Russia–Ukraine War (April 20): Top Putin Ally Says Russia Will Capture Mariupol on Thursday

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
April 20, 2022 Updated: April 21, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, April 20. Click here for updates from April 19.

Top Putin Ally Says Russia Will Capture Mariupol on Thursday

A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces will seize the last main stronghold of resistance in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday after Ukraine proposed talks on evacuating troops and civilians there.

Mariupol would be the biggest city to be seized by Russia since invading Ukraine eight weeks ago in an attack that has taken longer than some military analysts expected, seen over five million people flee abroad, and turned cities to rubble.

“Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,” Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia‘s republic of Chechnya, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, said of the steel plant.

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Ukraine Offers to Hold Mariupol Talks With Russia to Evacuate Garrison, Civilians

Senior Ukrainian negotiators on Wednesday offered to hold special talks with Russia in Mariupol without conditions in a bid to evacuate troops and civilians from the besieged port city.

Negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the talks could be “one on one. Two on two. To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living and the wounded.”

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Wednesday of failing to observe a local ceasefire agreement long enough to allow large numbers of women, children, and elderly people to flee the city, which has been largely pounded to rubble by Russian forces.

The remaining fighters holed up in a vast steel works have ignored previous ultimatums by Russia to surrender and made clear on Wednesday their stance had not changed.

David Arakhamia, a second negotiator, said in an online post that he and Podolyak were in constant contact with Ukrainian forces in the city.

“Today, in a conversation with the city defenders, a proposal was put forward to hold direct negotiations, on site, on the evacuation of our military garrison,” he said. “For our part, we are ready to arrive for such negotiations at any time as soon as we receive confirmation from the Russian side.”

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Biden Hosts Military Chiefs

President Joe Biden convened U.S. military leaders on Wednesday in an annual White House gathering taking on special significance as the war in Ukraine enters a risky new phase and Washington plans more weapons assistance.

A “variety of topics” were discussed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military leaders, a National Security Council spokesperson said. The event includes a formal West Wing meeting as well as a dinner in the president’s residence with leaders’ spouses afterward.

While the annual military policy meeting rarely makes news, weighty issues are on the agenda this year, topped by a conflict in Ukraine that officials fear could imperil European security for years to come.

Russia has said it has entered a new stage of its operation and is methodically seeking to “liberate” the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Western allies anticipate Russia’s campaign could last many months, grind to a stalemate and test the battlefield capabilities of Ukrainian fighters.

Opening the meeting, Biden touted the toughness of the Ukrainian military and said that NATO’s unity has shocked Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“They’re tougher and more proud than I thought; I’m amazed what they’re doing with your help,” Biden said. “I don’t think that Putin counted on it being able to hold us together.”

The United States is expected to announce another military aid package for Ukraine in coming days that could match the $800 million pledged last week.

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Russia Tests New Nuclear-Capable Missile

The Russian Defense Ministry reported the first launch of its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. President Vladimir Putin said this weapon is unique and will make those who threaten Russia “think twice.”

The ministry said the missile was launched Wednesday from the Plesetsk launch facility in northern Russia and its practice warheads hit designated targets at the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Sarmat is a heavy missile, intended to replace the Soviet-made Voyevoda missile which was code-named Satan by the West. Putin and his officials said it’s capable of penetrating any prospective missile defense.

Putin called this “a big, significant event” for Russia’s defense industry. He said the Sarmat will ensure Russia’s security from external threats and make those who, in the heat of frantic, aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice.”

Russia relies on land-based ICBMs as the core of its nuclear deterrent, and is counting on the Sarmat for decades to come.

The U.S. has its own ICBMs, but postponed and then called off an intercontinental nuclear-capable missile test to avoid escalating tensions with Russia.

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Pentagon Comments on Ukrainian Nuclear Warning

The United States doesn’t see a need to change its nuclear posture at this point in time, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told journalists on Tuesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Moscow could use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine during his interview with CNN on April 15.

