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Ukraine: Explosions in central Kyiv amid UN chief's visit — as it happened

Explosions rocked Kyiv's Shevchenkovsky district as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the city. Meanwhile, President Biden called on Congress to approve additional aid for Ukraine. DW has the latest.

Smokes rises followed the latest Russian strikes on Kyiv

Ukrainian officials said Russia attacked central Kyiv with cruise missiles

  • Two explosions rock Kyiv amid UN chief visit
  • Guterres, Zelenskyy discuss evacuation from Mariupol steel plant
  • Biden calls for $33 billion in new Ukraine aid
  • German lawmakers greenlight heavy weapons to Ukraine
  • Russia still able to strike coastal targets despite Black Sea fleet losses, says UK
  • Kyiv conceded that Russian forces had made gains in the east

These live updates are now closed. For our latest coverage Thursday, follow our live updates here

Zelenskyy welcomes promise of US aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed additional financial support from the US, calling it a "very important step."

He thanked US President Joe Biden and the American people, expressing hope US lawmakers would "quickly support" the $33 billion boost.

"President Biden rightly said today that this step is not cheap," Zelenskyy said in his daily video address. "But the negative consequences of Russia's aggression against Ukraine and against democracy are so large-scale for the whole world that, in comparison with them, this support from the United States is necessary. Together, we can certainly stop Russian aggression and reliably defend freedom in Europe."

OSCE to end observer mission in Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced it will end its observer mission in Ukraine, after Russia refused its extension.

The OSCE mission began in 2014 after Russian-backed separatists waged an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. 

Poland currently holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship. Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said "the position of the Russian Federation left us with no choice" but to wind down the mission.

OSCE monitors mostly left the country following Russia's invasion in late February, yet some administrative staff still remain in Ukraine. Four OSCE administration staff have been detained.

Former Russian politician: Putin is a 'mobster'

Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Russian state Duma, left Russia to live in Ukraine in 2016. He is now a member of the forces defending Ukraine from Russia's ongoing invasion. 

"I'm not fighting against [Russia]. I'm fighting against Putin and Putinism and Russian fascism," Ponomarev told DW. 

"Putin is a mobster. That's why he's threatening everyone," Ponomarev said of Putin's attack on Ukraine. "That's why he's talking about nukes. But if you look at his personal safety, how well he is taking care of it. Look at this lengthy table, how he is meeting international leaders. You would understand that he doesn't want to die. He is not a suicidal man. I think that all those threats are very empty threats, and he just hopes that world leaders are weak.

"Ukrainians, in terms of fighting the invaders, are equipped well enough, and they're very committed, energized and the morale in the military is very high," he said of Ukrainian forces. "That biggest problem that the Ukrainian military has is the problem with the counter-offensives. Because to do that, you need to control the skies; you need to have heavy equipment. This is what the Ukrainian army lacks, and that's what we hope that they international community can help the country with."

US House backs Ukraine arms bill

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of legislation that would make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine. 

The "Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022" now heads to President Joe Biden's desk, as it also received Senate approval. The measure would not only make it easier for the US to provide equipment to Ukraine but other allies in the region such as Poland.

The measure loosens reimbursement requirements for military exports to Ukraine. Military equipment will be able to be loaned or leased for a period of up to five years.

The bill would update legislation signed into law by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941, which was aimed at helping American allies fight Nazi Germany.

New explosions reported in Kyiv

At least two explosions were heard in Kyiv, with Mayor Vitali Klitschko saying that Russian troops fired on the capital.

The Kyiv mayor said on Telegram that there had been "two hits in the Shevchenkovsky district."

Klitschko said authorities are still uncovering information related to casualties from the attack.

The explosions occurred shortly after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the city.

"Today, immediately after the end of our talks in Kyiv, Russian missiles flew in the city. Five rockets," Zelenskyy said. "This says a lot... about the Russian leadership's efforts to humiliate the UN and everything that the organization represents." 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia struck the capital with "cruise missiles" and labeled the attack a "heinous act of barbarism." 

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called for Russia to be removed from the UN Security Council following the attack.

Guterres says UN Security Council failed to prevent Ukraine war

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN Security Council failed in its efforts to prevent Russia's war on Ukraine.

"Let me be very clear: the Security Council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war. And this is the source of great disappointment, frustration and anger," Guterres said at a press conference with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Watch video 02:31

UN's Guterres condemns Ukraine war as 'evil'

Guterres and Zelenskyy also discussed ongoing attempts to evacuate the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol. Ukrainian fighters and civilians are currently trapped in the plant amid a Russian blockade.

