- Moscow has said it will increase the scale of its attacks on Kyiv in response to attacks on Russian territory
- Russia warns the United States against supplying more weapons to Ukraine, a US newspaper report says
- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny calls for the West to fight against Russian "propaganda"
- Slovak defense minister says Putin is "equal to Hitler"
- Germany's finance minister confirms boosting military aid to €2 billion
These updates have now closed.
Key Putin ally in Ukraine 'beaten' under interrogation
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin's top allies in Ukraine has been beaten while in detention, his wife said.
Oksana Marchenko told a news conference in Moscow that one of two photos released by Kyiv this week showed that opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk had been maltreated.
"It shows a big bruise and marks which they have tried to conceal with his hair. There is no doubt that he was beaten in the first hours after his arrest," she said.
The claim cannot be independently verified.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Tuesday that Medvedchuk had been detained.
He is the leader of the Opposition Platform — For Life, Ukraine's largest opposition party, that has long advocated closer ties to Moscow, and that was banned under the country's martial law in the wake of Russia's invasion.
Finnish minister: 'Huge majority' support NATO membership
Finland is "highly likely" to apply for NATO membership, one of the country's cabinet ministers has said.
European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen told Britain's Sky News that while the final decision has not been made, “the people of Finland seem to have already made up their mind and there is a huge majority for the NATO membership."
Finland's prime minister said this week that a decision could be made "within weeks," while Sweden is also discussing joining the military alliance.
Russia has warned of unspecified "consequences" should Helsinki and Stockholm join NATO.
Pro-Russia Serbs rally in Belgrade over UN vote
Thousands of Serbs marched through Belgrade to the Russian embassy to protest the government's bid to distance itself from Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.
Many protesters waved Russian and Serbian flags, carried pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and wore T-shirts with the letter 'Z' that has become a symbol of the invasion.
Serbia remains the only European country not to impose sanctions on Russia. But protest organizers are angry that Belgrade voted last week in support of Russia's expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council.
Germany to spend €3 billion on floating LNG terminals
Germany has released nearly €3 billion ($3.2 billion) to acquire floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, the finance ministry said.
A total of €2.94 billion has been made available for the lease of these huge LNG carriers, the ministry told Agence France-Presse.
Germany has vowed to cut its dependence on Russian natural gas in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Instead, Berlin is seeking to boost supplies of LNG from key exporters Qatar, the United States and Australia.
However, the country has no import terminals to receive the gas, which arrives by ship. Any permanent facilities will likely take until 2026 to build.
The floating terminals could be positioned in North Sea or Baltic ports by next winter, according to media reports.
Russian editor faces 10-year jail sentence over 'false' report
A Russian news editor has been detained for alleging that 11 riot police members had refused to join Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.
A court that probes large cases said the chief editor of a news website in Siberia's Khakassia region was placed in pre-trial detention for spreading "deliberately false information."
If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, investigators said.
The court did not release his name, but he is understood to be Mikhail Afanasyev, editor of Novy Fokus (New Focus), a news website.
Since the invasion began on February 24, Moscow has imposed prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading information about the Russian military deemed false.
Russians mourn sinking of Moskva warship
Dozens of people have gathered to mourn the sinking of the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva missile cruiser.
A ceremony took place in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, where some embraced and others laid flowers in memory of the vessel at a monument to the 1696 foundation of the Russian navy.
Moscow, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an ammunition explosion.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused it to sink.
Lindner: Germany to boost military assistance to €2 billion
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has confirmed that the government will boost military assistance spending in 2022 to €2 billion ($2.16 billion).
"The funds will largely benefit Ukraine," Lindner tweeted, adding that Chancellor Olaf Scholz had "requested this at an early stage."
The German government launched its Capability Initiative in 2016 and the funds have been used in the past to support the military, but also the police and disaster control agencies.
The size of the pot is now to be drastically increased due to the war in Ukraine, with reports suggesting more than €1 billion will be earmarked for Kyiv.
The decision follows fresh pressure from Kyiv that Berlin expedites the delivery of heavy weaponry in preparation for the expected large-scale Russian offensive in the east of the country.
Germany has supplied Ukraine with military supplies including grenades, anti-aircraft rockets, machine guns and ammunition, but not heavy weapons such as tanks, helicopters and fighter planes.
Zelenskyy expresses concerns about nuclear weapons
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed the concerns of CIA director William Burns Friday about the potential for Russia to use nuclear weapons against his country.
Zelenskyy told CNN that "all of the world" should be concerned that Russia has spoken about the use of "nuclear weapons or some chemical weapons."
