Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that Russian forces have managed to capture Mariupol on Thursday, with two thousand Ukrainian soldiers blockaded in the Azovstal power plant. Many civilians have also taken shelter within the complex.
"Today, the entire Mariupol is under the control of the Russian army, the people's militia of the Donetsk People's Republic, and the territory of the Azovstal plant with the remnants of nationalists and foreign mercenaries located [there] is securely blocked," he said.
Ukraine's military said on Wednesday that Russian forces have made attempts to storm the seaport and Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
Most of Mariupol is under Russian control, but Ukraine's president said on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops remain in a part of the city.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his defense minister on Wednesday not to storm the Azovstal plant in order to save the lives of Russian troops, instead saying that the plant, which is the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city, should be blockaded.
The Russian President, however, called the invasion of the city a "success," multiple sources reported as he instead ordered Russian forces to blockade the area.
"This is the case when we must think - that is, we must always think, but even more so in this case - about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers. There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground along with these industrial facilities," he continued.
The power plant employed more than 10,000 people. Women and children in the complex reportedly live in "hunger and cold" with "no medicine, water or food," CNN reported citing a Ukrainian military official.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Thursday demanded Russia urgently allow the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol via a humanitarian corridor.
"There are about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers there. They all need to be pulled out of Azovstal today," Vereshchuk said in an online post.
Shoigu claimed that the Russian Armed Forces need three to four days to complete the assault on Azovstal, where the soldiers are entrenched.
A Ukraine presidential advisor stated that "Russia physically can’t take Azovstal," NBC reported.
Russian forces captured 42 villages in the eastern Donetsk region on Thursday, but Ukraine might take them back, an aide to the chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky told national television.
"Today 42 villages were added to the list of those that have been occupied. This is at the expense of the Donetsk region," said the aide, Olena Symonenko. "This happened today and might be that our forces will win them back tomorrow."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine has a weapons shortage and that his military does not have enough to counter Russian forces in Mariupol while calling the Russian assault a "terrorist operation," according to CNN.
The Ukrainian leader took to Twitter on Wednesday asking people to "join millions of voices in a global social media campaign" that would arm Ukraine. Those who participate would post a picture with a sign saying "#ArmUkraineNow" and call on her government to provide Ukraine with weapons.
Join millions of voices in a global social media campaign: #ArmUkraineNow 1. Post a picture with a sign saying #ArmUkraineNow2. Call on your government to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine 3. Tag 3 friends and ask them to do the sameStand with the Ukrainian people pic.twitter.com/sfx96p4cKJ— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 20, 2022
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff posted on Facebook that Russian forces are using "outdated Soviet military equipment," which has been in storage since the 1970s.
Russian Armed Forces attacked a Ukrainian military command post in Popasna, Russian media reported, citing Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov on Thursday, but were met with retaliation by Ukrainian forces.
Zelensky said on Thursday that Ukraine needs $7 billion per month to make up for economic losses caused by Russia's invasion of his country.
Zelensky, in a virtual address to a World Bank forum, said the global community needed to exclude Russia immediately from international financial institutions, and urged all countries immediately to break up relations with Moscow.
He said the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports has blocked Ukrainian exports, impacting world food safety.
Physical damage to Ukraine's buildings and infrastructure from Russia's invasion has reached roughly $60 billion and will rise further as the war continues, World Bank President David Malpass said on Thursday.
Malpass told a World Bank conference on Ukraine's financial assistance needs that the early estimate of "narrow" damage costs does not include the growing economic costs of the war to Ukraine.
"Of course the war is still ongoing, so those costs are rising," Malpass said.
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he had authorized another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, citing a "critical window" in the conflict as Russia sets the stage for the next phase in the war.
He said the new package will include heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and tactical drones.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met in Washington D.C. on April 21. Biden wrote that the meeting was “to convey our continued commitment to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression.”Photo: President Biden/Twitter pic.twitter.com/60B9lmgeZX— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 21, 2022
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported the same day that another $500 million will be provided to Ukraine by the US in order to "maintain critical government operations."
Zelensky thanked the American leader for the aid to both Ukraine's government and military, tweeting that "this help is needed today more than ever! It saves the lives of our defenders of democracy and freedom and brings us closer to restoring peace in Ukraine."
The US Congress will move quickly to consider President Biden's request for more aid for Ukraine, lawmakers said on Thursday, with members of both parties predicting strong support for the request even before knowing how large it would be.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that the House would take up the Biden's proposal as soon as next week.