The U.S. Department of Defense is “constantly monitoring” nuclear threats to the country and took note of remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February, when he ordered Russian troops to start their military offensive in Ukraine, Kirby said.

“In light of what’s going on in Ukraine, and certainly in light of the early rhetoric, we are actively monitoring every single day,” the spokesman said.

“We have seen no reason to change our strategic deterrent posture,” he added. At the moment, the Pentagon remains “comfortable that we have the ability, if required, to defend the homeland, our allies and our partners.”

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Wimbledon Bans Players From Russia, Belarus

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of the war in Ukraine, the All England Club announced Wednesday.

Prominent players affected by the ban include reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is currently No. 2; men’s No. 8 Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021 and is No. 4 in the WTA rankings; Victoria Azarenka, former women’s No. 1 who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open runner-up last year.

Wimbledon begins on June 27.

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Putin Says Russia Will Work to ‘Normalize’ Life in Ukraine’s Donbass

Russia will “act consistently” to make sure that life in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland “normalizes,” President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting with members of a state-funded non-profit group, Putin pledged that “we will act consistently and make sure (that) life in Donbass normalizes.”

Putin said that hostilities in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, prompted Russia to launch a military operation.

“All these eight years, bombing, artillery strikes and hostilities continued there. And of course, it was very, very hard for people,” Putin said. “The goal of the operation is to help our people living in Donbass.”

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Oil Could Surge to $185 a Barrel If EU Bans Russian Crude: JPMorgan

Analysts at JPMorgan have warned that a full and immediate ban on Russian oil imports into the European Union could drive the price of crude up to $185 per barrel.

Natasha Kaneva, Head of Global Commodities Strategy at JPMorgan, said in a note cited by Bloomberg that if the E.U. decides to expand its limited embargo on Russian oil under a new round of sanctions against Moscow, the price of Brent crude could soar by around 65 percent.

JPMorgan’s dire price prediction comes as energy prices have faced upward pressure in the wake of the Russia–Ukraine conflict.

Read the full article here

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Russia: We Await Kyiv Response on Peace Talks

The Kremlin’s spokesman says Russia has presented Ukraine with a draft document outlining its demands as part of peace talks and is now awaiting a response from Kyiv.

Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters Wednesday that Russia has passed on a draft document containing “absolutely clear, elaborate wording” to Ukraine and now “the ball is in their court, we’re waiting for a response.”

Peskov didn’t give further details. He blamed Ukraine for the slow progress in negotiations, and claimed that Kyiv constantly deviates from previously confirmed agreements. “The dynamic of work on the Ukrainian side leaves much to be desired, the Ukrainians do not show a great inclination to intensify the negotiation process,” he said.

Ukraine presented Russia with its own draft last month in Istanbul, where the two sides held talks aimed at ending the conflict. It has been unclear how regularly the two sides have spoken to each other since then.

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No Surrender in Mariupol as Russian Deadline Expires

A Russian ultimatum to Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to surrender or die expired on Wednesday afternoon with no mass capitulation, but the commander of a unit believed to be holding out in the besieged city said his forces could survive just days or hours.

Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages were attempting to advance elsewhere in what Ukrainian officials call the Battle of the Donbass.

In a video, the commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, one of the last units believed to be holding out in Mariupol, asked for international help to escape the siege.

Russian-backed separatists said shortly before a 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) Wednesday deadline that just five people had surrendered. The previous day, Russia said no one had responded to a similar surrender demand.

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Russia Defence Ministry Seeks Greater Secrecy on Military Deaths in Ukraine

The Russian defence ministry has proposed that relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine should have to apply to military rather than civilian authorities for compensation payments, imposing an extra level of secrecy around its war losses.

Russia already classifies military deaths as state secrets even in times of peace and has not updated its official casualty figures in Ukraine for nearly four weeks.

In its proposal, the defence ministry asked that the benefits paid to the families of fallen soldiers no longer be overseen by civilian officials but handled by enlistment offices instead. That move is designed to “limit the circle of people” with information on Russian troops killed in Ukraine, it said.

