Live Updates | Russians Fight In Streets Of Ukrainian Town

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) servicemen enter an apartment during an operation to arrest suspected Russian collaborators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) servicemen enter an apartment during an operation to arrest suspected Russian collaborators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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KVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military official said street battles have begun and evacuation is impossible in the town of Kreminna. That's one of only two spots where the Ukrainians said the Russians managed to break through on Monday along a front stretching for hundreds of miles.

Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said the town came under heavy artillery overnight, setting seven residential buildings on fire, and that the Olympus sports complex where the nation's Olympic team trains was targeted.

Haidai later said on Ukrainian TV that Russians took control of the city after “leveling everything to the ground,” so his guys retreated to regroup and keep on fighting. “It simply makes no sense to stand in one place, to die for everyone, without causing significant damage to the enemy,” he said.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— 'No surrender’: Ukrainians fight on in Mariupol steel plant

— Russia renews strikes on Ukraine capital, hits other cities

— Syrian fighters ready to join next phase of Ukraine war

— Bosnians warn Ukrainians: It’s a long journey to justice

— Mother, grandmother weep over 15-year-old killed in Kharkiv

Follow all AP stories on Russia's war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

KVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces are attacking along a broad front, over 300 miles (480 kilometers) long, Ukrainian officials said Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces were increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions — both of which are part of the Donbas — as well as in the area of Zaporizhzhia, they said.

“The occupiers attempted to break through our defenses,” said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council. “Fortunately, our military is holding out. They passed through only two cities — this is Kreminna and another small town.”

He added: “We are not giving up any of our territories.”

Russia also bombarded the relative safe haven of Lviv and a multitude of other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country’s defenses.

Moscow said its missiles struck more than 20 military targets, including ammunition depots, command headquarters and groups of troops and vehicles, while its artillery hit an additional 315 targets and its warplanes conducted 108 strikes. The claims could not be independently verified.

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KVIV, Ukraine — Russia has begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on a Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainians are refusing to surrender, the commander of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard said Monday.

Denys Prokopenko, whose soldiers have been holding out against Russian forces in the key southern port city, said in a video message that the bombs are dropping even though civilians are sheltering in the plant’s tunnels.

“Russian occupational forces, and their proxy ... know about the civilians, and they keep willingly firing on the factory,” he said.

Russia estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries were dug in. The U.S. said nearly a dozen Russian battalion tactical groups have been tied up trying to defeat them.

The head of the city’s patrol police, Mikhail Vershinin, told Mariupol television on Sunday that many civilians including children are hiding in the plant, seeking shelter from Russian shelling and forces occupying other parts of the city.

Ukraine estimates that 21,000 people have been killed in Mariupol. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned Russia on social media that refusing to open humanitarian corridors will justify war crimes trials. The Russians, for their part, said “neo-Nazi nationalists” have hampered evacuations.

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KVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has launched its long-feared, full-scale offensive to take control of Ukraine’s east,

“Now we can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas,” he said in a video address. Zelenskyy said a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”

The Donbas is Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past eight years and have declared two independent republics recognized by Russia.

The Kremlin declared the capture of the Donbas its main goal of the war after failing to storm. After withdrawing from the capital, it began regrouping and reinforcing its ground troops in the east for what could be a climactic battle.

“No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight,” Zelenskyy vowed. “We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.”

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations’ humanitarian chief said it seems “the time is not quite ripe yet” to establish a cease fire to get humanitarian aid into Ukraine, but he held out hope as the Orthodox Easter holiday approaches this weekend.

“Maybe there will be some ripeness,” Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths said at a news conference on Monday.

After traveling to Kviv and Moscow for high-level meetings with Ukrainian and Russian officials this month, Griffiths told The Associated Press he had sensed little trust between the adversaries and was “not optimistic.”

Griffiths called for Russia and Ukraine to return to talks aimed at ending the war and for “much, much more willing acceptance, primarily of the Russian federation, to allow convoys in and convoys out.”

