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Chechen warlord and Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov has said the besieged port of Mariupol will ‘fall by lunchtime’ as Russian forces continue to tighten the noose around the city’s last Ukrainian stronghold. 

Mariupol would be the biggest city to be seized by Russia since invading Ukraine eight weeks ago, and the port is seen as a key strategic position for Russia’s assault on the east of Ukraine.

But Putin’s forces have been forced to reduce what was once a bustling metropolis of 400,000 people to rubble, having met bitter resistance from Ukraine’s armed forces and territorial defence units stationed there. 

Now, all that remains of the Ukrainian defence in Mariupol is sheltered in the Azovstal steel plant, along with an estimated 1,000 civilians hiding as the Russian forces close in. 

‘Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,’ Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya said of the steel plant.

Ukraine’s defence ministry was not immediately available for comment.

A few dozen civilians managed to leave the bombed out urban centre in a small bus convoy yesterday, but Ukraine accused Russia yet again of sealing off previously agreed humanitarian corridor, meaning fewer civilians were able to flee than hoped. 

'Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,' Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's republic of Chechnya said of the steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering

'Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,' Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's republic of Chechnya said of the steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering

‘Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,’ Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya said of the steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering

All that remains of the Ukrainian defence in Mariupol is sheltered in the Azovstal steel plant, along with an estimated 1,000 civilians hiding as the Russian forces close in

All that remains of the Ukrainian defence in Mariupol is sheltered in the Azovstal steel plant, along with an estimated 1,000 civilians hiding as the Russian forces close in

All that remains of the Ukrainian defence in Mariupol is sheltered in the Azovstal steel plant, along with an estimated 1,000 civilians hiding as the Russian forces close in

A local resident pushes a dog in a pram past a building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 19, 2022

A local resident pushes a dog in a pram past a building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 19, 2022

A local resident pushes a dog in a pram past a building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 19, 2022

Evacuees board a bus to leave the city during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022

Evacuees board a bus to leave the city during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022

Evacuees board a bus to leave the city during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022

A few dozen civilians managed to leave the bombed out urban centre in a small bus convoy yesterday, but Ukraine accused Russia yet again of sealing off previously agreed humanitarian corridor, meaning fewer civilians were able to flee than hoped

A few dozen civilians managed to leave the bombed out urban centre in a small bus convoy yesterday, but Ukraine accused Russia yet again of sealing off previously agreed humanitarian corridor, meaning fewer civilians were able to flee than hoped

A few dozen civilians managed to leave the bombed out urban centre in a small bus convoy yesterday, but Ukraine accused Russia yet again of sealing off previously agreed humanitarian corridor, meaning fewer civilians were able to flee than hoped

A Ukrainian marine commander, Serhiy Volny, said on Wednesday fighters at the steel works may not be able to hold out for much longer, adding to fears that an estimated 1,000 civilians trapped in the steel plant will soon be at the mercy of the invaders. 

‘This is our appeal to the world. It may be our last. We may have only a few days or hours left,’ he said in an alarming video message

‘The enemy units are dozens of times larger than ours, they have dominance in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, in equipment and in tanks.’ 

Ukrainian negotiators are working fervently in a last-ditch attempt to reach a deal to spare their compatriots after a Russian surrender-or-die ultimatum was ignored yesterday.

Ukraine is ready for a ‘special round of negotiations’ with no conditions ‘to save our guys – military, civilians, children, the living and the wounded,’ negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. 

But peace negotiations have stalled after the Kremlin accused Kyiv on Wednesday of delaying the talks and changing its positions. 

Kyiv accuses Moscow of blocking talks by refusing humanitarian ceasefires, referring to repeated bombing of evacuation corridors in Mariupol and other cities. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned it is ‘very hard’ to see how Kyiv can negotiate with Putin given his ‘lack of good faith’. 

‘How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws?’ Johnson asked reporters last night.