The proposal appeared on a government legal information website. It was unclear when it would be reviewed by the government.

The ministry said on March 25 that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded since Moscow launched what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

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Germany Has Not Disclosed All Weapons Sent Ukraine, Minister Says

Berlin has chosen not to make public all the weapons it has sent to support Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, adding that Germany would help Kyiv maintain more advanced weapons systems it might buy and train soldiers to use them.

“We have delivered anti-tank missiles, Stingers and other things that we have never spoken about publicly so these deliveries could happen quickly,” she said at a news conference in Riga with her Latvian counterpart.

Asked whether Germany would be sending its Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery system—which some experts say Ukraine needs to mount a counterattack against Russian forces in its Donbass region, she said Germany would train Kyiv’s soldiers on using and maintaining more advanced systems which it might obtain from other allied countries or buy outright.

“If partners deliver artillery that we can no longer deliver, we will help with training and maintenance,” she said.

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Moscow Has Deported 500,000 People to Russia, Ukraine Lawmaker Claims

Moscow has deported 500,000 people from Ukraine to Russia, a leading member of the parliament in Kyiv told European lawmakers on Wednesday, calling on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing.

“Half a million of Ukrainian citizens were deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation without agreement from their side,” claimed Mykyta Poturayev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s humanitarian committee.

Reuters could not independently verify the figure given by Poturayev, who did not give details or supporting evidence.

“Unfortunately there is no opportunity for now even (to make) contact with these people,” Poturayev told members of the European Parliament by video link.

Reuters has submitted a request for comment to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The 1949 Geneva Conventions, which define international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in conflict, prohibit mass forcible transfers of civilians during a conflict to the territory of the occupying power, classifying it as a war crime.

Moscow has denied intentionally targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a special military operation and says it is offering humanitarian aid to those wanting to leave.

A Russian government resolution on March 12 listed the whereabouts of 95,909 people across Russia who had left Ukraine, including the two breakaway regions Moscow has declared as independent entities.

A month later, the Russian military said it had rescued 138,014 civilians from Mariupol, as fighting intensified in the besieged city.

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Britain Targets Moscow Stock Exchange in Bid to Curb Investment in Russia

British authorities plan to rescind the Moscow stock exchange’s status in the UK as a recognized exchange, in retaliation for Russia’s restrictions on foreign investors and in a bid to discourage investment in Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

The move means that investors will not be able to access certain UK tax benefits when trading securities on the Moscow Stock Exchange (MOEX), according to an April 19 announcement by the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

“As we continue to isolate Russia in response to their illegal war on Ukraine, revoking Moscow Stock Exchange’s recognized status sends a clear message—there is no case for new investments in Russia,” Britain’s Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Lucy Frazer, said in a statement.

Read the full article here

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Ukrainian Forces Stop Russian Advance Towards Sloviansk: Presidential Aide

Ukrainian troops have held up an advance by Russian forces from the northeastern city of Izyum towards nearby Sloviansk, Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said on Wednesday.

“They have focused their forces there, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not succeeding,” he claimed in a video address.

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Growing Majority of Swedes Back Joining NATO, Opinion Poll Shows

A growing majority of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO, a poll showed on Wednesday, as policy-makers in both Sweden and Finland weigh up whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should lead to an end to decades of military neutrality.

The poll by Demoskop and commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper showed 57 percent of Swedes now favored NATO membership, up from 51 percent in March. Those opposed to joining fell to 21 percent from 24 percent, while those who were undecided dipped to 22 percent from 25 percent.

The March poll was the first to show a majority of Swedes in favor of joining NATO.

Sweden has not been at war since the time of Napoleon and has built its security policy on “non-participation in military alliances.”

But like Finland, the invasion of Ukraine has forced a radical rethink.

Sweden’s government is reviewing security policy with a report due before the end of May and the ruling Social Democrats are holding an internal debate on whether to drop their long-standing objection to NATO.

