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LIVE — West pledges weapons to Ukraine as Russia hits Donbas

April 19, 2022

Several Western leaders have vowed to send more, and heavier, weapons to Kyiv as Russia launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. Follow DW for the latest.

A Russian state media photo of soldiers
Chechen volunteers fighting with the Russian military seen in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol Image: Sergei Bobylev/ITAR-TASS/IMAGO
  • Ukraine says the 'second wave' of the war has started 
  • Russian forces claim dozens of airstrikes on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine
  • Ukraine's international allies say will send more weapons

This live updates article is now closed. For our latest from April 20, please click here.

Netflix says Russia pullout played part in poor quarter

Streaming service Netflix Inc reported its first quarterly loss of subscribers in a decade on Tuesday, with its shares shedding almost a quarter of their value in response. 

The company said shutting down its service in Russia had played a part in its poor performance, costing it in the region of 700,000 members. However, Netflix's loss of around 200,000 subscriptions fell well short of its projected growth of an extra 2.5 million subscribers. 

Biden unsure if he will visit Ukraine

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he did not know if he would travel to Ukraine following a request from Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"The answer is, I don't know," Biden said when asked at an event in New Hampshire whether he would visit Kyiv. 

Ukraine's Zelenskyy said during a CNN interview on Sunday that he wanted Biden to visit and expected that he would. US presidents rarely travel.

The White House has said that while Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were probably unlikely to go given the security situation, it was considering whether to send a high-ranking US official to Kyiv in a show of solidarity. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin could be the best-placed candidates.

US, UK and Canada to send more weapons to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine.

"This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them ... in addition to many other forms of support," Johnson told lawmakers in the UK.

Trudeau said Canada would also be sending heavy artillery and promised to provide more details.

The three leaders spoke earlier today with other Western leaders to coordinate their response to Russia's offensive on eastern Ukraine. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to providing Ukraine security and economic and humanitarian assistance.

"We will continue to provide them more ammunition, as we will provide them more military assistance," Psaki said.


NATO noninvolvement a continuing policy

UK: Russia increases shelling in Donbas

The British Defense Ministry said Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine continued, but Ukrainian forces managed to repel numerous attempted advances.

"Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces," it said.

"Russia's ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces."

Russia confirms start of 'next phase' in war

Belgium plans to deliver more heavy weapons to Ukraine

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country will work with other partners to deliver more heavy weapons to Ukraine. 

De Croo called Russia's offensive in the Donbas region an "absolute low" for Europe, saying sanctions on Russia could be tightened even further and would also certainly have an effect. "But this costs more time."

De Croo's remarks came during a joint conference with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, who earlier made a similar announcement about weapon deliveries from the Netherlands. 

US official: Russia has lost 25% of its combat power in Ukraine

Russia has lost about 25% of the combat power it sent into Ukraine, according to Pentagon estimates.

A US military assessment official speaking on condition of anonymity said the Russians were refitting ground combat units for deployment into Ukraine.

He said that might be why Russia's renewed offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine is that it has begun in a limited way.

The senior official said the Russians are taking actions to improve their ability to sustain combat operations in the Donbas and to "prepare for what we believe will be larger offensives in the future." 

Russian capabilities are significantly diminished: Vikram Mittal, US Military Academy

Kharkiv mayor: Emergency workers die trying to defuse ordnance

Four people, who were defusing unexploded munitions, were killed in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the city's mayor said.

Ihor Terekhov said three emergency service officials were among the dead.

Separately, at least four people were killed and 14 wounded in the shelling of Ukraine's second-largest city.

"More than 10 residential buildings were damaged, as well as garages and a supermarket," the regional prosecutor's office wrote on Facebook.

Kharkiv is near the front lines and has faced repeated shelling from the Russian forces.

Clinging for life on Kharkiv's streets

Appeal launched against ban on Meta in Russia: report

An appeal has been launched against a Russian court ruling that labeled Meta an "extremist organization," according to the Russian news agency 

It was not immediately clear who logged the appeal against the ruling that found the parent company of Facebook and Instagram guilty of "extremist activity."

Although WhatsApp has been allowed to continue to operate in Russia the March ruling confirmed bans on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook last year had 7.5 million users in Russia and WhatsApp had 67 million, researcher Insider Intelligence estimates, while Instagram has said its ban would affect 80 million users in the country.

