, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) pledged an additional €1 billion in loans for displaced people — bringing the total amount of aid to €10.1 billion.
The event was held in the Polish capital Warsaw. Over 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland since Russia's invasion began in February.
Global Citizen organized around 130 celebrities, musical artists and activists to take part in a social media campaign for the conference — including stars such as Bono, Elton John, Madonna, and Celine Dion.
The event ended with a performance from Julian Lennon, the son of the late John Lennon. Julian sang his father's song "Imagine," in an appeal for peace. In a social media post, he said it was the first time he sang the song in public.
Boris Johnson meeting with Zelenskyy
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has traveled to Kyiv and has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to the Ukrainian embassy in the UK.
The Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Sybiha said on Facebook UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently in Kyiv meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
"Great Britain is a leader in Ukraine's defense support. Leader in the anti-war coalition. Leader in sanctions against the Russian aggressor," Sybiha wrote.
Ukraine 'still ready' to negotiate with Russia after Bucha
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is "still ready" to negotiate with Russia after the deaths of civilians in Bucha. When Russian forces withdrew, numerous civilians were found dead on the streets of the town.
In a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who visited Bucha, Zelenskyy said, "Ukraine has always said it is ready for negotiations and looking for any way to stop this war."
The last face-to-face negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow occurred on March 29.
Austrian Chancellor visits Kyiv
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Kyiv in a gesture of solidarity. He is scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko.
Nehammer is also scheduled to visit Bucha, where numerous Ukrainian civilians were found dead on the streets when Russia withdrew its forces following a five-week occupation.
Austria has provided 10,000 helmets and 9,000 vests to Ukraine for civilian use. The Central European nation is not a member of NATO.
Scholz accuses Russia of war crimes
Speaking at a rally ahead of state elections in Schleswig-Holstein, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of "war crimes."
At a rally, Scholz said, "These are war crimes," as he called on those responsible for massacres in Bucha to be held responsible.
Scholz also said Germany will continue to provide Ukraine with weapons.
Defense Minister, Christine Lambrecht had said earlier on Saturday Germany was at its limit in terms of what weapons it could supply in to Ukraine for national security reasons. Future aid may have to be handled through industry, Lambrecht said.
In Lübeck, Scholz said, "It is right that we provide them with defensive weapons. We have done it and we will continue to do so."
EU chief says Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where civilians were discovered bound and left dead on the streets following Russia's withdrawal.
As she boarded the train to Poland, von der Leyen told reporters, "My instinct says: If this is not a war crime, what is a war crime, but I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully."
"It is extremely important that it is well documented, to prevent defeats in court because the evidence is not good enough," she added.
On Friday, a forensics team began exhuming a mass grave where local officials say civilians were killed during Russia's weekslong occupation. Von der Leyen said the EU was working with Ukraine to gather evidence in the event that there could be future prosecutions.
Italy to reopen Kyiv embassy after Easter
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Rome will reopen its embassy in Kyiv immediately after Easter.
Di Maio noted, "We were the last to leave Kyiv and we will be among the first to go back."
He added, "At the same time we must intensify diplomatic pressure to bring Putin to the negotiating table and reach a cease-fire."
S&P downgrades Russia's foreign currency payments to 'selective default'
Following Moscow's decision to pay a dollar-denominated debt in rubles this week, the credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings downgraded Russia's foreign currency payments to "selective default."
S&P does not believe investors will be able to convert ruble payments to dollars or the equivalent amounts originally due or Russia will be able to convert the payments within the 30-day grace period.
The rating agency said in a statement that Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine will increasingly hamper Russia's "willingness and technical abilities" to honor its debts to foreign creditors.
Russia was able to meet many interest payments through March after the US Treasury permitted foreign currency Russia held abroad to be used to pay the country's external debts. However, on Monday, the US reversed course and permitted Russia to repay debt only with dollars held in US banks, with JPMorgan refusing to allow payment.