The Demoskop poll, consisting of 1,177 interviews carried out from April 14 to April 19, also showed growing support for membership among Social Democrat voters with significantly more favoring joining the alliance than opposing it.

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Germany Rejects an Assertion by Ukraine’s Ambassador for More Fighting Vehicles

The German government and military are rejecting an assertion by Ukraine’s ambassador that the country could spare armored fighting vehicles and deliver them to Kyiv.

Ambassador Andriy Melnyk, who has frequently criticized perceived German slowness on weapons deliveries and other issues, argued that Germany’s Bundeswehr uses about 100 Marder vehicles for training and they could be handed over to Ukraine immediately.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said Wednesday that Germany needs the vehicles for deployments on NATO’s eastern flank and for training. He said that “a delivery from Bundeswehr stock of ‘heavy material’ … is not foreseen.”

He spoke after the German military’s deputy chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, told ZDF television that the military has “wide commitments” and needs the weapons systems it has.

Melnyk is also criticizing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s reluctance to commit to direct deliveries of heavy weapons such as tanks.

Scholz faces pressure from parts of his own coalition and Germany’s main opposition party to deliver such weapons.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday that Germany is reaching the limits of possible weapons deliveries from its own stocks and will finance Ukrainian purchases of equipment from a list drawn up by the German defense industry. That didn’t satisfy critics who have called for direct German deliveries of heavy weapons such as tanks.

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UN Says 5 Million Have Fled Ukraine

The United Nations’ refugee agency says that more than 5 million people have now fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.

The Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday put the total number of refugees at 5.01 million.

More than half of the total, over 2.8 million, fled at least at first to Poland. Although many have stayed there, an unknown number have traveled onward. There are few border checks within the European Union.

UNHCR said on March 30 that 4 million people had fled Ukraine. The exodus was somewhat slower in recent weeks than at the beginning of the war.

In addition to the refugees, the U.N. says that more than 7 million people have been displaced within Ukraine.

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.

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Norway to Donate Air Defense System to Ukraine

Norway is donating about 100 air defense systems to Ukraine with the Scandinavian country’s defense minister saying that “the country is depending on international support to resist Russian aggression.”

Bjørn Arild Gram said Norway had donated French-made Mistral short-range missile systems which currently are being phased out by the Norwegian Armed Forces, “but it is still a modern and effective weapon that will be of great benefit to Ukraine,” Arild Gram said.

The weapons have already left Norway which previously has donated 4,000 anti-tank missiles, protective equipment and other military equipment to Ukraine, he added.

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Marine Commander in Mariupol Appeals for Help, Ukraine Tries to Evacuate Civilians

A Ukrainian marine commander in the besieged city of Mariupol said his troops may be able to hold out for only a few hours longer as Ukraine tried to evacuate 6,000 women, children, and elderly people on Wednesday.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko urged civilians to leave, saying 90 buses were waiting to head into what is left of the devastated city under a preliminary agreement with Russia on establishing a safe corridor.

In a video posted online hours earlier, Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade which is still fighting in Mariupol, urged the international community to help evacuate wounded Ukrainian fighters and their families.

“This is our appeal to the world. It may be our last. We may have only a few days or hours left,” he said, dressed in a camouflage jacket. “The enemy units are dozens of times larger than ours, they have dominance in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, in equipment and in tanks.”

Reuters could not independently verify the video posted on the Telegram messaging app.

The last fighters are holed up at a vast steelworks in Mariupol and have been issued an ultimatum by Russia to surrender.

Both Boichenko and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk underlined that the agreement on establishing a humanitarian corridor into and out of Mariupol was only a preliminary arrangement.

Previous agreements have collapsed, with each side blaming the other. An attempt by the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians also failed.

“Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today,” Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook. “Given the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor action.”

Mariupol, home to more than 400,000 people before the war, is an important port for industrial and agricultural exports and the site of some of Ukraine’s biggest metals plants.