"At the present moment I can only tell you we are doing everything we can to make it happen," Guterres said. 

"I trust and believe — just as many relatives of those who are blocked in Azovstal (steel plant) do — that the Secretary-General will have a successful result," Zelenskyy said.

Russia expands list of Canadians denied entry under sanctions

Russia's Foreign Ministry has published an extended list of Canadian citizens who are banned from entering Russia in response to the actions of the Canadian government.

"The official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry has published a list of names of Canadian citizens who are denied entry to the Russian Federation on a permanent basis," the ministry said in a statement.

The entry ban list was expanded to now include 592 people. In addition to politicians and government officials, there are also businessmen, journalists and representatives of the Ukrainian community on the list.

On March 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced sanctions on US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a reciprocal response to Western measures following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At that time, 313 Canadians were barred from entering the country.

One British national killed in Ukraine, another missing

A British national has been killed in Ukraine, with another missing, the UK Foreign Office told several British news outlets and the French news agency AFP. 

Regarding the missing British national, a Foreign Office spokesperson said it was "urgently seeking further information."

It's unclear what the two Britons were doing in Ukraine. British news reports suggested they made have been fighting as volunteers against the invading Russian troops.

Earlier, two British nationals fighting with Ukrainian troops were taken into custody by Russian forces.

Biden urges $33 billion in funds to aid Ukraine

US President Joe Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion (€31.3 billion) in funds for Ukraine. 

Over $20 billion will be used for weapons and military aid, with $8.5 billion in direct economic aid allocated to Ukraine's government. Another $3 billion would be used for humanitarian and food security needs.

"We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom," Biden said in a White House address. "The cost of this fight — it's not cheap — but caving to aggression is going to be more costly."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for quick approval of the package, calling it a "very important step" by the US.

The US president also vowed solidarity with European allies, as Russia cuts off gas supplies to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria. 

"We will not let Russia intimidate or blackmail their way out of sanctions," Biden said. "We will not allow them to use their oil and gas to avoid consequences for their aggression."

45 Ukrainians return home in prisoner swap with Russia

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that 45 prisoners of war were being returned to the country as part of the exchange of captives with Russia.

"Today, 45 of our people have been released from Russian captivity. 13 officers and 20 soldiers (5 of them wounded). We are also returning home 12 of our civilians," Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post.

She didn’t mention how many Russians were exchanged in the swap.

Biden proposes using seized Russian oligarch assets to compensate Ukraine

The White House proposed using assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs to compensate Ukraine for damage caused by Russia's invasion of the country.

This would enable the "transfer of the proceeds of forfeited kleptocratic property to Ukraine to remediate harms of Russian aggression," the White House said in a statement.

To date, European Union allies have frozen more than $30 billion (€ 28,6 billion) in Russian assets, including almost $7 billion in luxury goods belonging to oligarchs, including yachts, art, real estate and helicopters, the White House said.

The United States has "sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1 billion (€950 million), as well as frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of assets belonging to Russian elites in US accounts."

US President Joe Biden was to announce the proposed legislation alongside his request to increase funding by Congress for Ukraine's military later Thursday.

Canada is also pushing a new law to seize and repurpose frozen Russian assets. On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the bill seeks to create the "ability for the government to be able to sell the assets that were seized, and afterwards to use the profits and to compensate the victims of this war against Ukraine."

Around 1,700 crimes recorded in Germany related to war in Ukraine

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, German authorities have recorded around 1,700 crimes that appear to be connected to the war in Ukraine.

As reported by media service Integration, which obtained figures from the national and regional investigative police forces (the federal BKA and the regional LKAs), property damage or vandalism was most frequently registered. They had logged roughly 200 such cases a week on average, albeit with the rate falling of late.

Typical damage to property included destroyed shop windows, burst car tires or graffiti on buildings. They tended to target people of either Russian, Ukrainian or in some cases Belarusian heritage.

There were also some cases of violent crime, mostly in North Rhine-Westphalia (55 cases), Lower Saxony (43) and Schleswig-Holstein (27).

More than 170 investigations have also been launched in connection with the use of the Z symbol as a sign of support for the Russian army in the Ukraine war.

However, the report also noted other uncorroborated claims, circulating particularly on social media, of attacks on people of Russian origin, which turned out to be false in many cases. Germany's domestic intelligence service warned of such disinformation campaigns earlier in April.

Bulgarian Prime Minister in Borodyanka: 'We cannot be indifferent'

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka near Kyiv, which was devastated during the Russian occupation.