Scholz says allies are sending heavy weapons to Ukraine

Ukraine's allies have agreed to provide it with artillery to fight a Russian advance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

He said Germany had reached a limit of military hardware from its own stocks that it could deliver to Ukraine.

However, his government was in contact with the German arms industry to determine what could be delivered quickly, including anti-tank and air defense weapons.

"We will provide the necessary money for the purchase," Scholz said. "The aim is to strengthen the Ukrainian military such that it can push back the Russian attack."

Germany under pressure to send weapons

He was speaking after a virtual call between G7 leaders, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as Polish President Andrzej Duda and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Scholz said the leaders agreed long-range artillery would be provided to Ukraine and the allies agreed "Russia must not win the war."

The German leader added that allies would also continue to assist Ukraine's military financially.

Ahead of the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more support for his country's military.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine remains a blatant breach of international law. The killing of thousands of civilians as we have seen is a war crime for which the Russian president bears responsibility," Scholz said.

Denmark energy plan to be 'free from Putin'

Denmark's government would significantly boost the renewable energy supply and temporarily increase the production of natural gas from its fields in the North Sea to become "free" from President Vladimir Putin.

"We are convinced it's better to produce gas in the North Sea than buying it from Vladimir Putin," Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, adding the country still plans to end gas production in the North Sea by 2050.

She said the focus would be on developing renewable energies, and her government plans to quadruple the number of solar power stations and land-based wind farms by 2030.

Half of Denmark's electric power already comes from wind energy. 

The government aims to develop biogas from renewable sources "that will ensure that we are free from Putin," Climate and Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen said.

The European Union has failed to reach consensus on banning Russian oil and gas over the Ukraine war so far. 

Is a boycott of Russian gas feasible?

Biden speaks with international allies about situation in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden discussed further action concerning the Ukraine war in a call with G7, NATOand EU leaders.

Biden called the virtual meeting that took place against the backdrop of the battle for the Donbas region.

The White House said the attendees had discussed continued support for Ukraine and efforts to hold Russia accountable for its actions, but didn't give any further details.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously called on allies to offer more support for his country's military.

UN chief denounces Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Russia's new offensive in eastern Ukraine and called for a four-day truce to mark Orthodox Holy Week.

"Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine," Guterres told reporters.

He also called for a "humanitarian pause" from Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on April 24.

Lithuania bans letter 'Z' as show of support for Russia

Lithuania's parliament has backed a ban on public displays of the letter "Z", the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia's war on Ukraine.

Russian military vehicles are prominently marked with a "Z", and the letter has also appeared on social media and clothing as a sign of support for the invasion. 

Meanwhile the ribbon of St George, which was introduced as an honor by Catherine the Great, has been adopted by separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014 to show their allegiance to Russia.

Those found to be breaching the ban could pay up to €900 ($827), while companies could pay up to €1,500. 

The decision by Lithuanian lawmakers follows similar bans in Latvia and Moldova.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in March said political use of the letter "Z" should be banned because it signified "Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians."

Germany bans letter 'Z' to support invasion

EU approves aid for companies hit by Russia war

The European Commission has given the green light to a €20 billion ($21.6 billion) German scheme to help companies affected by the fallout of the war in Ukraine.

The EU executive also approved €836 million in Polish state aid to support farmers hit by rising fertilizer costs.

The scheme "is an important step to mitigate the economic impact" of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. 

The war has disrupted supply chains and caused the prices of food and fuel to soar.

Is food security under threat?

Under the German scheme, companies in the agriculture sector can be given up to €35,000 each in direct grants, tax and payment advantages, and guarantees. Companies in other sectors can get up to €400,000 each.

The measures will be in place until the end of 2022, but can be extended.

Czech prosecutors probe war crimes in Ukraine

Czech authorities have launched a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, The Associated Press reports. 

Prague's High Public Prosecutor's Office said that the initial information coming out of Ukraine "shows signs of war crimes,'' according to its definition under international law.

The office said the probe aimed to secure evidence from witnesses and victims who have arrived in the Czech Republic after fleeing Ukraine.

The investigators said they were focusing on the suspected use of banned and illegal means and methods of warfare.

Netherlands to send heavy equipment to Ukraine

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands will send Ukraine heavy equipment, including armored vehicles.

The announcement came after a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the call, Rutte expressed support for Kyiv as Russia launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.

