Live Updates | Russia offers Mariupol fighters to surrender
MOSCOW — The Russian military has told Ukrainian troops in the besieged port of Mariupol that if they lay down their weapons they will be “guaranteed to keep their lives.”
The Russian Defense Ministry made the announcement early Sunday. Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said that the Ukrainians encircled at the giant Azovstal steel factory were given until 1 p.m. (1000 GMT) to surrender.
It was the latest such offer to the Ukrainian defenders of the key Sea of Azov port during a siege that has lasted for more than 1½ months. Capturing Mariupol is a key strategic goal for Russia, allowing it to secure a land corridor to Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014. The fall of Mariupol would also free the Russian forces involved in the siege for a planned offensive in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called Donbas.
The giant Azovstal steel mill that covers an area of more than 11 square kilometers (over 4.2 square miles) is the last major section of Mariupol still under Ukrainian control.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that about 2,500 Ukrainian troops remain at Azovstal, a claim that couldn’t be independently verified. The Ukrainian officials didn’t mention any numbers for the city defenders.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Russia strikes Ukraine’s big cities, bears down on Mariupol
— Mother, grandmother weep over a 15-year-old killed in shelling of Kharkiv
— Elderly mother feels “lost,” seeks son’s body in Ukrainian town of Bucha
— Prince Harry pays tribute to Ukrainian competitors as he opens the Invictus Games
— ‘We pray for you’: Ukrainian Jews mark Passover, if they can
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck a military plant on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital with missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday the military has used precision-guided air-launched missiles to attack the ammunition plant in Brovary outside Kyiv overnight.
He said that other Russian air raids also destroyed Ukrainian air defense radars near Sievierodonetsk in the east and several ammunition depots elsewhere.
The strikes were the latest in a series of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s weapons factories, air defense assets and other facilities as Moscow prepares for a massive offensive in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called Donbas.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has banned Russian-flagged ships from entering its Black Sea ports as part of expanded EU sanctions, the country’s Maritime Administration announced on its website on Sunday.
“All vessels registered under Russian flag, as well as all vessels that have switched their Russian flag, or flag or maritime register registration to any other state whatsoever after Feb. 24, are forbidden access to Bulgarian maritime and river ports,” the authority said.
Exceptions will be made only for ships in distress or seeking humanitarian assistance, or ships transporting energy products, food and pharmaceuticals to EU countries.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — Russia’s bombardment of cities around Ukraine on Saturday included an explosion in Kharkiv that destroyed a community kitchen.
Associated Press journalists at the scene recorded the immediate aftermath of the apparent missile attack. Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said three people were killed and 34 wounded by missile strikes Saturday in that city alone.
The kitchen was set up by World Central Kitchen, which is run by celebrity chef José Andrés to establish feeding systems in disaster and war zones. Andrés tweeted that the non-governmental organization’s staff members were shaken but safe.
The organization says it has now reached 30 cities across the country, providing nearly 300,000 meals a day. Andrés said the attack in Kharkiv shows that “to give food in the middle of a senseless war is an act of courage, resilience and resistance” and that his group’s chefs will keep cooking for Ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke Saturday with the leaders of Britain and Sweden about how best to help those defending Mariupol and the tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside the besieged city.
Mariupol’s fate can be decided either through battle or diplomacy, he said.
“Either our partners give Ukraine all of the necessary heavy weapons, the planes, and without exaggeration immediately, so we can reduce the pressure of the occupiers on Mariupol and break the blockade,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “Or we do so through negotiations, in which the role of our partners should be decisive.”
NEW YORK — A Russian general whose troops have been besieging the Ukrainian port of Mariupol was buried on Saturday in St. Petersburg after dying in battle, the governor said.
Maj. Gen. Vladimir Frolov was deputy commander of the 8th Army, which Russian media identified as being among the forces battering Mariupol for weeks.
Gov. Alexander Beglov released a statement saying Frolov “died a heroic death in battle” without saying where or when he was killed. Photographs on Russian news websites showed his grave at a St. Petersburg cemetery piled high with red and white flowers.
Ukraine has claimed that several Russian generals and dozens of other high-ranking officers have been killed during the war.
WASHINGTON — Austria’s chancellor said after meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow this past week that the Russian president is “in his own war logic” when it comes to Ukraine.
Karl Nehammer told NBC in an interview that he thinks Putin believes he is winning the war. Nehammer was the first European leader to meet Putin in Moscow since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24. He said “we have to look in his eyes and we have to confront him with that, what we see in Ukraine.’’
Before arriving in Moscow last Monday, Nehammer had visited Bucha, Ukraine, the town outside of Kyiv where graphic evidence of killings and torture has emerged following the withdrawal of Russian forces.
Nehammer told “Meet the Press” that he confronted Putin with what he had seen in Bucha, and “it was not a friendly conversation.”
He said Putin said “he will cooperate with an international investigation, on one hand, and on the other hand, he told me that he doesn’t trust the Western world. So this will be the problem now in the future.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis invoked “gestures of peace in these days marked by the horror of war” in an Easter vigil homily Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica, attended by the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol and three Ukrainian parliamentarians.
The pontiff noted that while “many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights, the nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death.”
Francis’s call for an Easter truce in order to reach a negotiated peace appeared in vain Saturday, as Russia resumed missile and rocket attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond in a reminder that the whole country remains under threat.
At the end of his homily, Francis directly addressed directly Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov and Ukrainian lawmakers Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko and Rusem Umerov, who sat in the front row.
“In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night. We are praying for all the suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer,’’ Francis said, then with emotion he added that “the biggest thing you can receive: Christ is risen,” the last three words in Ukrainian.