"We'll learn about that in the next day or so, to be taken up as soon as we can next week," she told reporters at a photo opportunity with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal before a bipartisan meeting at the Capitol about the needs of Ukraine.
Support for Ukraine is one of the few areas of agreement between Biden's fellow Democrats and Republicans. Previous aid packages for Ukraine, including $13.6 billion approved last month, have passed nearly unanimously in the Democratic-controlled Congress.
However, Biden said that “it’s questionable whether [Vladimir Putin] does control Mariupol,” CNN reported, adding that “there is no evidence yet that Mariupol is completely fallen.”
Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv was under intense bombardment on Thursday, its mayor Ihor Terekhov said.
"Huge blasts, the Russian Federation is furiously bombing the city," Terekhov said in a televised address.
He said that around 1 million people remain in the northeastern city, while about 30% of the population have evacuated, mainly women, children and the elderly.
Russian forces in Donbas
Russian forces are advancing from staging areas in Donbas towards Kramatorsk, which continues to be hit by rocket attacks, a British military update said on Thursday.
High levels of Russian air activity continue as it seeks to provide close air support to its offensive in eastern Ukraine, and to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities, the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.
"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," the tweet added.
Russian forces also reportedly built several mass graves in Mariupol and dumped corpses there, according to Ukrainian media. Satellite imagery from near the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol shows a mass grave site that has expanded in recent weeks to contain more than 200 new graves, a private US company said on Thursday.
Maxar Technologies MAXR.N said a review of images from mid-March through mid-April indicates the expansion began between March 23-26. The site lies adjacent to an existing cemetery in the village of Manhush, 20 kilometers west of Mariupol, Maxar said.
Prisoners of war
Russia handed over to Ukraine 10 soldiers, including two officers, and another nine civilians in an exchange of prisoners of war, Iryna Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister said on Thursday.
"This time there were wounded among those released and ... now they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo rehabilitation," she said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia's new ballistic missile
Russia has tested its new ballistic missile "Satan II," Vladimir Putin stated on Wednesday, which is reportedly capable of reaching targets across the globe.
The Pentagon has stated in response that the United States was under no threat.
US rapidly developed "Ghost" drones for Ukraine, Pentagon says
So-called "Ghost" drones that are part of a new $800 million US arms package for Ukraine were rapidly developed by the US Air Force for Kyiv and have similar capabilities as armed "Switchblade" drones, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
"This was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
The White House said earlier on Thursday that over 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems would be provided to Ukraine as part of the new arms package.
Evacuations and refugees
Around 200 people were waiting to evacuate from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Thursday but no buses had arrived as of mid-afternoon, mayor Vadym Boichenko said at a briefing.
He said a small convoy of buses had evacuated 80 people from Mariupol on Wednesday and was now headed for the city of Zaporhizhia which is under Ukrainian control.
The military administration head of the Luhansk region Serhii Haidai said that evacuations have become "complicated" amid Russian strikes, CNN reported on Thursday. Boichenko said there are no possible evacuations on Thursday as there is no ceasefire in an online briefing.
Zelensky stated that around 120,000 Ukrainian citizens are blocked from leaving Mariupol.
More than 600,000 additional people were internally displaced in Ukraine in the first 17 days of April, the International Organization for Migration said on Thursday, pushing the total number since the start of the war above 7.7 million, or 17% of the population.
The new assessment conducted between April 11 and 17 showed that women represent at least 60% of those on the run. More than half of internally displaced persons -- mainly in the east of Ukraine -- reported a lack of some food products, it added in a report.
Over 71,000 Ukrainians crossed the western borders of Ukraine into Moldova and the EU, while 35,000 people entered Ukraine. 22,000 crossed the border into Poland.
More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, UN data show.
The international community and Poland's government need to coordinate better and provide more support directly to local governments and charities helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Warsaw's mayor said on Thursday.
"We need the European Union and the United Nations to step in to actually institute a full coordinating mechanism," Rafal Trzaskowski, who is a member of Poland's leading opposition grouping, the Civic Platform, told Reuters in an interview.
The government needed to ask for such help, he said, "and only then will we be able to deal with the magnitude of the problem."
Ukraine claims over 21,000 Russian troops have been lost in the war, with NATO and US estimates being not far off, Russia is refusing to share their estimate of those killed in action.
Other Russian casualties include 829 tanks, 2,118 armored personnel vehicles, 393 artillery systems, 151 helicopters, 1,508 vehicles and eight boats as of Thursday, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff.