Russia finalizing targets for next strikes - Ukraine Defense Ministry

Russia states goal to seize east and south Ukraine * Many trapped in Azovstal * 5,264 total civilian casualties * Boris Johnson says war could last until end of 2023 and that Russia could win

 Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, Russia April 21, 2022.  (photo credit: Russian Presidential Press Service/Kremlin/Handout via REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, Russia April 21, 2022.
(photo credit: Russian Presidential Press Service/Kremlin/Handout via REUTERS)

The Russian military is reportedly finalizing targets for the next set of strikes, Russian media outlet Pravda reported on Friday, citing statements by Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

Russia has also acknowledged its goal to seize the east and south of Ukraine, Interfax reported on Friday, citing Rustam Minnekaev, acting commander of the Central Military District.

The military official stated that Russia "must establish full control over Donbas during the second stage of the special operation," as well as establish a land corridor that would connect Russia to Crimea.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry alleged via Twitter on Friday afternoon that Russia is planning an invasion of Moldova as well while confirming that they maintain control over the southern part of Ukraine.

The Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that Russian forces thwarted evacuation efforts in the city, where one of the busses was disrupted due to Russian shelling. Only 25 people managed to leave Popasna, he said.

Ukrainian Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova said the same day that 1,000 civilians are still trapped in the Azovstal power plant in Mariupol, where it is nearly controlled by Russian forces, according to the country's Defense Ministry. Shooting and explosions were heard at the power plant, according to Russian media.

There are also another 500 injured soldiers also sheltering in the power plant, Denisova said. The civilians there include children, infants, women and the elderly, where there is little food and water left. Russia does not allow humanitarian aid and refuses civilians to leave Azovstal, according to Ukrinform.

Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that the US State Department is producing misinformation on the current situation in Mariupol, TASS reported.

More than 54 thousand policemen are in service in active combat areas, according to Denis Monastysky, the Internal Affairs Minister of Ukraine.

Ukraine has not attempted to establish any humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians trapped by fighting on Friday because of the danger, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Due to the danger on the routes today, April 22, there will be no humanitarian corridors," she wrote on Facebook. "To all those waiting to be evacuated: be patient, please hold on!"

A little earlier, the mayor of Mariupol issued an appeal for a full evacuation of the city on national television.

"We need only one thing - the full evacuation of the population. About 100,000 people remain in Mariupol," said Mayor Vadym Boichenko.

Russia claims to have full control of Mariupol, but Ukraine has yet to confirm this.

 People walk near buildings damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 18, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) People walk near buildings damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 18, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Russia is prepared to stop firing to allow fighters at the Azovstal steel works in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol to leave the plant, along with any civilians that are still there, RIA cited the defense ministry as saying on Friday.

The ministry said claims by Ukraine and some western countries that Russia was preventing civilians from leaving the city were "groundless", the TASS news agency reported.

Russia's defense ministry said on Friday that the Russian military had captured a large arms depot in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, the TASS news agency reported.

The defense ministry said that the arms depot contained thousands of tonnes of ammunition, according to TASS.

Pentagon sees over 20 nations attending Ukraine talks in Germany

The US military expects more than 20 countries to attend Ukraine-focused defense talks it will host in Germany next week that will focus in part on Kyiv's long-term defense needs, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby appeared to play down expectations of announcements about long-term assistance at the April 26 talks, saying: "We're not going into this with a pre-cooked set of endings here."

He added that about 40 nations were invited to attend the talks, which were not being organized under the NATO alliance umbrella, and include non-NATO nation states.

Talks and negociations

Heads of Russian and Ukrainian delegations had undergone multiple long peace talks were held online on Thursday and Friday, according to Russian media, though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the talks have stalled, alleging that Ukraine hasn't responded to Russia’s latest proposals issued a few days ago.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Moscow on Tuesday, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin following his February invasion of Ukraine, said Eri Kaneko, associate spokesperson for the UN chief.

Guterres will also have a working meeting and lunch with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Kaneko told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told European Council President Charles Michel that he would only hold direct talks with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky if ongoing discussions between the two countries produce concrete results, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Putin told Michel that Kyiv was showing that it was not ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions and accused the Ukrainian side of being "inconsistent" in negotiations.

Suspected traitor discovered 

The Special Prosecutor's Office for Military and Defense of the Central Region detained an officer in the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Friday morning for allegedly holding pro-Russian views and passing strategic information to the Russians, they announced in a Facebook post.

Prisoner update

A team of investigators opened an investigation into the treatment of Russian prisoners in Ukraine, the Russian media outlet TASS reported on Friday, citing the Investigative Committee’s press office. 

Continued shelling

Shelling continued in Luhansk, Kharkov Donetsk, Kherson and Nikolaev over Thursday night according to Ukrinform. While there are reports of injured people in some places, it is still not clear how many casualties there are.

Russia's defense ministry claimed it struck 58 Ukrainian military targets overnight, according to TASS.

Plane crash

A Ukrainian AN-26 plane crashed in Zaporizhia on Friday, according to the Zaporizhia Regional Military Administration. One person died in the crash, and two were injured. 

Russia says one sailor died, 27 missing after missile cruiser sank

One sailor died and 27 more are missing after the Russian missile cruiser Moskva sank last week, while 396 other crew members were rescued, RIA news agency cited Russia's defense ministry as saying on Friday.

Moscow says the Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, sank last week after a fire sparked an ammunition blast. Ukraine says it hit the vessel with an anti-ship missile.

Next weeks may be decisive in Ukraine war

Russia will likely increase its military attacks in eastern Ukraine and along the country's coast, a senior EU official said on Friday, with the next weeks seen as potentially decisive for the war.

"This is not a fairy tale with an imminent happy ending. I think we are likely to see a very significant increase in the intensity of Russian military attacks in the east, I think we are likely to see an intensification of Russian military attacks along the coast," the official told reporters.

"I think we will see the next couple of weeks as being decisive."

Casualties

Ukrainian law enforcement found 1,084 bodies in and surrounding Kyiv on Friday, according to Ukrinform. More than 300 have still not been identified.

A report from the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office stated that 208 children have been killed in the war and  another 386 injured.

The UN has verified a total of 5,264 civilian casualties in Ukraine out of which 2,345 have been killed and 2,919 injured.

At least 20 people were injured in the Mykolaiv region in the past two days, CNN reported citing regional council head of Mykolaiv Hanna Zamazeeva said on Telegram.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry and Armed Forces General Staff also updated Russian casualties, which stand at 21,200 (200 more than yesterday), 176 aircraft, 153 helicopters, 838 tanks, 69 anti-aircraft warfare systems, 1,523 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 397 artillery systems and eight boats.

UK, French reactions

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday the reopening of the British embassy in Kyiv. Johnson also told a conference in Delhi that the war in Ukraine could last until the end of 2023, the BBC reported. He also said that Russia has a "realistic possibility" of winning the war.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the same day that France would provide Ukraine with heavy artillery and long-range weapons by the end of the month, according to CNN, citing an interview Macron gave to French media outlet Ouest-France. Approximately 40 Ukrainian military servicemen will be trained in France on the equipment.