After viewing damage caused to Borodyanka during the initial Russian advance, Petkov said that ''we cannot be indifferent. We cannot say that this is a Ukrainian problem, we cannot say some people are dying but we are not interested in that.''

He also expressed hope that next week Bulgarian lawmakers will agree to send military aid to Ukraine.

Petkov is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv later Thursday. Zelenskyy said following the meeting that the two countries agreed to ship Ukrainian grain via the Bulgarian port city of Varna.

Zelenskyy also said Ukrainian military equipment would be repaired in Bulgaria following talks with Petkov.

Borodyanka was visited earlier today by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who described the war as "evil" and absurd.

Germany to offer howitzer training for Ukrainian forces: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday that Germany would organize for Ukrainian troops to be trained in the use of howitzers provided by the US.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Scholz also said it was not possible to know whether gas deliveries from Russia would continue and that Germany had prepared for a possible stop in supply.

On Wednesday, Russia halted gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria in what is being seen as a warning to other EU countries.

During his visit to Japan, Scholz has also praised his hosts for showing solidarity with other G7 members in imposing sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Watch video 01:14

Scholz calling for 'a new globalization': DW's Michaela Küfner in Tokyo

NATO chief Stoltenberg says Ukraine war might 'drag on' for years

NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance would continue to put maximum pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We need to be prepared for the long term...There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years," Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

His comments come after UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said "the whole of Ukraine" must be liberated and the German parliament voted in favor of delivering Ukraine heavy weapons.

On Thursday, Russia said that Ukraine did not answer to its latest peace proposal.

Russia says Western arms supplies to Ukraine threaten European security

The Kremlin said that arms deliveries to Ukraine were dangerous.

"The tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons into Ukraine, these are the actions that threaten the security of the continent, provoke instability," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He was responding to comments made by Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday, calling on Kyiv's allies to "ramp up" military production, including tanks and planes, to help Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that if someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events in Ukraine from the outside, "they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast."

Watch video 04:24

Lithuanians fear the Ukraine war

In a historic vote on Thursday, lawmakers in Germany voted in favor of providing Ukraine with "heavy weapons and complex [weapons] systems." Military aid should continue and accelerate wherever possible, according to the proposal backed by the ruling coalition and the biggest opposition party, the conservative CDU.

Ukraine to investigate thousands of potential war crimes

Authorities in Ukraine are currently looking into around 8,600 claims of potential war crimes, Ukrainian General Prosecutor Iryna Venediktova told DW, noting that the number is expected to go up.

The claims include killing civilians, torture, sexual crimes, as well as bombing civilian infrastructure and the use of prohibited weapons, she said.

The Ukrainian prosecutor also said inquiries were also ongoing about alleged crimes happening in Mariupol and other occupied areas.

"We don't have access to those territories but we can do our job. For example, we can interview people who were evacuated from those territories," Venediktova said.

Watch video 05:39

Ukraine investigating thousands of potential war crimes

Her comments come amid reports of Russian troops committing atrocities in Ukraine, including the massacre in Bucha which prompted global outrage in early April.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian prosecutors said on Thursday they were investigating 10 Russian soldiers suspected of committing war crimes in Bucha, the site of mass killings of civilians during the Russian occupation.

Canadian parliament recognized Russia's 'acts of genocide' in Ukraine

Canadian MPs on Wednesday unanimously passed a motion recognizing Russia's "acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people" and acknowledging evidence of "systematic and massive war crimes and crimes against humanity."

"Today every MP in the House of Commons supported my motion to recognize that the Russian Federation is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people," Heather McPherson of the leftist New Democratic Party, who introduced the motion, wrote on Twitter.

Russiaʼs actions in Ukraine have already been recognized as genocide by Estonian and Latvian parliaments, as well as by Ukraine's own parliament.

Ukraine says it will defend itself and hit Russian bases and warehouses

Ukraine says the world recognizes its right to defend itself in any way, including attacking warehouses and bases on Russian territory.

"Russia has attacked Ukraine and is killing civilians," Ukraine presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said in a post on Twitter.

"Ukraine will defend itself in any way, including strikes on the warehouses and bases of the Russian killers."

Podolyak also quoted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had reportedly said Ukraine should decide whether to attack Russian military facilities.

In the past few weeks, several oil and ammunition depots have exploded in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions of Russia, which border Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities have avoided taking direct responsibility for these explosions, with Podolyak himself yesterday describing them as "karma."

Watch video 02:03

Ukraine war: Russian families grieve fallen soldiers

European Parliament president praises 'unprecedented coordination'

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has stressed EU unity in confronting Russia over its actions.

