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UN chief calls for cease-fire in Moscow visit

April 26, 2022

Putin agreed "in principle" that the UN and Red Cross could help with evacuations from Mariupol's Azovstal plant. Meanwhile, Germany says it is 'very close' to abandoning Russian oil.

Guterres attends a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the Moscow Kremlin
Guterres says he is ready to fully mobilize the United Nations' resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged city of MariupolImage: Vladimir Astapkovich/TASS/Pool/dpa/picture alliance
  • US hosts defense talks on arming Ukraine 
  • Germany to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft tanks
  • UN head Guterres urges for ceasefire in Moscow visit
  • Russia's Lavrov says NATO 'in essence' engaged in proxy war with Russia 
  • Zelenskyy says Russia 'won't win' the war in Ukraine

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

Putin tells UN, Red Cross he is open to evacuating civilians from Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed "in principle" to United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the UN said.

Putin made the concession to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during their meeting in Moscow.

"Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said after the meeting.

Ukraine's remaining forces in Mariupol and some civilians were holding out in the steel plant and were surrounded by Russian forces.

Ukraine on Monday appealed for the UN and Red Cross to be involved in the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal.
Guterres is expected to meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday.

Poland and Bulgaria cut off from Russian gas

Russia's Gazprom has informed both Bulgaria and Poland that it will cut off gas exports on Wednesday, according to Bulgarian and Polish officials.

The two countries will be the first to be cut off from Russian gas since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that "unfriendly" countries open accounts at Gazprombank to convert euro or dollar payments into rubles. 

Poland has refused to comply with the new scheme and said it will not extend the contract.

The Polish government says gas supplies will not be affected, as it can source gas via two links with Germany, an upcoming link with Lithuania and via an interconnector with the Czech Republic.

Later on Tuesday, Gazprom told Bulgaria's state gas company Bulgargaz that it would cease gas supplies.

The Bulgarian government said it would not lead to gas restrictions, as it has found alternative arrangements for the supply of natural gas.

Germany's network regulator said it was monitoring the situation and that "the security of supply in Germany is currently guaranteed."

BVB Dortmund and Dynamo Kyiv play friendly match

German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund has raised €400,000 ($426,000) for Ukraine in a friendly match with Ukraine's top club Dynamo Kyiv. Kyiv won 3-2 in a charity match played in front of about 35,000 fans. All proceeds will go to victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"It is about sending a signal, a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, earning a bit of money so that we can do one or the other humanitarian action. And then it is also a sign against this despicable war of aggression," Dortmund managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke told broadcasters ZDF.

Kyiv has played similar fund-raising matches in Warsaw, Istanbul and Cluj.

Putin claims he hopes for diplomatic agreement

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow. In televised remarks, he told Guterres that he still hoped for negotiations to end the conflict.

 "Despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track. We are negotiating, we do not reject [talks]," Putin told Guterres, who was visiting Moscow.

He said talks with Ukraine had been derailed by claims of atrocities committed by Russian forces in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv. He claimed without evidence, that the massacres in Bucha were not carried out by Russians.

"There was a provocation in the village of Bucha, which the Russian army had nothing to do with," Putin said. "We know who prepared this provocation, by what means, and what kind of people worked on it."

Guterres reiterated his call for Ukraine and Russia to work together with the UN to set up aid and evacuation corridors to help civilians in Ukraine.

The broadcast discussions showed Guterres and Putin sitting opposite each other at the large oval table in the hall of the Senate Palace, following an hour-long meeting in the Kremlin. Guterres earlier met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov where he called for a ceasefire.

Italy considers nationalizing Lukoil-owned refinery

Italy is reportedly considering temporarily nationalizing a refinery owned by Lukoil — a Russian multinational energy corporation — as a response to possible sanctions on Russian oil.

