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Live blog: Russia claims capture of three districts in Ukraine’s Bakhmut

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Russian assault troops have captured three more districts in the western part of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut according to Russia’s Defence Ministry.

Ukrainian and Russian units have been battling for months over the eastern city, much of which lies in ruins.

“The airborne troops were restraining the Ukrainian units on the flanks and supported the actions of the assault squads to capture the city,” the ministry said in its latest bulletin.

The Russian military sometimes refers to the Wagner group of fighters as “assault troops”.

Ukraine has not responded to the Russian claims.

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1440 GMT – Latvia: Seized Russian fertilisers sent to Kenya under World Food Program

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has said that some 200,000 tonnes of Russian fertilisers, blocked in the country’s ports, were sent to Kenya under the World Food Program (WFP).

“On April 21, 2023, the World Food Program took a cargo of mineral fertilisers from the port of Riga to Kenya,” the ministry said.

The WFP has not commented on the development yet.

Although there are no sanctions against fertilisers, several states have blocked Russian vessels transporting them.

1341 GMT – Moscow says to expel ‘more than 20’ German diplomats

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman has announced the expulsion of “more than 20” German diplomats as a retaliatory measure for “mass expulsion” of Russian embassy staff from Berlin.

Maria Zakharova told state-run television Zvezda that Moscow had decided to expel “more than 20” diplomats after her ministry denounced “another mass expulsion of employees of Russian diplomatic missions in Germany.”

1142 GMT – Over 3,000 civilians to be evacuated after explosive found in Russia’s Belgorod

More than 3,000 people will be evacuated from the Russian city of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, after an explosive was found, the local governor said two days after a Russian warplane accidentally dropped a bomb on the city.

Military explosive experts have decided to “neutralise” the explosive at a training ground, Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram.

“The operational headquarters decided to evacuate 17 apartment buildings within a radius of 200 metres. According to preliminary data, it is more than 3,000 people. Anyone who needs help with temporary accommodation, it will be provided,” he said.

1003 GMT – Data firm to help Ukraine prosecute alleged Russian war crimes

Ukraine plans to deploy software from US data analytics provider Palantir Technologies Inc to help it prosecute alleged war crimes committed by Russia, the company told Reuters news agency.

Palantir, which has supplied Ukraine systems that could help it target tanks and support refugees, is now working with the country’s prosecutor general’s office to let investigators across Europe pool and process data, the company said.

Its software will combine intelligence and satellite imagery to build a map of evidence, for instance establishing the proximity of Russian equipment to crime scenes or aggregating photographs that Ukrainians have uploaded to social media, Palantir said.

The data that Palantir’s software will process relates to claims of alleged killing, rape, torture and destruction, part of more than 78,000 crimes reported in Ukraine since Russia invaded more than a year ago. Moscow has denied attacking civilians or perpetrating war crimes.

0709 GMT – Russian head of Crimea says air defences activated

The top official in the Russian-annexed Crimea region of Ukraine said that air defence systems had been activated but there were no reports of damage or casualties.

“Air defence forces worked in the sky over Crimea. No damage or casualties. I ask everyone to remain calm and trust only trusted sources of information,” the official, Sergei Aksyonov, said on the messaging app Telegram.

He did not say what the target of the air defences was or specify the location of the military activity.

0300 GMT – Ukrainian diplomat says Kiev will not join NATO in parts

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister has said that Kiev will not join the alliance in parts, stressing his country’s commitment to territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

“Ukraine is a state that has defined, internationally recognised borders, and, of course, we will join certain organisations within internationally recognised borders,” said Yevhen Perebyinis, according to Ukrinform, citing Ukraine’s national telethon, United News.

Underlying Ukraine’s readiness to join the bloc with its consolidated position, Perebyinis said Ukraine has outgrown the stage of the Membership Action Plan.

2122 GMT – Ukrainian refugees in Portugal protest against Brazil’s Lula

Waving flags and holding photographs depicting conflict atrocities, Ukrainians gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in Lisbon to protest recent remarks about the Ukraine war made by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, who arrived in Portugal earlier on Friday for a five-day official visit, has angered many in the West for suggesting both Ukraine and Russia were to blame for the conflict that began when Moscow attacked its neighbour in February 2022.

Outside the embassy, protesters held signs saying “Stop killing our children”.

“People die in Ukraine every day and we need international support,” said the president of Portugal’s Ukrainian Association, Pavlo Sadokha, describing it as “strange” that a “president who has fought for democracy all his life was now on the side of totalitarianism.”

2037 GMT – Spain sends six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine 

Six Leopard 2A4 tanks destined for Ukraine left Spain by ship, according to a naval monitoring website, part of Western military aid for Kiev’s fight against Russia’s offensive.

The ship will go to Poland and the hardware transferred to Ukraine, which is expected to launch a spring counteroffensive.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said this month that Spain will send 10 Leopard 2A4 tanks.

1902 GMT – Everyone must stay united, focused on defence: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the main focus right now is to de-occupy the country, return its territories and people from Russia.

“State resources are directed primarily to this task. And I am grateful to everyone who helps,” Zelenskyy said in his address.

“Now, just like last year, we need to stay united, mobilised and fully focused on defence.”

He also said they are constantly analysing the course of hostilities and potentially dangerous areas, giving paramount priority to the frontline.

For our live updates from Friday (April 21), click here.

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