"We will continue to call for further sanctions, and we will continue to call for the enforcement of the current packages of sanctions in a better way and more effective way," she said at a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

"[...] This parliament will continue to build on the momentum of this unprecedented coordination that we have, which is extremely important, because we share the fundamental values and we share our defense of Ukraine’s right to defend itself," she added.

She also said that applications by Georgia and Moldova to join the EU were welcomed as from any countries that saw "Europe as their home."

Georgia and Moldova submitted applications to join the bloc on March 3, following the example of Ukraine, which applied for membership a few days earlier.

The applications were prompted by fears of being targeted by Russia in the same way that Ukraine has. Georgia was itself invaded by Russian troops in 2008.

Neither country is expected to meet the criteria for EU membership in the near future.

German lawmakers approve heavy weapons for Ukraine

In a historic vote, lawmakers in Germany voted in favor of providing Ukraine with "heavy weapons and complex [weapons] systems." Military aid should continue and accelerate wherever possible, according to the proposal backed by the ruling coalition and the biggest opposition party, the conservative CDU.

Germany will also deploy more soldiers to boost NATO presence in eastern Europe, and encourage Russian soldiers to lay down their arms and seek asylum in Germany and the EU.

Far-right AfD opposed the initiative, saying that it felt close to a declaration of war.

The legislation would prolong the fighting in Ukraine and "could make us party to a nuclear war," said the AfD's most senior Bundestag lawmaker Tino Chrupalla.

The Left Party was also against the move, pointing to earlier statements by Chancellor Olaf Scholz about how heavy weapons deliveries increase the risk of a nuclear escalation.

Several lawmakers, including CDU head Friedrich Merz, sharply criticized Scholz for going away on a diplomatic visit to Japan while the Bundestag is discussing the issue.

Watch video 01:20

Ukraine: How significant are Germany’s latest arms deliveries?

Guterres calls war an 'absurdity' in visit to Borodyanka outside Kyiv

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described war as "evil" and absurd during a visit to Borodyanka. The town, located near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, was devastated during the Russian occupation.

"I imagine my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black. I see my granddaughters running away in panic. The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century," Guterres said.

During a visit to the town of Bucha, Guterres also urged Russia to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on investigations into possible war crimes carried out during its invasion of Ukraine.

"I fully support the ICC and I appeal to the Russian Federation to accept, to cooperate with the ICC. But when we talk about war crimes, we cannot forget that the worst of crimes is war itself," he said during a visit to Bucha outside Kyiv, where hundreds of dead civilians were discovered after Russian troops pulled out.

Following his visit to Bucha, Guterres is set to hold talks with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy later on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Guterres met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two were said to have discussed the possible evacuation of the besieged Azovstal steel complex in the city of Mariupol.

Watch video 01:00

Guterres: 'There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century'

Finland and Sweden can join NATO swiftly if desired: Stoltenberg

If Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO, the alliance will welcome them "with open arms," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday after talks with the European Parliament's President Roberta Metsola and group leaders.

Stoltenberg said that both countries were "strong democracies" whose militaries were already up to NATO standards and that the alliance had worked together with them for some time in a close partnership.

He said that NATO would also try to find ways to ensure the two countries' security in the period between application and membership in the face of the Russian threat.

Media in Sweden and Finland reported this week that the governments of both countries have agreed to jointly submit NATO applications in mid-May, amid fears that they might, like Ukraine, become targets of Russian aggression.

Watch video 02:38

Finland looks to join NATO as Russia's war rages

Survey gives German chancellor poor marks for leadership in Ukraine crisis

Just 25% of Germans feel that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has shown strong leadership in the face of Russia's attack on Ukraine, a survey has shown.

Altogether 51% agreed with the statement: "He acts rather poorly as a leader," with 24% unsure or declining to answer.

The YouGov survey, published on Thursday, showed that 45% of respondents were dissatisfied to some degree with his handling of the war in Ukraine, with 20% of those highly displeased.

However, 37% indicated they were very satisfied with the way Scholz was dealing with the conflict, while 18% could not or did not want to rate his actions.

Scholz's approval rating among supporters of his center-left Social Democrats (SPD) party was much higher, with 59% satisfied with his approach to the Ukraine war and 34% dissatisfied.

However, the public, in general, finds his communication skills lacking, with 56% saying that he did not give adequate explanations for his policies.