On Wednesday, the Russian Ministry of Finance said a payment of nearly $650 million due on April 4 was made in rubles.
In accordance with EU sanctions, fellow credit rating agencies Fitch and Moodys have stopped ranking Russian government or business debt. S&P was due to cease its rankings as of April 15 but said Saturday it would do so immediately.
Poland hosts refugee donor conference
Warsaw will host a donor conference for the 11 million displaced Ukrainians, both internally and as refugees, at 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT).
The conference was organized by the NGO Global Citizen, the European Commission, and the Canadian government. The money will largely fund UN programs and a local aid group.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are set to appear. Von der Leyen visited Kyiv and Bucha, the site of civilian massacres by Russian troops on the streets, Friday. Canadian President Justin Trudeau will join by video.
Abramovich yacht changed hands day of Ukraine invasion: report
The Guardian reported that a 50-meter yacht called Aquamarine belonging to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich saw its ownership transferred on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, February 24, to his close associate, Russian businessman David Davidovich. The Aquamarine is the fifth yacht to be linked to Roman Abramovich.
The EU and the UK placed Abramovich under sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine for his relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Following the wave of sanctions against him, two of Abramovich's megayachts, worth over $1 billion (€920 million), scrambled to the port of Bodrum in Turkey while two other minor yachts remain docked in the Caribbean.
Davidovich told The Guardian that he owned the Aquamarine and the Jersey-registered company MHC Jersey Ltd, which formally owns the Aquamarine, according to maritime database MarineTraffic. He also said he was unaware of the ship being subject to any sanctions.
Another British Islands-registered company, Norma Investments, which is the only shareholder of MHC Jersey Ltd, was also previously controlled by Abramovich, but ownership was transferred to Davidovich, as well, on February 24, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. Abramovich has been linked to Norma Investments in public filings.
Currently, Aquamarine is in the Dutch port of Vlissingen at a dry dock belonging to the company Damen Shiprepair, a Dutch company specializing in the construction and repair of luxury yachts, where it is being retrofitted. An anonymous source at the shipyard told The Guardian that it was understood Aquamarine belonged to Abramovich.
Aquamarine was also built by the Dutch firm Heesen and delivered only last year. The luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report placed Aquamarine's value at $40.3 million.
More than 1,000 seafarers stranded in Ukrainian waters
Around 1,000 seafarers are stranded on merchant ships in Ukrainian waters, United Nations agencies have said.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) cautioned that the situation was "becoming increasingly untenable," underlining the risks posed by the war and shortages of food, fuel, fresh water and other essentials.
According to a joint statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the UN Refugee Agency have been called on to help with the restocking of the ships.
The statement stressed that ships at the beleaguered port of Mariupol are particularly at risk.
The IMO and ILO said that work is underway to establish a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
"However, at present, the establishment of such a corridor is severely hampered by the ongoing security risks, which constrain the option for ships to depart from ports in Ukraine," the agencies added.
As of March 30, there were 86 reported merchant ships stranded in Ukrainian ports and waters, the agencies said.
Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors agreed for Saturday
A total of 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Ukraine's besieged regions have been agreed for Saturday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
The corridors include one for people evacuating by private vehicles from the port city of Mariupol, Vereshchuk added.
Those in the cities of Enerhodar, Tokmak, Berdyansk and Melitopol will be able to evacuate to Zaporizhzhia, while the residents of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne can evacuate to the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
UK intelligence: Russian air activity expected to increase in Ukraine's south, east
British military intelligence said in a statement that Russian forces are continuing to hit non-combatants in Ukraine, such as those killed in Friday's rocket attack on the Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine.
The statement said that Russian operations continue to focus on the Donbas region, Mariupol and Mykolaiv.
The operations are supported by continued cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces, the defense intelligence said.
"Russian air activity is expected to increase in the south and east of Ukraine in support of this activity," the statement added.
The UK defense intelligence said that Russia's attempts to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas "continue to be thwarted" by Ukraine.
Germany: Bundeswehr arms deliveries to Ukraine 'reached a limit,' would have to turn to arms industry for more
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has said she sees hardly any possibility left to supply Ukraine with weapons and material directly from the German military's stocks.
Talking to the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, Lambrecht said that, in order to maintain the Bundeswehr's defense capability, future deliveries would increasingly have to be made directly via the arms industry.
"To this end, we are continuously coordinating with Ukraine," she said.
"In the case of deliveries from Bundeswehr stocks, however, I have to be honest, we have now reached a limit," Lambrecht said.
The Bundeswehr must continue to be able to "ensure national and alliance defense," the minister said.
"But that doesn't mean we can't do more for Ukraine," she said.
Lambrecht reiterated that she would not give details about Germany's arms deliveries to Ukraine. "There are good reasons that we have classified precisely this information," she said. "We have done so in response to an explicit request from Ukraine," she added.
"One must always bear in mind: The moment the deliveries are published in detail, Russia would also have this information. And that alone would have military strategic implications."
Ukraine says attacks in eastern region of Donbas continue
Russia is continuing its offensive in the Donbas region, Ukraine has said.
Russian troops are focused on taking over the towns of Rubishne, Nizhne, Popasna and Novobakhmutivka and on taking full control of the city of Mariupol, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement on Saturday.
Thousands of Russian soldiers near Kharkiv — Pentagon
A senior US defense official has said that thousands of Russian troops have gathered near the edge of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The official said that the number of tactical units near the Russian border city of Belgorod has risen from 30 to 40.
According to the dpa news agency, these units are typically made up of 600 to 1,000 soldiers.
The senior defense official said that Russia could try to mobilize more than 60,000 soldiers in the area.
The Russian military is gathering its troops there in order to concentrate its forces on taking over the Donbas region, a US defense official said.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby had said there were reports of tens of thousands of reservists being deployed to reinforce Russia's units on the Donbas border after suffering losses in northern Ukraine.
According to dpa, the official warned of intense fighting owing to the familiarity of both Ukraine and Russia with the territory in Donbas, following years of conflict there.
"This will be a knife fight. This could be very bloody and very ugly," the official said.
Ukraine calls for global response following train station missile strike
Ukraine demanded more weapons to be sent to the country after it accused Russia of a missile strike on a train station in the city of Kramatorsk.
Ukrainian authorities said that the strike killed at least 52 people, among them women and children.
Kramatorsk lies in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. The city has been the region's de facto administrative center since pro-Russian separatists took over the city of Donetsk in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the strike a deliberate attack on civilians.
"We expect a firm global response to this war crime," Zelenskyy said, adding that Ukrainian authorities would make sure to establish who gave the order for the strike in order to hold those behind it responsible.
"Any delay in providing... weapons to Ukraine, any refusals, can only mean the politicians in question want to help the Russian leadership more than us," Ukraine's president went on to say in a Friday night video address.
Zelenskyy also called for an energy embargo on Russia and for Russian banks to be cut off from the global system.
"It is energy exports that provide the lion's share of Russia's income and allow the Russian leadership to believe in their impunity," Zelenskyy argued.
Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Friday
The United States restricted Russia and Belarus' access to imports of fertilizers and pipe valves, among other goods.
The death toll in the missile strike at a train station in eastern Ukraine rose to at least 52 people. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that 300 people had been wounded.
A total of 6,665 people were evacuated from cities across Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post.
At least 67 people were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of a church in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said.
Rights organizations criticized Russia's decision to close the offices of 15 international NGOs that were still operating in the country. The organizations included Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Food prices around the world reached an all-time high last month due to fallout from Russia's invasion in Ukraine, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Friday.
The mayor of Makariv, a village west of Kyiv, said 132 civilians were found shot to death.
Speaking following talks in Kyiv, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered Ukraine a first step towards advancing its membership bid in the European Union.
sdi/kb, fb (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)