Lukoil, which is not the subject of sanctions, owns the ISAB refinery — Italy's largest oil refinery by capacity. It used to buy 30%-40% of its crude oil from Russia, with the remainder coming from international markets. Since the Russian invasion, it has been unable to obtain international credit, and has been sourcing almost all its crude oil from Russia.

Reuters news agency, citing two government sources, said Industry Minister Giancario Gieorgetti is planning to raise the prospect of nationalization when the Italian cabinet meets on Thursday.

European leaders are debating whether to impose an embargo on Russian oil.

Germany 'very close' to abandoning Russian oil

The German economy minister, Robert Habeck says the country is very close to completely halting imports of Russian oil.

Habeck said Germany has cut oil import dependency from 35% to 12% in eight weeks.

"Today I can say that an embargo is now more in reach for Germany. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to expand this independence and rapidly move away from fossil fuels. But as I said, what a few weeks ago seemed a very large problem for Germany has shrunk considerably, so that German independence from Russian oil is now very very close."

Habeck was speaking in Warsaw after talks with Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa.

US Defense Secretary addresses reporters at Ramstein

The US has convened more than 20 nations at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on behalf of Ukraine's defense. Speaking at the event, Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, told reporters that "we have to move at the speed of war."

Austin said the US was determined to make better use of the US European Command's coordination mechanism and would extend the forum for Ukraine's defense into a monthly contact group.

"We do want to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and make it less able to do that," Austin said.

Austin went on to express sharp criticism of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who warned on Monday that World War III might be looming.

"You've heard us say a number of times that that kind of rhetoric is very dangerous and unhelpful," Austin said. "Nobody wants to see a nuclear war happen. Dangerous rhetoric is clearly unhelpful. And something that we won't engage in," he added.

Ukraine concerned by destabilization in Trans-Dniester

Ukraine says it is concerned by attempts to worsen the security situation in Moldova's pro-Russian breakaway province of Trans-Dniester.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukraine presidential aide said in a post on Twitter: "Russia wants to destabilize the Transnistrian region and hints Moldova should wait for 'guests,'" wrote on Twitter.

"Bad news: if Ukraine falls tomorrow Russian troops will be at Chisinau's gates," Podolyak said, referring Moldova's capital. "Good news: Ukraine will definitely ensure strategic security of the region. But we need to work as a team," Podolyak added.

It comes after several apparent attacks in the region. In the past day, attacks have reportedly targeted a military unit, the state security headquarters and an old Soviet-era radio antennae.

The head of the breakaway province, also known as Transnistria or Transdniestra in English, claimed that the apparent attacks could be traced back to Ukraine.

"I assume that those who organized this attack have the purpose of dragging Transdniestria into the conflict," self-styled president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS.

His office has established a "red" level of "terrorist threat" for the next 15 days and canceled public Victory Day events on May 9, citing safety concerns.

Moscow, which deploys troops in the region, also voiced serious concern and blamed Ukraine.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has urged citizens to remain calm, saying she had stepped up security measures and convened the country's Supreme Security Council.

She condemned the apparent attacks, in which no one was injured.

She blamed the attack on "internal differences between various groups in Trans-Dniester that have an interest in destabilising the situation."

Last week, a senior Russian military officer said Russia aims to take control of Ukraine's south and open a land corridor to the region.

Defense journalist: German 'tanks' could be a real help for Kyiv

Security and defense journalist Thomas Wiegold has told DW the Gepard vehicles that Berlin has approved for delivery could make a real difference to Ukraine's fight in terms of anti-aircraft capability.

Although they are known as tanks, Wiegold said, the Gepard — also known as Cheetah — vehicles are more of an anti-aircraft cannon mounted on an armored chassis.

"They can make quite a difference. The German army has taken them out of use almost a decade ago, not because they were obsolete, but because at that time the Bundeswehr was scaling down and they had no use for it anymore."

"I think they regretted it, meanwhile, because short-range air defense is much in demand everywhere now and especially in Ukraine. So, the Ukrainians can make use of it, of course."

Wiegold said that technically, the German government was only approving the German industry selling equipment to Ukraine, rather than sending it directly.