The online survey by YouGov Deutschland GmbH for the dpa news agency was carried out before the German government agreed on Tuesday to deliver "Gepard" tanks to Ukraine, a decision that may have changed public views on the government's resolve in the face of the Russian aggression.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz makes a statement in Berlin

A new opinion poll shows 45% of Germans are dissatisfied with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's response to the war in Ukraine

Russia still able to strike coastal targets in Ukraine despite losses — UK intelligence

Although Russia's naval forces have suffered substantial setbacks, Moscow's fleet in the Black Sea is still able to hit Ukrainian targets, the UK Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

In an intelligence update posted on Twitter, the ministry said around 20 Russian Navy vessels are currently deployed in the Black Sea — including submarines.

 In recent weeks, Russia lost its flagship cruiser Moskva and the landing ship Saratov. The Russian Navy cannot currently replace the ships, as the Bosporus continues to remain closed to all non-Turkish warships, the British Defense Ministry added.

Germany top buyer of Russian fuel, study says

Figures compiled by an independent research group show that Germany has been the biggest buyer of Russian energy in the first two months since the war in Ukraine began.

A study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia has earned €63 billion ($66.5 billion) from fossil fuel exports since February 24.

Researchers used data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on past monthly trade.

They worked out that Germany alone paid Russia about €9.1 billion for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.

Germany has faced strong criticism for its reliance on Russian gas and oil despite allies' warnings that this could prove a danger to European security.

According to the study — titled "Financing Putin's War on Europe" — the second biggest importer of Russia's fossil fuels since the invasion began is Italy (€6.9 billion), followed by China (€6.7 billion).

UN chief in Kyiv for talks

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The UN head is also set to meet Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and visit an undisclosed location outside the capital.

Earlier in the week, Guterres met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two were said to have discussed the possible evacuation of the besieged Azovstal steel complex in the city of Mariupol.

The pair were said to have agreed "in principle" to the United Nations and International Red Cross participating in the evacuation.

UN officials reportedly held follow-on discussions with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv "to develop the operational framework for the timely evacuation of civilians."

It's estimated that 2,000 troops and 1,000 civilians are sheltering in bunkers underneath the wrecked plant.

After his meeting with Putin, Guterres traveled to Poland and on to Kyiv by train.

Watch video 04:28

Guterres to meet Zelenskyy for talks: DW's Emmanuelle Chaze reports from Ukraine

Blasts knock out Russian TV in Kherson

A series of explosions were reported late Wednesday near a television tower in the southern Russian city of Kherson.

Both Ukrainian and Russian news organizations reported that the series of explosions temporarily knocked Russian channels off the air.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said the broadcasts had resumed. It also said the Russian channels had begun broadcasting from Kherson last week.

Kherson has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war.

Russia has been determined to strengthen its control over the city, but residents have continued to protest the occupation with demonstrations on the street.

Ukraine's prosecutor general on Wednesday said Russian forces had used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city.

Summary of Wednesday's events in the Ukraine-Russia crisis

The European Union condemned Russia's halting of gas supplies to member states Bulgaria and Poland as "blackmail."

The two countries were supplied with gas by their EU neighbors after Russia's state energy giant Gazprom turned off the taps.

Gazprom had announced the halt of gas to the countries after not receiving payment in rubles — a stipulation made by Moscow in response to sanctions.

The EU Commission also proposed a one-year suspension on all imported goods from Ukraine that are not already subject to an existing free trade deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a warning, saying intervention by Western forces would be met with a "lightning-fast" military response.

The Russian leader referred to weapons that "no one else can boast of having," apparently referring to Moscow's ballistic missiles and nuclear arsenal.

Watch video 00:30

Putin: 'Our response to encounter assaults will be lightning fast'

Meanwhile, Moscow claims it carried out a missile strike in southern Ukraine to destroy a "large batch" of weapons it says were supplied by the West.

Kyiv conceded that Russian forces had made gains in the east, as Moscow's offensive saw it capture a number of villages in the Donbas region.

Russian forces were said to still be attacking the Azolstal steel plant in Mariupol, where fighters and some civilians are holed up.

Russian authorities said there were blasts early on Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine. An ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire.

Concern increased over the prospect of the conflict widening to Ukraine's neighbor. Pro-Russian separatists there have blamed Ukraine for reported attacks in the Trans-Dniester region, which Ukraine says are "false-flag" incidents intended to escalate the war.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock defended Berlin's decision to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine.

The delivery of weapons — including heavy weapons such as tanks — is "the right step," Baerbock said.

You can revisit our live updates from April 27 here.

dh, tj, dj, rc/sms, rs (AFP AP, dpa, Reuters)