“For now, let’s get aid to people where they need it,” Griffiths said.

The U.N. says 12 million people have been uprooted by the war, with about 5 million of them pouring across borders and the rest seeking safety elsewhere in Ukraine.

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BERLIN — Germany’s employers and unions have joined together in opposing an immediate European Union ban on natural gas imports from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. They say a boycott would lead to factory shutdowns and job losses in the bloc’s largest economy.

“A rapid gas embargo would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, a further de-industrialization and the long-term loss of work positions in Germany,” said Rainer Dulger, chairman of the BDA employer’s group, and Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the DGB trade union confederation.

Their joint statement Monday to Germany’s dpa news agency comes as European leaders discuss possible new energy sanctions against Russian oil, following a decision April 7 to ban Russian coal imports beginning in August.

Ukraine’s leaders say revenues from Russia’s energy exports are financing Moscow’s destructive war on Ukraine and must be ended.

That won’t be easy to do. The EU’s 27 nations get around 40% of their natural gas from Russia and around 25% of their oil.

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Ukraine rejected as baseless and false the accusations made by Serbia’s president that Ukraine’s secret service is behind a series of hoax bomb threats against Air Serbia flights to Russia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has claimed that the foreign intelligence services of Ukraine and an unidentified European Union nation are responsible.

The pro-Russian Serbian leader did not provide evidence for his claim. Other Serbian officials alleged that the threats were being sent from Ukraine or Poland. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nilolenko on Monday called the allegations false.

The Serbian national carrier is the only European airline besides Turkish air companies that has not joined EU flight sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat condemned Russia’s “indiscriminate and illegal” attacks on Ukraine on Monday as the country experienced the most intense missile strikes in weeks.

Josep Borrell, the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement that the EU supports the work of the International Criminal Court and other efforts to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

“There can be no impunity for war crimes,” said Borrell, who called for Russia to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw forces from Ukraine.

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says Russia has added artillery, ground combat forces and other capabilities in recent days ahead of a new ground offensive in the Donbas region in Ukraine.

A senior U.S. defense official said the number of combat units known as battalion tactical groups in eastern and southern Ukraine has grown to 76 from 65 last week. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments of the war.

It’s difficult to know at this stage of the war, but that could add up to 50,000 to 60,000 Russian troops, depending on how developed the groups are.

The official said that if Russian forces succeed in fully controlling the southern port of Mariupol it could free up nearly a dozen battalion tactical groups for use elsewhere in the Donbas region.

The official also said that four U.S. cargo flights arrived in Europe on Sunday with weapons and other materials, part of $800 million in assistance announced last week.

The official said training of Ukrainian personnel on U.S. Army and Marine Corps 155mm howitzers is set to begin at an undisclosed location outside of Ukraine in the next several days. The U.S. pledged 18 howitzers to bolster Ukrainian forces in the Donbas fight, and these trainees can in turn train more soldiers inside Ukraine.

— AP Military Writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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KVIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has formally submitted Ukraine’s answers to a questionnaire from the European Union, the first step in his campaign to obtain accelerated EU membership.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said when presenting the questions to Zelenskyy in early April that a preliminary decision on Ukraine’s candidacy could come in weeks.

Ukraine’s drive to join the bloc has been a provocative issue with Russia for years.

“The people of Ukraine are united by this goal -- to feel they are an equal part of Europe,” Zelenskyy said Monday as he handed two thick binders of Ukrainian responses to Matti Maasikas, the EU’s envoy for Ukraine.

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia — Survivors of war crimes committed during Bosnia’s war 30 years ago say the victims of human rights abuses in Ukraine can learn from their experience, which was lengthy and painful.

It took decades to arrest and try the wartime Bosnian Serb leaders, and more than 7,000 people still remain unaccounted-for. But the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia eventually convicted 83 high-ranking political and military officials and transferred a mountain of evidence against lower-ranking suspects to their home countries for prosecution.