He said that, although an apparent U-turn, the decision "allows the government to convey the idea it's not that new, because it's not German [military] stock."

Wiegold said that much of the valuable heavy weaponry was coming from former Warsaw Pact countries that, like Ukraine, relied on Soviet-era equipment. However, he said that further down the line, the West would have to start sharing newer equipment, and train Ukrainians in how to use it.

"If the West wants to continue supporting Ukraine, they have to think about starting training Ukrainians on Western systems to deliver Western systems as well."

Erdogan and Putin discuss peace talks, protecting civilians

The Kremlin says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have discussed Moscow's efforts to ensure the safety of civilians in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the two leaders spoke about "efforts made by Russia on a constant basis to ensure the safety of peaceful civilians, including the organisation of humanitarian corridors."

In response to Erdogan's questions on the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, Putin said "the city is liberated and combat operations are not going on there," according to the Russian statement.

Hundreds of civilians are still sheltering in the city's huge Azovstal industrial area while Ukrainian troops are still resisting Russia.

Putin told Erdogan that Kyiv should "take political responsibility and for humanitarian reasons, order them [the troops] to lay down arms," the Kremlin said.

They also discussed the safety of Turkish ships sailing from Black Sea ports through a cooperation of defense ministries.

The Turkish side released a statement saying Erdogan urged Putin to agree to direct talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Erdogan proposed taking the "Istanbul process to the level of leaders, a crucial threshold in the Russia-Ukraine negotiations," according to the statement. Talks have so far stalled over accusations of Russian war crimes. Putin later said peace efforts were at a dead end.

Poland to sanction 50 Russian entities and people

Poland has announced it will impose sanctions on 50 Russian entities and invidiuals.

The sanctions come in addition to current European Union measures, according to Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski.

The list includes Gas giant Gazprom and Moshe Kantor, who owns part of Poland's state-owned chemicals group Azoty.

Companies on the list will have their assets frozen and be excluded from public tenders, while Russian oligarchs on the list will be banned from entering Poland.

UN ready to save lives in Mariupol — UN chief

UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the organization is ready to fully mobilize its resources to save lives in Mariupol.

"The United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol," Guterres said.

Guterres also proposed coordinated work with the Red Cross to allow people to evacuate from the Azovstal steel plant in the city. Civilians and Ukrainian troops have been holed up in the plant for weeks.

"Thousands of civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and many have evacuated," Guterres said.

Guterres said that he was concerned about possible war crimes in Ukraine, adding that they require independent investigation.

UN chief meets Putin in Moscow

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is holding a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following talks about the war in Moscow. He had also been due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This is the first in-person visit from Guterres since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

During an earlier meeting with Lavrov, Guterres called for a cease-fire to be implemented "as soon as possible."

Russia expels three Swedish diplomats

Russia said it was expelling three Swedish diplomats in a retaliatory move against Stockholm.

In early April, Sweden said it was expelling three Russian diplomats who it accused of conducting "illegal operations" there.

Russia's Foreign ministry said it summoned the Swedish ambassador to Russia and "strongly protested" the expulsion of Russian diplomats and Sweden's "military support to the Kyiv regime."

The ministry accused Sweden of "covering up the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against the civilian population of Donbas and Ukraine."

"In response to this, the Russian side decided to declare persona non grata three diplomats of the Swedish embassy in Russia," the ministry said.

Cease-fire needed as soon as possible — UN chief says in Moscow

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that conditions for a cease-fire should be created as soon as possible.

"We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution," Guterres said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. He added that the priority is to "minimize human suffering" in Ukraine.

Guterres is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin following his meeting with Lavrov.

Ukrainian troops to train on German soil — Defense Minister

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Ukrainian troops will be trained on German soil. The remarks stem from a statement she gave at the Ramstein US air base in Germany during a US-hosted defense conference.

"We are working together with our American friends to train Ukrainian troops on artillery systems on German soil," Lambrecht said, according to a transcript seen by DW.