Half a million Ukrainians ‘kidnapped by invaders’ 

More than half a million Ukrainians have been deported to ‘economically depressed’ areas of Russia and banned from leaving them for two years, Kyiv claimed.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, permanent representative to the United Nations, told the body’s Security Council that the deportees, including 121,000 Ukrainian children, had been sent to bleak regions in the north and east of the country.

Mr Kyslytsya added: ‘Such actions of the Russian invaders can be qualified as kidnapping and require a resolute response by the international community, primarily from the relevant UN agencies.’

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he wanted to see the opening of humanitarian corridors over orthodox Easter, which is this weekend.

But Russian deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said he was ‘a bit sceptical’ about the idea. 

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‘It’s not for the UK or for anyone else to try and substitute ourselves for the Ukrainians. It’s for the Ukrainians to decide their future. 

‘But it’s very hard to see how they can negotiate with Putin now given his manifest lack of good faith.

He added: ‘We’ve just got to keep supplying them with the things they need.’

Russia’s targeted attacks in Mariupol and other locations in the Donbas have prompted European and Western powers to offer further aid to the Ukrainian defenders by supplying yet more weaponry.  

US President Joe Biden last week announced another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, sending for the first time heavy artillery systems, while Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed this week the United States military will start training Ukrainians on using howitzer artillery.

Kirby said the training would happen outside of Ukraine with military personnel who will then return to the country and in turn train their compatriots.

‘There is a plan now that we are beginning to execute and we think that that training can happen in the next several days,’ Kirby said, adding that the latest aid package included 18 howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds. 

‘Artillery is a specific item that the Ukrainians asked for, because of the fighting that they expect is going to occur in the Donbas,’ he said.  

In Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would provide finance to Ukraine which it could use to buy anti-tank weapons and ammunition from German arms manufacturers. 

Scholz’s claim came amid criticism that Germany had delayed sending arms to Ukraine and even blocked other countries from sending German-supplied arms from their own reserves earlier in the war, while still purchasing huge quantities of Russian oil and gas. 

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic said it would launch a engineering and repair campaign to help restore Ukrainian tanks and armoured vehicles damaged in combat for redeployment to the front lines.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine and the EU will use ‘modern technology’ to find the personal details of every Russian soldier and commander thought to have committed war crimes in the country. 

Ukrainian marine commander, Serhiy Volny, said on Wednesday fighters at the steel works may not be able to hold out for much longer, adding to fears that an estimated 1,000 civilians trapped in the steel plant will soon be at the mercy of the invaders

Ukrainian marine commander, Serhiy Volny, said on Wednesday fighters at the steel works may not be able to hold out for much longer, adding to fears that an estimated 1,000 civilians trapped in the steel plant will soon be at the mercy of the invaders

Ukrainian marine commander, Serhiy Volny, said on Wednesday fighters at the steel works may not be able to hold out for much longer, adding to fears that an estimated 1,000 civilians trapped in the steel plant will soon be at the mercy of the invaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and European Council President, Charles Michel attend a news conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and European Council President, Charles Michel attend a news conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and European Council President, Charles Michel attend a news conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 20, 2022

'President Charles Michel visited Borodyanka, not alone but with his whole team, and they saw with their own eyes what the occupiers have done to our land,' Zelesnky declared

'President Charles Michel visited Borodyanka, not alone but with his whole team, and they saw with their own eyes what the occupiers have done to our land,' Zelesnky declared

‘President Charles Michel visited Borodyanka, not alone but with his whole team, and they saw with their own eyes what the occupiers have done to our land,’ Zelesnky declared

President of the European Council Charles Michel visits Kyiv and tours Borodyanka on April 20, 2022

President of the European Council Charles Michel visits Kyiv and tours Borodyanka on April 20, 2022

President of the European Council Charles Michel visits Kyiv and tours Borodyanka on April 20, 2022

Former president of Belgium Michel was led on a tour of the town on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday to see firsthand the damage caused by the Russian war in Ukraine - and speak to some of the families affected by the violence

Former president of Belgium Michel was led on a tour of the town on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday to see firsthand the damage caused by the Russian war in Ukraine - and speak to some of the families affected by the violence

Former president of Belgium Michel was led on a tour of the town on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday to see firsthand the damage caused by the Russian war in Ukraine – and speak to some of the families affected by the violence

During his nightly presidential address, Zelensky said that a European delegation, led by European Council President Charles Michel, agreed that Russia must be held to account for its actions on the streets of Ukraine after they visited Borodyanka, north of Kyiv, yesterday.