"The Netherlands will be sending heavier materiel to Ukraine, including armored vehicles. Along with allies, we are looking into supplying additional heavy materiel," Rutte wrote on Twitter.

Russia demands the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal in Mariupol

Russia's Defense Ministry demanded that measures be taken to release civilians from the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, if there are any.

Azovstal is the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the key southeastern port. On Tuesday night, Russian troops launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine and seemed to be trying to capture the besieged city completely.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia issued another ultimatum for the Ukrainian troops in Azovstal. Russia's Defense Ministry said that it had opened a corridor so that Ukrainian troops trapped in a steel plant could leave if they agreed to surrender their weapons.

In the previous days, defenders of Azovstal shared a video on social media showing a large group of civilians, including children, hiding in the basement of the metallurgical plant. They are believed to be the relatives of Ukrainian soldiers and officers. 

'Another stage of this operation is beginning'

UK takes aim at Moscow Stock Exchange

Britain has announced plans to revoke the Moscow Stock Exchange's status as a recognized stock exchange in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The move would remove some tax relief for new investors, while existing investments would be unaffected.

Western countries have been seeking to increase pressure on Russia over its attack on its neighbor by excluding Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and sanctioning wealthy elites and key industries.

"Revoking Moscow Stock Exchange’s recognised status sends a clear message — there is no case for new investments in Russia," Britain's Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Lucy Frazer, said in a statement.

Britain said the move was in response to restrictions the Bank of Russia has placed on foreign investors.

Trading in Russian equities resumes

IMF slashes global growth forecast amid Ukraine war

The International Monetary Fund has downgraded its 2022 outlook for the world economy due to the impact of the war in Ukraine.

The IMF cut its forecast for global growth to 3.6% this year, a steep drop from last year's estimate of 6.1% and from the 4.4% growth it had expected for 2022 back in January.

Russia's invasion of its neighbor on February 24 has disrupted trade, raised concerns about food supply, and pushed up the price of fuel at a time when many countries are still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. 

What will happen to Ukraine's harvest?

The IMF also said it expects the world economy to grow 3.6% again next year — slightly slower than the 3.8% it forecast in January.

The impact of the slowdown is likely to take the biggest toll on poorer countries. 

Russia expels Dutch, Belgian diplomats in tit-for-tat moves

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it is expelling 15 Dutch diplomats following a decision last month by the Netherlands to order 18 Russian diplomats to leave. 

The ministry said in a statement that Russia was also kicking out some Belgian diplomats in a retaliatory move.

In the past week, Russia has expelled diplomats from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and the European Union.

European countries, meanwhile, have expelled more than 300 Russian embassy staff since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Kyiv says 76 Ukrainians return home in prisoner swap with Russia

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk reported that 76 prisoners of war were being returned to the country as part of the fourth exchange of captives with Russia.

"Today we exchanged 60 servicemen, 10 of them officers. 16 civilians are also returning home. This was the fifth prisoner exchange," Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post.

She did not mention how many Russians were exchanged in the swap.

Moscow says opening corridor for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol

Russia says it has opened a corridor so that Ukrainian troops trapped in a steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol can leave if they agree to surrender their weapons.

"The Russian armed forces opened a humanitarian corridor for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military personnel who voluntarily laid down their arms and militants of nationalist formations," the Russian Defense Ministry said.

According to pro-Russian separatists, there are several hundred Ukrainian soldiers hiding inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Moscow has repeatedly called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms since the battle over the port city began in early March.

The city is strategically important because it connects Moscow-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine with the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Over the next few days, Mariupol will fall: Political Scientist Aglaya Snetkov

World leaders to discuss Russia sanctions in phone call

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to discuss the war in Ukraine in a phone call with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders later on Tuesday.

Johnson's spokesman said the leaders would address the possibility of toughening sanctions against Russia and providing more support to Kyiv.

Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Japan, NATO and the European Commission are also due to join the call.

Netherlands reopens embassy in Lviv

The Netherlands says it has reopened its embassy in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with a small number of staff.

The Dutch government said the embassy would eventually return to the capital, Kyiv, when it is considered safe enough.

"By first returning to Lviv in western Ukraine with a small staff, the embassy will get a good picture of the security situation there," the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

The Netherlands moved its embassy from Kyiv to Lviv on February 22 — two days before Russia invaded Ukraine. On February 26, embassy staff were then moved out of the country to Poland.