"We will, along with the Netherlands, provide self-propelled howitzer and ammunition training to Ukraine, as we all know that artillery is an essential factor in this conflict."

Lambrecht addressed criticism leveled at Germany for not delivering heavier weaponry to Ukraine, and pointed to the government's decision to provide anti-aircraft tanks as progress.

UN disarmament expert does not expect Russia to use nuclear weapons

Pavel Podvig, a senior researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, told DW on Tuesday that he does not envisage Russia using nuclear weapons, despite the Kremlin leaving the door open to such tactics.

"I don't think that we are that close," to seeing nuclear weapons used in this war, he said. "And the main reason for that is that there are simply no plausible military missions for nuclear weapons in this type of war."

But Podvig stopped short of saying Russian President Vladimir Putin would refrain from using tactical nuclear weapons.

"It's hard for me to say with certainty whether he would refrain from that," he said.

Podvig's comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he would not want to see a nuclear confrontation, but that "the danger is serious" and "should not be underestimated."

UN expert: 'No plausible missions for nuclear weapons' in Ukraine

Moldova reports blasts in breakaway Trans-Dniester region

Moldovan authorities have reported two blasts that damaged Soviet-era radio masts in the breakaway Trans-Dniester region. Authorities said a military unit was also targeted.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu convened an urgent security meeting following the blasts.

The breakaway Trans-Dniester region seceded from Moldova in 1992 along with Russian backing, although Moscow has not officially recognized the region's independence. The region borders Ukraine and Kyiv has voiced concerns that it could be used as a staging ground for Russian attacks.

"In the early morning of April 26, two explosions occurred in the village of Maiac, Grigoriopol district: the first at 6:40 and the second at 7:05," the interior ministry of the in self-proclaimed "Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic" (PMR) said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the reports of blasts in the Trans-Dniester region were a cause for serious concern and Moscow was closely following the events.

UN expects 8.3 million to flee Ukraine this year

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that it expects some 8.3 million people to flee Ukraine this year.

UNHCR had previously planned for some 4 million refugees in the immediate aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

More than 12.7 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine in the past two months, UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said. This included 7.7 million internally displaced people and 5 million people who fled Ukraine across international borders.

"The scale of the crisis, definitely the rapidity of people fleeing, we have not seen in recent times," Mantoo said at a UN news briefing. Mantoo added that Syria has the biggest current refugee crisis in the world, with 6.8 million people having fled the country.

In Germany, Russian monks help Ukrainians

UN doubles Ukraine aid appeal to $2.25 billion

The United Nations' humanitarian agency (UN OCHA) said that it has been forced to double its aid appeal to $2.25 billion (€2.11 billion) as the humanitarian situation in the country worsens.

"Over $2.25 billion is now required for needs inside Ukraine, more than double of the amount requested ($1.1 billion) when we launched the appeal on 1 March, a few days after the war began," the UN OCHA said in a statement.

US, allies will 'move heaven and Earth' to meet Ukrainian security requirements — Defense Secretary

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the aim of the conference at the air base in Ramstein, Germany was to "help Ukraine win the fight against Russia's unjust invasion," as well as to "build up Ukraine's defenses for tomorrow's challenges."

Austin said that he discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Kyiv's "changing requirements" as Russia focuses on Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Austin said that the US and its allies will "keep moving heaven and Earth" to meet Ukraine's security requirements.

"Ukraine needs our help to win today, and they will still need our help when the war is over," Austin said. He added that the US and its allies have committed more than $5 billion of equipment to support Ukraine's defense since the start of the war.

The defense secretary said that Ukraine "has done a magnificent job defending its sovereignty against Russia's unprovoked invasion."

Austin said that Ukraine's allies had provided assistance at "record speed," adding that "Putin never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly."

Referring to Russian troop withdrawal from areas around Ukraine's capital, Austin said that the war was "entering a new phase" following what he called "Russia's defeat at the battle of Kyiv."