Its capture would give Russia full control of the Sea of Azov coast, and a secure overland bridge linking mainland Russia and pro-Russian separatist territory in the east with the Crimea peninsula that Moscow seized and annexed in 2014.

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Zelenskyy Aide Issues Peace-talks Warning

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that peace talks with Moscow could be halted should Russian troops seize Mariupol, a strategically valuable port city on the Black Sea.

Speaking during a Tuesday briefing, presidential adviser Alexey Arestovich discussed developments in the conflict, namely Russia’s latest push to liberate the entire territory claimed by the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as their sovereign territory, as well as the prospect of a negotiated settlement to end the fighting.

However, if Russian troops succeed in fully taking Mariupol—a key port and the second-largest city in the Donetsk Oblast—“there may be no peace talks,” Arestovych said.

“Then our main course of action will be the complete destruction of the enemy, relying on Western aid and the fact that the Russians have no one to get the aid from,” the adviser continued.

Having seen some of the heaviest fighting throughout the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Mariupol is now largely under the control of Russian forces, with one of the last major pockets of Ukrainian troops holed up at the city’s Azovstal steel plant.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian military said it would allow those soldiers to surrender if they laid down their weapons—including fighters with “nationalist battalions” and “foreign mercenaries”—suggesting they exit the facility at noon Moscow time. It later issued another offer, pushing back the deadline while stating that the troops would be permitted to leave along a specified “humanitarian corridor,” but received no response from Ukrainian officials.

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Russia Accuses OSCE of ‘Spying’ for Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) collaborated with the Ukrainian government in its fight against the Donbass republics and tried to cover up offenses by Ukrainian nationalist forces, Russia’s deputy representative to the U.N. told a U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

The accusations came as Dmitry Polyansky blasted Western powers, saying they were being hypocritical regarding the security crisis in Ukraine. The US and its allies pursue their own selfish interests rather than the interests of the Ukrainian people, when they fan hostilities in the East European country, the diplomat said.

“We obtained the latest proof of how dirty your tricks are in building a ‘rules-based order’ when we discovered proof that the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine simply spied for Kyiv instead of recording violations of the ceasefire,” he claimed. The official said Russia was collecting more evidence to make the case against the monitors.

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Ukraine’s Military Gets More Aircraft and Parts to Repair Others, Pentagon Says

Ukraine’s military has received additional aircraft as well parts for repairs to get damaged aircraft flying again, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Ukraine has defied expectations of allies and military experts by not only keeping its air force operational nearly two months after the start of Russia’s invasion but actually repairing aircraft and, apparently, adding to its inventory.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not offer details on which countries provided aircraft, but acknowledged new transfers and said Ukraine had more operable fighter aircraft than it had two weeks ago.

“They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air,” Kirby told a news briefing, without elaborating.

Kirby said Washington had not provided any aircraft to Kyiv.

“We certainly have helped with the trans-shipment of some additional spare parts that have helped with their aircraft needs, but we have not transported whole aircraft,” he said.

Still, that might soon change. The United States has announced plans to transfer Russian-made helicopters to Ukraine that had once been intended for Afghanistan.

More than 50 days into the war, the skies over Ukraine are still contested in part due to Ukraine’s fleet of aircraft and air defenses, including portable, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles provided by the United States and its allies.

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EU Council’s Michel Makes Surprise Visit to Kyiv

European Council President Charles Michel made an unexpected visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, following a trip to the Ukrainian capital by the head of the EU’s executive earlier this month to show support for the nation fighting a Russian invasion.

“In Kyiv today,” Michel, head of the European Council that represents the European Union’s 27 member states, said in a tweet with a photograph of him at a train station.

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Japan Formally Revokes Russia’s ‘Most Favored Nation’ Status

Japan formally revoked Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status Wednesday over its invasion of Ukraine, as Tokyo steps up sanctions amid revelations of the Russian military’s widespread atrocities against civilians.

The stripping of Russia’s trade status is Japan’s latest move against Moscow and was part of a list of sanctions measures Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced last month that also included a decision to expel eight Russian diplomats and trade officials.