A number of other European countries, including France, recently announced plans to move their embassies back to Kyiv after Russian forces were pushed back from the city.

Russia warns it will step up strikes on Kyiv

Polish PM opens container town in Lviv

Poland's prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has opened a Polish-funded container town for 300-350 internally displaced persons during a trip to Lviv in western Ukraine.

He also announced plans to build more temporary accommodation around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

The Polish prime minister reiterated a call for the EU to impose the strongest possible sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine. 

"This is the lowest price we can pay to regain freedom. I appeal to European leaders to abandon calculators and reach out to their consciences," Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

He said some 10 million people in Ukraine had been forced to flee their homes. Many have fled into neighboring countries such as Poland, but millions are also internally displaced.

Russian troops take eastern city of Kreminna: regional governor

Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine, according to the governor of the Luhansk region.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai told a briefing that Russian soldiers had entered the city after "leveling everything to the ground," adding that Ukrainian forces were regrouping.

Kreminna, a city of around 18,000 people, lies southeast of the capital, Kyiv, and between Luhansk and Kharkiv.

It came under heavy artillery fire overnight and also saw street battles. Gaidai said Russian forces had attacked "from all sides."

"It is impossible to calculate the number of dead among the civilian population. We have official statistics — about 200 dead — but in reality there are many more, " he said, without specifying what period the estimated death toll covered.

Ukraine said earlier on Tuesday that Russia had launched a new offensive focusing on the Donbas region in the country's east. 

What will success look like for Moscow?

2.84 million Ukrainians flee to Poland

Warsaw's border guards say that around 2.84 million people have fled from Ukraine to Poland since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24. That is more than half of the 5 million people the UN believes have left Ukraine.  

Polish authorities said around 20,000 refugees arrived from Ukraine on Monday, a 16% increase compared to the previous day. At the same time, thousands of Ukrainian citizens have crossed from Poland into Ukraine since the start of the war, mainly to areas that have been recaptured from Russian forces, according to Polish officials.

There is no official information on how many people have stayed put in Poland and how many traveled on to other EU countries.

Germany has registered 359,904 refugees from Ukraine, the German Ministry of the Interior said on Twitter. Thousands have also traveled to Romania, Russia, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia. 

Moldova's Jews help Ukraine refugees

Russia confirms launching 'next phase' 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is beginning a new stage of what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

"The next phase of this operation is now beginning," Lavrov said in an interview with India Today.

"I am sure that this will be a very important moment of the entire special operation," he added.

Russia has bombed cities and reduced civilian areas to rubble since invading Ukraine on February 24. It denies targeting civilians, however, and says it is taking part in a "special operation" to demilitarize its neighbor.

Lavrov said the operation's aim was to liberate the self-declared separatist republics of Donetskand Luhansk.

He also said Moscow was not considering the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine and claimed that Russian troops there are only targeting the country's military infrastructure and not the civilian population.

Russia's Defense Ministry said its forces had carried out dozens of strikes in eastern Ukraine overnight.

Russia's new offensive will fail, says Ukraine presidential adviser

An aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia's new offensive in eastern Ukraine is going "very cautiously" and will ultimately not succeed.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Russian troops were trying to find "sensitive spots" in Ukraine's defenses, but added: "Their offensive will fail — I give you a 99% guarantee — they simply do not have enough strength."

Russian troops have been regrouping to focus on a new offensive in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region after they were pushed back from the capital, Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials announced Tuesday that Russian forces were now attempting to push through Ukrainian defenses along much of the front line in the country's east.

"The battle for Donbas, which was announced and apparently began yesterday, is under way and is going very cautiously. The battle will not go in Russia's favor," Arestovych said on national television.

Russia carried out dozens of strikes in eastern Ukraine — Defense Ministry

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that its forces had carried out dozens of strikes in eastern Ukraine overnight.

The announcement comes after Ukrainian officials said Moscow had launched a major offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Two storage depots for Tochka-U tactical missile warheads were destroyed in Chervona Polyana in the eastern Luhansk region and Balakleya in the northeastern Kharkiv region, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that three command posts of the Ukrainian armed forces and 53 areas containing equipment and military personnel were also hit.

Ukrainian officials have not verified the reports. 

Irpin residents start rebuilding their lives

Russia calls on Mariupol Azovstal steel plant defenders to surrender

Pro-Russian separatist forces launched an attack Tuesday on the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Russia's state-owned news agency RIA cited a separatist spokesperson as saying.