"Russia is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man," Austin said, alluding to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity to defend its democracy, its sovereignty and its citizens."

Austin: 'We're here to help Ukraine win the fight against Russia's unjust invasion'

Explosions hit radio facility in Russia-backed Trans-Dniester

Police in the breakaway Moldovan region of Trans-Dniester said that two explosions knocked two powerful antennas out of service in a radio facility close to Ukrainian border. The interior ministry of the region said those antennas were re-broadcasting Russian radio.

The incident occurred in a small town of Maiac about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the regional capital Tiraspol and roughly 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the border with Ukraine. No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said.

The explosions come just a day after several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the state security ministry in Tiraspol.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu is convening a meeting of the country's Supreme Security Council on Tuesday over incidents that took place in Trans-Dniester.

Trans-Dniester 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 collapse of the Soviet Union.

In this conflict, separatists were supported by Moscow. Russia still has a military base there.

A senior Russian military official, Rustam Minnekayev, said last week that Russian forces aim to take full control of southern Ukraine, saying such a move would open the way to Trans-Dniester.

Germany confirms it will send tanks to Ukraine

The German government confirmed reports that it will approve a delivery of "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, according to a statement seen by DW.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht will announce the move during opening remarks at Ramstein air base, coming at the start of a US-hosted conference on Ukraine.

"Yesterday we decided that Germany will make the delivery of "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks possible to Ukraine," Lambrecht is expected to say, according to the statement.

The confirmation comes after German media reported on the move. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government has come under increasing pressure over not yet sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.

US kicks off Ukraine conference at Ramstein air base

A defense conference on securing Ukraine's long-term security is now underway at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has invited around 40 countries to the conference. While many NATO members will be present, a number of the countries invited are not NATO member states.

The attendees will include NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.

The meeting seeks to boost weapons deliveries to Ukraine and bolster the country's long-term security.

Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday and pledged additional military assistance to Kyiv. Austin and Blinken are expected to brief allies on Ukraine's security needs during the conference.

US to host talks on Ukraine aid in Germany

No imminent threat of direct confrontation with Russia — UK armed forces minister

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said he did not think there was an imminent threat of escalation in the war in Ukraine leading to nuclear conflict.

"What the West is doing to support its allies in Ukraine is very well calibrated ... Everything we do is calibrated to avoid direct confrontation with Russia," Heappy told BBC television.

Heappey's remarks follow a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that NATO was "in essence engaged in war with Russia through a proxy" and that the "risks" of nuclear escalation were "considerable."

"Lavrov's trademark over the course of 15 years or so that he has been the Russian foreign secretary has been that sort of bravado. I don't think that right now there is an imminent threat of escalation," Heappey said.

Heappy also told Sky News that it is not NATO that is providing military support to Ukraine.

"The donor effort is something that has been brought together by countries that are yes, many of them are from NATO, but others are from beyond ... it is not NATO that is doing the military aid," Heappy said.

Will Putin use 'tactical' nuclear weapons?

Germany reportedly to supply Ukraine with 'Gepard' tanks

According to the dpa news agency, Germany's federal government intends to allow tanks from industry stocks to be delivered to Ukraine. German defense company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will be given the green light to sell "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks from previous Bundeswehr stocks, dpa reported.

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht will pledge the anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine during today's meeting at the Ramstein US air base.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Monday following a meeting with Ukrainian officials that Kyiv had requested tanks as it seeks to adapt to the shifting conditions of the conflict.

A Gepard tank shooting a Stinger missile in a field in Schlewsig-Holstein, Germany
Germany is reportedly to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft "Gepard" tanksImage: Carsten Rehder/dpa/picture alliance

Kreminna in Luhansk region has fallen — UK defense ministry

Britain's Defense Ministry said in a Tuesday intelligence update that the town of Kreminna in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region has reportedly fallen to Russian forces.