The revocation of Russia’s trade status by Japan’s Parliament, combined with other sanctions collectively imposed by other countries, is expected to intensify pressure on Russia, but the moves could also prompt reprisals from Moscow. The revocation of the trade status applies to tariffs on all Russian imports.

Wednesday’s parliamentary decision also included a revision to a foreign exchange law to prevent the transfer of virtual currency held by those subject to asset freezing.

Japan is taking a greater role in the international effort against Russia because of concerns about the impact of the invasion in East Asia, where China’s military has grown increasingly assertive.

Japan has also frozen the assets of hundreds of Russian individuals and groups and banned new investment and trade, including the export of goods that could be used for military purposes. Japan also announced plans to phase out imports of Russian coal.

On Wednesday, the eight Russian diplomats subject to expulsion were seen leaving the Russian embassy in Tokyo on a bus to the Haneda international airport, where they took a Russian government plane back to their country.

Japan has already faced reprisals from Russia. Moscow recently announced the suspension of talks on a peace treaty with Tokyo that included negotiations over Russian-held islands that the former Soviet Union seized from Japan at the end of World War II.

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UK Says Russian Military Presence on Ukraine’s Eastern Border Continues to Build

Russia’s military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border continues to build, a British military update said on Wednesday, adding that fighting in the Donbass region is intensifying as Russian forces seek to break through Ukrainian defenses.

“Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to remain low since its withdrawal from north of Kyiv. However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine,” the update, which was posted on Twitter, said.

“Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country,” it added.

The Epoch Times could not verify the report.

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New Surrender Deadline in Mariupol as West Promises Ukraine More Arms

After an earlier ultimatum to surrender lapsed and as midnight approached, Russia’s defense ministry said not a single Ukrainian soldier had laid down their weapons and it renewed the proposal. Ukrainian commanders have vowed not to surrender.

“Russia’s armed forces, based purely on humanitarian principles, again propose that the fighters of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries cease their military operations from 1400 Moscow time on 20th April and lay down arms,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The United States, Canada, and Britain said they would send more artillery weaponry.

“We will continue to provide them more ammunition, as we will provide them more military assistance,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said, adding new sanctions were being prepared.

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new military aid package about the same size as last week’s $800 million one in the coming days, multiple sources told Reuters.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a four-day humanitarian pause in the fighting this coming weekend, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, to allow civilians to escape and humanitarian aid to be delivered.

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Russia Pours in More Troops and Presses Attack in the East

Russia assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front, hundreds of miles long, and poured more troops into Ukraine on Tuesday in a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

If successful, the Russian offensive in what is known as the Donbas would essentially slice Ukraine in two. In Mariupol, the now-devastated port city in the Donbas, Ukrainian troops said the Russian military was dropping heavy bombs to flatten what was left of a sprawling steel plant and hit a hospital where hundreds were staying.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Moscow’s forces bombarded numerous Ukrainian military sites, including troop concentrations and missile-warhead storage depots, in or near several cities or villages.

Those claims could not be independently verified.

In what both sides described as a new phase of the war, the Russian assault began Monday along a front stretching more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast.

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US, Britain, Canada Pledge Artillery for Ukraine

The leaders of the United States, Britain, and Canada pledged on Tuesday to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine in the face of an all-out Russian assault on that country’s East.

President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acted after they and other allied leaders took part in a secure video call as the Russian invasion reached a new phase.

Asked by reporters during a visit to New Hampshire if the United States would be sending more artillery to Ukraine, Biden replied yes.

In London, Johnson told lawmakers: “This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them … in addition to many other forms of support.”

Trudeau said Canada would be sending heavy artillery and promised to provide more details.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to providing Ukraine security and economic and humanitarian assistance.

“We will continue to provide them more ammunition, as we will provide them more military assistance,” Psaki said. She said the United States was preparing another round of sanctions to impose on Moscow.

Tom Ozimek, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.