The guilty were collectively sentenced to over 700 years in prison.

Munira Subasic helped create Mothers of Srebrenica to demand that bodies be identified and those responsible brought to justice. To date, almost 90 percent of those reported missing from the fall of Srebrenica have been accounted for.

“Russia’s denials of massacres its soldiers are now obviously committing in Ukraine sound to me the same as Srebrenica genocide denial,” Subasic said. “But if survivors are persistent, the truth will prevail.”

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BEIRUT — Kremlin officials boasted early in their war on Ukraine that thousands of experienced fighters from the Middle East would join Russian forces. Military analysts say only a small number appears to have arrived in Russia for training before being deployed to the front lines, but they say that could change as Russia prepares for a full-scale offensive.

U.S. officials and activists monitoring Syria say the Russians have been actively recruiting. Rami Abdurrahman leads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He reported that about 40,000 people have registered so far with the Russian military and with Wagner Group, which is a Russian private contractor.

Rayan Maarouf of Suwayda24, an activist collective that covers IS activities in the Syrian desert, said fighters were promised no less than $600 a month. That’s a huge sum of money amid widespread unemployment in Syria.

Analysts say fighters from Syria are more likely to be deployed in coming weeks, especially after Gen. Alexander Dvornikov was named war commander. Dvornikov is well acquainted with the paramilitary forces Russia trained in Syria. Though some question how effective Syrian fighters would be in Ukraine, they could be brought in if more forces are needed to besiege cities or to make up for rising casualties.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says that the barrage of Western sanctions against Russia has failed.

Putin said Monday that the West “expected to quickly upset the financial-economic situation, provoke panic in the markets, the collapse of the banking system and shortages in stores.” He added that “the strategy of the economic blitz has failed.”

The Russian leader spoke in televised remarks during a video call with top economic officials.

Putin noted that “Russia has withstood the unprecedented pressure,” arguing that the ruble has strengthened and the country has recorded a historic high trade surplus of $58 billion in the first quarter of the year.

Instead, he contended that the sanctions backfired against the U.S. and its European allies, speeding up inflation and leading to a drop in living standards.

Putin acknowledged a sharp hike in consumer prices in Russia, saying they rose by 17.5% as of April on a year-to-year basis and directing the government to index wages and other payments to alleviate the impact of inflation on people’s incomes.

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KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Russia can be prosecuted for war crimes over its refusal to allow humanitarian corridors for civilians trapped in the city of Mariupol.

Earlier on Monday, Iryna Vereshchuk had said no evacuations were possible for the second day in a row because of Russian attacks on civilian convoys.

“Your refusal to open these humanitarian corridors will in the future be a reason to prosecute all involved for war crimes,” she wrote on her Telegram and Facebook channels.

Vereshchuk called again on Russia to allow safe evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, especially the Azovstal steel mill, which covers more than 11 square kilometers (4 square miles) and is laced with tunnels.

According to Vereshchuk, the government had been negotiating passage from Mariupol and Berdyansk, among other towns, as well as from the Luhansk region. The Luhansk government said four civilians trying to flee the region were shot to death by Russian forces.

The Russians, in their turn, have accused the “neo-Nazi nationalists” in Mariupol of hampering the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state security service has posted a video of a Ukrainian politician held on a treason charge offering himself in exchange for the evacuation of Mariupol’s trapped civilians, while two British men who surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol appeared on Russian media asking to be part of an exchange.

The video of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party with personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was posted Monday. In it, he appeals to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by name to consider the exchange.

Medvedchuk was detained last Tuesday in a special operation carried out by Ukraine’s state security service, or the SBU. The 67-year-old oligarch had escaped from house arrest several days before the hostilities broke out Feb. 24 in Ukraine. He is facing 15 years to life in prison on charges of treason and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization for mediating coal purchases for the separatist Russia-backed Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine.

The British men identified themselves as Sean Pinner and Aiden Aslin. In one video, Pinner asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be exchanged. Pinner had deep circles beneath his eyes and appeared exhausted, but said he and Aslin had been treated appropriately.