"For them, the life of the people is nothing," Zelenskyy said.
On Thursday, the CIA director William Burns said that Russia's setbacks since it invaded Ukraine on February 24 raise the risk that Russia could use a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon.
Following the invasion, Russia placed its nuclear forces on high alert but the US has not detected anything unusual.
5 people killed in shelling in Mykolaiv
Vitaly Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region said on Telegram that five people were killed during shelling in the city of Mykolaiv.
Russia has denied targeting civilians.
Zelenskyy asked Biden to designate Russia 'state sponsor of terrorism' — report
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked US President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism" during a recent call, The Washington Post reports.
The newspaper also reported Biden did not commit to doing so during their call.
According to a State Department fact sheet, the US will use the designation in cases where a nation state has "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." Currently, four countries are listed as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
The US "state sponsor of terrorism" is among the most powerful of sanctions in the country's arsenal. Despite the Soviet Union's support of terror groups in Western Europe and the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, the US never used the designation against its Cold War adversary.
US believes sunk Moskva hit by at least one missile
Pentagon officials said Moskva, the Russian guided-missile cruiser ship that sank Thursday as it was being towed to port in the northern Black Sea, had been hit by at least one, but likely two Ukrainian Neptune missiles.
The large fire aboard the Moskva had been created by the missile strike. Previously the Pentagon had said it was not yet prepared to confirm Kyiv's claims that it had struck the Moskva.
German Chancellor criticized for lack of heavy weapons to Ukraine
Friedrich Merz, the leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, has criticized German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for failing to authorize heavy weapons deliveries to Ukraine.
Merz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that Scholz "is endangering the cohesion of the entire community of states vis-à-vis Russia."
Merz added, "We want to know what is being delivered and, above all, for what reasons the German government does not want to deliver available material."
"If we don't succeed in stopping Putin in Ukraine and pushing him back, then he will continue," he added.
The German government has been criticized for its failure to sign off on heavy weapons deliveries and for blocking the EU effort to place an embargo on Russian oil and gas. Germany has handed over anti-aircraft rockets, grenades, machine guns and ammunition to Ukraine since the war began.
Shelling kills 7 people, wounds 34 others in Kharkiv
Oleh Synehubov, the regional governor of Kharkiv, said that the Russian shelling of a residential area in the city of Kharkiv resulted in seven deaths and caused injuries to 34 other people.
Russia's Ministry of Defense alleged its rockets had "eliminated up to 30 Polish mercenaries" in a strike on the village of Izyumskoe near Kharkiv.
Ukraine evacuates over 2,000 from areas under siege
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, said in a statement on Telegram that 2,864 people had been evacuated from areas of the country under siege on Friday.
She said the number includes 363 people from Mariupol who were able to get out using their own transportation as well as 370 people from the eastern Luhansk region and 2,131 from the Zaporizhzhia region.
Ukraine to receive aid from Canada, Japan
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced his country will receive 500 million Canadian dollars ($396 million or €367 million) in aid from Ottawa and 13 billion Japanese yen ($100 million or €73 million) from Tokyo.
During a televised address, Shmyhal said, "These are funds to finance our primary needs."
UN calls for access to trapped Ukrainians
The UN's World Food Program (WFP) has called for access to Ukrainians who are trapped and under siege and at risk of starvation.
In a statement, the WFP's executive director David Beasley said: "We're calling on everyone to give us the access we need to reach the people in besieged cities."
Since the start of the war, the WFP has delivered food assistance to 1.4 million Ukrainians and is preparing to deliver food to 2.3 million more this month.
The UN's food agency has not been granted access to areas under siege, including the southeastern port city of Mariupol which is surrounded by the Russian army, nor to Mykolaiv east of Odesa.
Moscow expels 18 EU diplomats
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expelled 18 EU diplomats from the 27-nation bloc's delegation to Russia in retaliation for the EU's decision to expel 19 Russian diplomats earlier this month.
On April 5, the EU declared 19 Russian diplomats in Belgium personae non gratae.
Moscow said it had summoned Markus Ederer, the EU ambassador to Russia to lodge a formal note of protest.
Western countries have expelled waves of diplomats from Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
More than 900 civilians discovered dead in Kyiv region
Andriy Nebytov, the chief of police in the Kyiv region, said 900 civilian bodies were discovered largely abandoned in the streets or in shallow graves after Russia withdrew its forces. He added that 95% of those found dead had died of gunshot wounds, likely from sniper fire.
Nebytov said, "We understand that under the [Russian] occupation, people were simply executed in the streets."
