Ukrainian troops in Mariupol face ‘last days, if not hours’, commander says
Maj. Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, made a desperate appeal to world leaders in a Facebook video posted from the besieged city of Mariupol.
“This is our call to the world. This could be the last call of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours,” Volyna said, according to multiple translations. Russia issued a new ultimatum, demanding that the city surrender by 2:00 pm (7:00 am ET) Moscow time, after the Ukrainians refused to meet the surrender deadline last Sunday. Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian forces and has been largely cut off from electricity, water, food and heating since early March.
“The enemy outnumbers us 10 to one. They have an advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on the ground, in equipment and in tanks,” Volyna said, adding that his forces were “defending a single object”: the Azovstal. steelworks where both military personnel and civilians took refuge, with hundreds reportedly injured by Russian attacks. “We call on and plead with all world leaders to help us,” she said.
The video was posted by Volyna from her personal Facebook page, not by the Azov unit. NBC has not independently verified the information.
In an earlier post on Monday, Volyna wrote: “Our wounded die in unbearable torment every day, as medicines, disinfectants and opportunities for pain relief have long since run out.” She called for heavy weapons to be delivered to Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol.
The humanitarian situation in the eastern Ukrainian city, which before the war had a population of about 500,000, is extremely dire, Ukrainian officials and humanitarian organizations say. At least 100,000 civilians remain trapped there under heavy Russian bombardment. Attempts to open humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to escape have consistently failed.
Chinese imports of Russian coal fell 30% in March
Employees work on a freight train loaded with coal at the Jiangxi Coal Reserve Center on January 29, 2022 in China. China imported 30% less coal from Russia year on year in March, according to Reuters.
Hu Guolin | China Visual Group | fake images
China imported 30% less coal from Russia in March than it did last year, due to concerns over potential foreign sanctions and a decline in foreign coal purchases, according to Reuters.
The news agency reported that the country’s total coal imports fell 40% from last year as record domestic production and government price caps made overseas supply less attractive.
Reuters reported that Chinese traders reduced imports of Russian coal in part because they were having difficulty obtaining financing from state-owned banks due to possible sanctions.
But a potential European Union ban on Russian coal could send prices plummeting. Reuters reported that Chinese merchants sought cheap shipments and sought to pay in yuan to circumvent the international SWIFT transaction system.
Russia gives Ukraine new deadline for Mariupol surrender
Russia has set a new deadline for the surrender of the battered city of Mariupol at 2pm Moscow time today (7am fight and lay down arms).
An initial ultimatum demanding surrender last Sunday, April 17, was ignored by Ukrainian forces in the city, who vowed to “fight to the end”. Ukrainian defenders in the strategic port city are outnumbered by Russian troops, who have surrounded it since early March, cutting off access to water, electricity, heating, internet and most humanitarian aid.
Just 30 miles from the Russian border, Moscow sees Mariupol as a crucial territory that would give it a land corridor between the disputed breakaway People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russia has recognized as independent, and the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.
Russia hopes to disrupt Ukrainian troop and arms movements, UK says
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, in eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2022. Fighting in the Donbas is “intensifying” and Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border Ukraine continues to rise, the British Ministry of Defense said.
Ronaldo Schemidt | Afp | fake images
Russia is trying to disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weapons to the east of the country by attacking several cities, the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update.
But Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to “remain low” following its withdrawal from the north of the capital kyiv, according to the ministry.
“However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets across Ukraine,” the UK ministry said.
Fighting in the eastern Donbas region is “intensifying” and Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border continues, the ministry said.
Zelenskyy says the situation in the battered port city of Mariupol remains “serious”
Russia is “blocking” efforts to organize humanitarian corridors in the strategic port city of Mariupol, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
“The situation in Mariupol remains unchanged, as serious as possible,” he said. Ukraine has not heard from Russia about the exchange offer, she added, referring to a proposal to exchange detained pro-Russian Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk for civilians and troops in the battered port city.
He also said that Russian forces are trying to carry out the deportation or mobilization of Mariupol residents.
“The fate of at least tens of thousands of Mariupol residents who were previously relocated to Russian-controlled territory is unknown,” it added.
People rest near a damaged residential building in Mariupol on April 17, 2022. Zelenskyy said the situation in Mariupol remains “as serious as possible.”
Victor | Xinhua News Agency | fake images
Zelenskyy also said Russia has “significantly” increased its fire intensity in the direction of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as well as Donbas and the Dnipropetrovsk region. The Donbas region is made up of the two self-proclaimed pro-Russian “republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk.
“They still see common housing infrastructure as a normal target for them,” he said.
Ukraine previously said Russia’s full offensive against the Donbass region has begunwith a senior official saying it is the “second phase” of the war.
Zelenskyy once again called for more military aid, urging countries not to delay sending supplies.
“If we had access to all the weapons that we need, that our partners have and that are comparable to the weapons that the Russian Federation uses, we would have already finished this war,” he said.
Ukrainians repel ‘numerous’ Russian advances in eastern Ukraine, UK ministry says
Russian troops now attacking eastern Ukraine are dealing with the same logistical and technical problems that plagued them in the first phase of the war, a British government ministry said in an intelligence assessment Tuesday night.
Ukrainian troops have repulsed “numerous advance attempts” in the eastern Donbas region, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address Monday that Moscow had begun attacking Ukrainian targets in Donbass.
On April 17, a mother holds her daughter at the funeral of her husband, a Ukrainian soldier killed in the Donbass area of Ukraine. Moscow is refocusing its attacks on Donbas.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | fake images
Donbas is a coal and natural gas rich part of eastern Ukraine containing the provinces of Donestsk and Lugansk.
“Russia’s ability to progress continues to be affected by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with resistance from the highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces,” the UK ministry said.
CNBC was unable to independently confirm the British assessment, although Russian troops are known to have redeployed to Donbas since withdrawing from kyiv and other areas in the west.
The Russian Defense Ministry press office was not immediately available to respond to CNBC’s request for comment.