‘President Charles Michel visited Borodyanka, not alone but with his whole team, and they saw with their own eyes what the occupiers have done to our land,’ Zelesnky declared. 

‘They came to the correct conclusion – there can be no peace without justice.

‘Modern technology allows you to find every surname, every home address, every bank account. We will find everything… We will do everything to bring every Russian soldier and commander guilty of war crimes to justice.’

Former president of Belgium Michel was led on a tour of the town on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday to see firsthand the damage caused by the Russian war in Ukraine – and speak to some of the families affected by the violence.

Zelensky also launched a social media campaign yesterday, in an attempt to drum up global support for increased arms shipments to Ukraine as Russia begins its assault on the Donbas.

The Ukrainian leader’s Twitter account posted a tweet imploring people worldwide to demand their governments send heavy weapons to Ukraine – and encourage their friends to do the same. 

The campaign aims to harness the trending hashtag #ArmUkraineNow, and was accompanied by a short video showing dozens of people holding signs bearing the slogan, along with Ukrainian flags and facepaint.

'Join millions of voices in a global social media campaign: #ArmUkraineNow,' the President's tweet read. '1. Post a picture with a sign saying #ArmUkraineNow. 2. Call on your government to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine 3. Tag 3 friends and ask them to do the same. Stand with the Ukrainian people.'

'Join millions of voices in a global social media campaign: #ArmUkraineNow,' the President's tweet read. '1. Post a picture with a sign saying #ArmUkraineNow. 2. Call on your government to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine 3. Tag 3 friends and ask them to do the same. Stand with the Ukrainian people.'

‘Join millions of voices in a global social media campaign: #ArmUkraineNow,’ the President’s tweet read. ‘1. Post a picture with a sign saying #ArmUkraineNow. 2. Call on your government to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine 3. Tag 3 friends and ask them to do the same. Stand with the Ukrainian people.’

The campaign aims to harness the trending hashtag #ArmUkraineNow

The campaign aims to harness the trending hashtag #ArmUkraineNow

Dozens of people appeared in the video holding signs bearing the 'Arm Ukraine Now' slogan

Dozens of people appeared in the video holding signs bearing the 'Arm Ukraine Now' slogan

The campaign aims to harness the trending hashtag #ArmUkraineNow, and was accompanied by a short video showing dozens of people holding signs bearing the slogan, along with Ukrainian flags and facepaint

‘Join millions of voices in a global social media campaign: #ArmUkraineNow,’ the President’s tweet read.

‘1. Post a picture with a sign saying #ArmUkraineNow. 2. Call on your government to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine 3. Tag 3 friends and ask them to do the same.

‘Stand with the Ukrainian people.’

Zelensky’s renewed call for heavy weapons support comes as Russia launched a fresh military offensive in the Donbas region.

After withdrawing troops from areas around Kyiv at the start of the month, the bulk of Russia’s military is now being redeployed to the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions for a targeted assault designed to seize control of large swathes of territory in Ukraine’s east. 

The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian forces now control 80 per cent of the region in light of this week’s all-out assault in the Donbas – an area of eastern Ukraine made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Before Russia invaded on Feb. 24, the Kyiv government controlled 60 per cent of the Luhansk region.

Haidai said the Russians, who renewed their offensive this week in eastern and southern Ukraine, have strengthened their attacks in the Luhansk region after seizing the town of Kreminna and are now threatening the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna.

Source: dailymail

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