Ukrainian officials have said Kyiv wants try Medvedchuk and ultimately exchange him for Ukrainian prisoners.

The circumstances of the videos were unclear. The two videos were released within an hour of each other.

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ROME — Italian officials will go ahead with an energy-deal trip to Africa this week as part of Premier Mario Draghi’s efforts to quickly reduce the country’s heavy reliance of Russian gas, but he won’t be going because he has tested positive for COVID-19.

The premier’s office, announcing the infection, said on Monday that Draghi has no symptoms. The mission to Angola and Congo, set for Wednesday and Thursday, will instead see the government represented by its ministers of foreign affairs and of ecological transition.

Italy buys almost 40% of its gas from Russia. Draghi is determined to drastically reduce that reliance in the next two or three years, in large part by sealing deals with other energy producing countries. Draghi recently traveled to Algeria to make such an agreement as part of the strategy.

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MADRID -- Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in a few days.

Following similar decisions by several European neighbors, Sánchez said the reopening will “show again the commitment of the Spanish government and Spanish people with the Ukrainian people.”

“Spain is with Ukraine and we are against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Sánchez said in an interview on Spain’s Antena 3 television. “This is a war by Putin against what the European Union stands for.”

Spain closed the embassy within hours of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said seven people were killed and another 11, including a child, were wounded by Russian strikes in the western Ukrainian city.

Plumes of thick black smoke were seen by Associated Press journalists in Lviv, rising over the city amid multiple explosions believed to be caused by missiles strikes.

Lviv Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said there were four Russian missile strikes, three of which hit military infrastructure facilities and one struck a tire shop. He said emergency teams were putting out the fires.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of the Ukrainian rail service, said the strikes hit near railway facilities. He said train traffic has resumed with some delays, and he vowed to restore the damaged network.

Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine has been less affected by the fighting than other parts of the country, and is considered to be a relatively safe haven.

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MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck over 20 Ukrainian military targets with missiles.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that precision-guided air-launched missiles destroyed 16 military facilities, including five command headquarters, a fuel depot, three ammunition depots and concentrations of Ukrainian military vehicles and personnel in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions.

Konashenkov said the military also fired Iskander land-based missiles to destroy four ammunition depots and three groups of Ukrainian troops near Popasna and Kramatorsk in the east and Yampil in central Ukraine.

He said that the military used artillery to hit 315 Ukrainian targets, and Russian warplanes performed 108 strikes targeting Ukrainian troops and military equipment.

Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently verified.

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LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says the continuing siege of Mariupol is tying up Russian forces and slowing its advance ahead of a planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine.

In a daily intelligence update, Britain’s military says “concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and materiel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere.”

The Sea of Azov port city has been devastated in weeks of Russian pummeling. Britain says “large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed” and there are “significant” civilian casualties.

Britain accuses Russia of using tactics of all-out war on civilian areas similar to its attacks in Chechnya and Syria, despite Russian claims at the start of its invasion “that Russia would neither strike cities nor threaten the Ukrainian population.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian troops in southern Ukraine have been carrying out torture and kidnappings, and he called on the world Sunday to respond.

“Torture chambers are built there,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address to the nation. “They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities.”

Zelenskyy said humanitarian aid has been stolen, creating famine.

In occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, he said, the Russians are creating separatist states and introducing Russian currency, the ruble. Intensified Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, has killed 18 people and wounded 106 in the last four days alone, Zelenskyy said.

“This is nothing but deliberate terror. Mortars, artillery against ordinary residential neighborhoods, against ordinary civilians,” he said.

He said a planned Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine “will begin in the near future.”

Zelensky again called for increased sanctions against Russia targeting its entire banking sector and oil industry.

“Everyone in Europe and America already sees Russia openly using energy to destabilize Western societies,” Zelenskyy said. “All of this requires greater speed from Western countries in preparing a new, powerful package of sanctions.”