More bodies are being uncovered each day, he emphasized.
"The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses," Nebytov said.
Pope Francis calls out 'racism' in treatment of refugees
Pope Francis noted that many countries have been more welcoming to refugees from war-torn Ukraine than to those from other parts of the world, hinting that 'racism' was the cause.
"The refugees are divided. First class, second class, by skin color, whether you come from a developed country or a non-developed one," Francis told Italian television station RAI.
"We are racists and that's bad," the pope said, adding that the weakest always suffered the most in wars.
Ukraine's top steelmaker won't work for Russians
Ukraine's biggest steelmaker Metinvest said that if the country falls to Russia, its enterprises would never operate under occupation by Moscow. Meinvest said Ukraine had so far lost access to 30% to 40% of its metallurgy output capacity in the besieged city of Mariupol.
The company controlled by Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov said that Ukraine, one of Europe's biggest suppliers of iron ore, had also more than halved its iron ore production due to Russia's invasion.
"We believe in the victory of Ukraine and plan to resume production after the end of hostilities. Metinvest's metallurgical enterprises will never operate under Russian occupation," the company said in a statement.
Metinvest's plants in Mariupol accounted for more than a third of Ukraine's metallurgical production, it said.
Five million people have left Ukraine
Over five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. The displacement is Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.
UNHCR said a total of 4,796,245 million Ukrainians had left the country since February 24, while the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals, largely students and migrant workers, also left the country.
More than 2.7 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, while some 725,000 have reached Romania.
Women and children accounted for 90% of those who fled, as men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military call-up and unable to leave.
Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been forced from their homes, including those still inside the country.
France's RFI blocked in Russia
Russia has blocked access to the website of French public broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI), a register maintained by Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor showed.
RFI was presumably blocked for violating a law banning the dissemination of false or extremist information.
It comes as Russian regulators blocked online newspaper The Moscow Times earlier in the day. Russia has stepped up efforts to silence independent media and government opponents since the start of the war.
Russian lawmakers recently passed a law that would hand up to 15 years in jail to anyone that publishes information about the military deemed false by the government.
Ukraine: 7 dead in Russian attack on evacuees
Ukraine says dozens of people have been injured in a Russian strike that hit buses carrying civilians from potential flashpoints in the east.
Ukraine's prosecutor general said the alleged attack happened on Thursday.
"Russian servicemen fired on evacuation buses carrying civilians in the village of Borova in the Izium district," the prosecutor general said.
"Preliminary data shows seven people died. Another 27 people were injured."
Ukrainian authorities are urging people to move swiftly to escape an expected large-scale Russian offensive to capture the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Russian forces in the eastern city of Kramatorsk were last week accused of targeting a train station used for evacuations. That attack left more than 50 people dead.
Moscow Times partially blocked in Russia
Russia blocked access to the website of the Moscow Times on Friday, the newspaper said, cutting off its Russian language service in the country.
The crackdown came after the newspaper published an article about riot police officers refusing to deploy in Ukraine, countering official Russian propaganda.
The Moscow Times, an independent English language paper, has covered Russia for three decades. The paper's English services remain available in other countries, and Russian users can access the site with a VPN, the paper said.
Russia warns US against providing weapons to Ukraine — report
Russia has warned the United States of "unpredictable consequences" if it keeps providing weapons to Ukraine, the Washington Post reports.
"We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security," the newspaper quoted Moscow as saying in a diplomatic note to Washington.
The communication comes after US President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved an $800 million package of military assistance, including additional helicopters and artillery.
The aid includes armored personnel carriers, armored Humvees, naval drone vessels for coastal defense, and equipment used to protect personnel from chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological attacks.
The package also envisages some training for a Ukrainian military not familiar with US military technology.
Ukraine announces humanitarian corridors in east
Ukraine's government has announced nine refugee corridors in the east of the country, which it said had been agreed with the Russian military.
The development comes as the Kremlin refocuses its invasion of Ukraine on eastern regions.
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced that, in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, routes had been agreed from Mariupol, Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar.
Vereshchuk also said there would be escape routes in the Luhansk region.
Civilians in Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske and Rubishne would be able to reach Bakhmut in the neighboring Donetsk region, she said, provided that a ceasefire was observed.
Moscow says it will retaliate against attacks on Russian soil
The Russian Defense Ministry has promised to ramp up “the scale of missile attacks'' on the Ukrainian capital in response to what it called Ukraine's "diversions on the Russian territory.''
The statement comes after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in the Bryansk region.
"The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or sabotage committed by the Kyiv nationalist regime on Russian territory," said the statement.