Russian troops are attempting to advance north to Sloviansk and east to Kramatorsk, according to the ministry.

"Russian forces are likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of Ukraine," the intelligence update said, adding that Ukrainian forces have been preparing defenses in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.

UK drops import tariffs on goods from Ukraine to zero

The UK has dropped tariffs on all goods coming from Ukraine, following a direct request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"The UK will continue to do everything in its power to support Ukraine's fight against Putin's brutal and unprovoked invasion," British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

The average tariff on Ukrainian imports was about 22%.

The British government said it would also impose further export bans on products to Russia, including cash, maritime goods and technology, and energy-related goods.

Ukraine wants UN to seek Mariupol evacuation

Ukraine has urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol. Guterres is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

The UN chief "should focus primarily on one issue, evacuation of Mariupol," Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview.

"This is really something that the UN is capable of doing. And if he demonstrates political will, character, and integrity, I hope that will allow us to make one step forward," he said.

Russian forces have surrounded fighters in the last Ukrainian stronghold in the Azovstal steel plant, but an estimated 100,000 civilians are also trapped in the city.

Kuleba also said he was concerned Guterres could fall into a Kremlin "trap." He cited trips to the Russian capital by foreign officials ahead of the invasion on February 24 as evidence of the Kremlin dictating diplomacy.

On Thursday, Guterres is expected to head to Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Kuleba.

Ukrainian troops hold out in Mariupol

Zelenskyy urges Ukrainians to make country 'unbearable' for Russian occupation 

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called Ukrainians to think of how to make "the presence of occupiers at our land even more unbearable."

In his nightly address, Zelenskyy predicted Russia would lose the war, but said it would require sacrifice.

"Every day of the fight will add years and years to the peaceful life after this war, after our victory," Zelenskyy said.

He was aware the Ukrainians wanted to know "when it all be over," but said "there is no simple answer to that at this time."

US to host Ukraine-focused defense talks at Germany's Ramstein air base

The US military expects officials from more than 20 countries to attend talks on Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany focused on arming Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is hosting the event following a trip to Kyiv, where he pledged additional support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In remarks following his appearance in Kyiv on Monday, Austin said he would like "to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine."

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a key goal of the talks was to synchronize and coordinate security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery and well-armed drones and ammunition.

"The next several weeks will be very, very critical," Milley told reporters traveling with him to Germany.

"They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that's really the purpose of this conference."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to attend the meeting, along with representatives from NATO and non-NATO countries. 

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

Lavrov says NATO engaged in 'proxy war' with Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian state television that NATO was "in essence engaged in war with Russia through a proxy" by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Speaking to the Russian First Channel he said, "these weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia's military."

"Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once [by Russian forces]. How can it be otherwise? War means war," he said. 

The foreign minister also said Monday evening 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.

The top diplomat said peace talks with Ukraine would continue.

He conceded the war in Ukraine would probably end finish with the signing of an accord but added the terms would depend on the military situation in the country at the time.

After Lavrov's interview, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter that Russia had lost its "last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine."

"This only means Moscow senses defeat," he added. 

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

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.

Russia said it expelled 40 German diplomats in response to Berlin's decision to kick out Russian diplomats over the conflict in Ukraine. Germany Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the move was unjustified as the Russian staff expelled from Germany had been "spies" rather than diplomats.

Russia expels German diplomats

Finnish newspaper Italehti has reported 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.

Ukrainian Railways reported that five train stations in central and western Ukraine had come under fire and had been hit by missile strikes. Russia's Defense Ministry claimed it used missiles to destroy facilities powering the railways supplying Ukrainian forces with foreign weapons.

About 15,000 Russian troops have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. Ukraine has claimed 22,000 Russian troops were killed since the invasion. Russia has acknowledged only 1,351 military deaths.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia is trying to brutalize parts of Ukraine but failing in its war aims.

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

Rail attacks in Ukraine

You can revisit our live updates from April 25 here

si, lo, aw/wmr, rs, mhm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)