The Ukrainian crisis roundup

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April 21 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the Ukraine war on Thursday, declaring the port of Mariupol “liberated” after nearly two months of siege, despite hundreds of defenders still holding out inside a giant steel works. 

FIGHTING

* Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said an agreed humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal factory had not worked as planned, blaming Russian forces. She said 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers needed to be brought out immediately.

* Putin said the remaining Ukrainian troops were free to lay down their weapons and surrender.

* Russian forces are advancing from staging areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region towards Kramatorsk, which continues to be hit by rocket attacks, the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.

Russian warplanes are providing close air support to the offensive, and trying to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defences, it said. 

* The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, said it was under intense bombardment. 

DIPLOMACY

* The Kremlin said peace talks with Ukraine were continuing, but that Moscow was still awaiting Kyiv’s response to a proposal it had handed over. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday he had not seen or heard of the document.

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said any peace talks were likely to fail, compared holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiating with a crocodile. 

* Finance officials from Britain, the United States and Canada walked out of a meeting of the world’s top 20 economies, the G20, as Russian representatives spoke. 

* The prime ministers of Spain and Denmark visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. 

* Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a “global security initiative” that upholds the principle of “indivisible security” – the concept, which Russia endorses, that no country may strengthen its own security at others’ expense.

* Italy’s ecological transition minister said his country could start being independent from Russian gas by the second half of next year.

* Britain added more military figures and defence companies to its list of Russian sanctions targets.

* U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver an update at 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT) as he works to complete a new arms package for Ukraine’s military. 

ECONOMY

* G7 finance ministers said they have provided and pledged together with the international community additional support to Ukraine exceeding $24 billion for 2022 and beyond, adding they were prepared to do more.

* World Bank President David Malpass said the food security crisis caused by the war was likely to last months and perhaps into next year.

QUOTES

* “Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations. This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date.” – British Ministry of Defence bulletin

* “I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.” – World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic on the Grand Slam tournament’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players

A dog walks near the rest of a missile in a village north of Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine. EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK

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