"Part of the assault teams specially chosen for the attack of this site have already begun their work," said Eduard Basurin, spokesperson for the self-proclaimed "people's republic" in Donetsk. 

Russia's Defense Ministry called on Ukrainian forces defending the facility to lay down their arms by midday. 

"All who lay down their arms are guaranteed to remain alive," the ministry said. Ukrainian forces have rejected previous calls by Moscow to surrender Mariupol. 

Mariupol has been under siege since the start of Russia's invasion. Russian forces claim to have most of the city under control. The Azovstal is one of the last locations where Ukrainian forces are holding out. 

Smoke rises above a factory
Smoke rises over the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol on April 14Image: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

No humanitarian corridors for third consecutive day — Ukraine

Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said on Tuesday that no civilian evacuations would be carried out for a third consecutive day.

Vereshchuk said that Kyiv was unable to secure Russia's agreement for the establishment of evacuation corridors.

She added intensive shelling continued in the Donbas region, where President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Russia launched a new offensive.

She said "difficult negotiations" were underway on arranging humanitarian corridors in the southern region of Kherson and in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine.

US military affairs analyst joins Ukrainian international legion 

Malcolm Nance, a well-known US media commentator on military affairs announced on MSNBC that he has "joined the international legion here in Ukraine." 

Nance was an officer in the US Navy from 1980 to 2001 and specialized in cryptography and counterterrorism. He is one of the most high-profile Americans to join the fight in Ukraine. 

Both the Russian and Ukrainian sides of the conflict have made use of foreign fighters, with Russia bringing in Chechens and Syrians and Ukraine drawing thousands of fighters largely from Western countries. 

Biden to discuss Ukraine with US partners 

US President Joe Biden will convene a meeting of US allies on Tuesday to discuss the war in Ukraine after Kyiv announced Russia had launched a major new offensive in the eastern Donbas region. 

"The president will convene a secure video call with allies and partners to discuss our continued support for Ukraine and efforts to hold Russia accountable as part of our close coordination," the White House said in a statement. 

Ukraine says Russian forces launch Donbas offensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian troops have started a long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine.

"We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time," Zelenskyy said.

DW's Mathias Bölinger reports from Ukraine

Zelenskyy added that a "significant portion of the Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive."

There has been no comment thus far from Russia's Defense Ministry on the latest fighting.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Tuesday that Russian forces were attempting to take full control of the eastern Donbas region.

 "The occupiers made an attempt to break through our defenses along nearly the entire frontline in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions," a statement said. 

A map of Ukraine

On Monday evening, Ukrainian National Security Council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said that Russian forces had taken over the Luhansk town of Kreminna and one other town, but elsewhere the Ukrainian military was holding out its defense.

Ukraine has been anticipating a renewed Russian assault on Donbas since Russian forces began to pull back from central regions of Ukraine, including towns around the capital Kyiv, in late March.

"The second wave of the war has started," Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said Monday in reference to the Russian offensive.

Russia has also continued trying to capture the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege since the beginning of the invasion. Control of Mariupol is crucial for Russia as it attempts to secure the Azov coast and create a corridor between Crimea and Donbas.

Military analyst Chris Deverell talks to DW

Summary of Monday's events in Russia's war on Ukraine

The mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol said Russian troops had been "forcibly deporting" civilians from Mariupol to Russia or Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine.

Several weapon shipments have reached Ukraine since the US unveiled a new $800-million (€742 million) package of military aid last week, a senior Pentagon official said. "There have been four flights from the United States arriving into the theater just yesterday" with a fifth flight due shortly, according to the official cited by the AFP news agency.

France's President Emmanuel Macron said he had not spoken to Vladimir Putin after mass killings of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha and in other towns were reported in early April.

Vladimir Putin honored the unit that allegedly committed atrocities in Bucha for the "mass heroism and valor, tenacity and courage." He gave the 64th motorized rifle brigade the honorary title of "Guards." The brigade was allegedly deployed in the town when civilians were executed.

Russia's defense ministry also confirmed a strike on Lviv in western Ukraine, saying they have targeted a military logistic center.

More than 4.9 million citizens of Ukraine have fled the country following Russia's invasion, the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

Russian airstrikes on Lviv

lo, nm, sdi,ar/wmr, fb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)