It added that Russia had hit a "military" factory outside Kyiv late on Thursday using sea-based long-range Kalibr missiles.
The ministry said a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter, allegedly involved in an attack on the Bryansk region, had been shot down in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region. It added that Russian forces had "eliminated" 30 Polish mercenaries fighting for Ukrainian forces in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv.
Vice-chancellor Habeck: Germany must send more weapons
German Economics Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has called for Germany to send more weapons to Ukraine, but ruled out the delivery of large tanks and combat aircraft for the time being.
"There must be more weapons," the Green politician told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper group. "We cannot leave Ukraine alone in the war on its own. It is also fighting for us. Ukraine must not lose, Putin must not win."
Asked whether Germany was also supplying heavy weapons, Habeck was more guarded.
"The people in Ukraine are fighting back with courage and willingness to make sacrifices. It is our duty to support them with weapons."
"At the same time, we have a responsibility not to become a target of attack ourselves. That is the framework within which we deliver everything that is possible." That framework, Habeck added, "does not include not yet include large tanks or combat aircraft."
Germany has so far — as far as is known — supplied mainly anti-tank weaponry, machine guns, and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as steel helmets.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday renewed his call for Chancellor Olaf Scholz to make a swift commitment to further German arms deliveries.
"I hope that Scholz will make a positive decision," Kuleba told German broadcaster ARD.
Kuleba said that, in his view, the war could have been avoided "if Germany had allowed arms deliveries earlier."
Ukraine says Russia focusing on east
The Ukrainian military says Russian units are currently focused on capturing the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. However, a morning report of the Ukrainian general staff on Friday said Moscow's forces had, so far, not been successful.
According to the report, Kyiv expects a major offensive by Russian units in the east of the country in the next few days.
It said Ukrainian troops had repelled attacks in eight places in the past 24 hours, destroying several Russian tanks and an artillery system.
Ukraine has significant deployments in the area, which since 2014 has been the front against the Moscow-backed, self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk breakaway republics.
Moscow is believed to be increasing its troops in the area. Ukrainian officials claim that Russian troops previously deployed near the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv are now stationed around the city of Sievierodonetsk, which borders Rubishne.
Putin 'equal to Hitler' — Slovak minister
Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad has told the New York Times that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "equal to Hitler," adding that "Ukraine is literally fighting for our future."
Nad also told the US newspaper that before the war it would have been unthinkable for Slovakia to donate a missile defense system to Ukraine. But that is exactly what his country has just done, with an S-3000 missile defense system arriving in Ukraine on Thursday.
"We are a frontline state," Nad told the New York Times. "The paradigm is completely different now."
Echoing Nad's Hitler comparisons, the Ukrainian parliament has classified Russia as a terrorist state and a "neo-Nazi totalitarian regime." It added that the Kremlin was following "principles introduced by the fascist and Nazi militarist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and others."
The new legislation also banned symbols related to the invasion of Ukraine, including symbols of the Russian armed forces and other Russian authorities.
There were 354 parliamentarians voting in favor of the law, far more than the 226 needed for it to pass.
Kremlin critic Navalny calls for fight against Russian 'propaganda'
Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for an "information front" to be opened against Russian "propaganda" around the war in Ukraine.
"I urge the President of the United States, Boris Johnson, the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mark Zuckerberg... to urgently find a solution to crush Putin's propaganda using publicity opportunities on social media," Navalny said in a tweet.
"The combination of really crazy propaganda... on all channels 24/7, the shutdown, blocking of independent media and websites is slowly doing its job," Navalny warned over Russia's moves to muzzle free speech.
"The fact is that the majority of Russian citizens have a completely distorted idea of what is happening in Ukraine."
In March, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud, embezzlement and contempt of court.
Summary of Thursday's events in Ukraine-Russia crisis
After Russia confirmed its Black Sea flagship "Moskva" had sunk, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the incident would "have an effect on their capabilities."
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Ukrainian people for 50 days of resistance to Russia's invasion of the country in his daily video address.
The head of the World Food Program, David Beasley, told the Associated Press that his agency and other aid organizations are having trouble getting access to civilians in Ukraine.
France's foreign ministry said that its embassy in Ukraine would return to Kyiv. France had made the decision to move the embassy to Lviv in March following Russia's invasion.
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council rejected Russia's claims that attacks were launched around the border area between the two countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western banks of failing to make payments for Russian gas.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk reported that 30 prisoners of war were being returned to the country as part of an exchange of captives with Russia.
mm, ar, jcg, sdi, rc/kb, aw, jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)