The bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following the withdrawal of Russian forces – most of them fatally shot, police said Friday. Most of them had died from gunshot wounds, an indication that many people were “simply executed”, said the Kyiv regional police chief. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
9:15pm: Moskva warship stamp becomes collector’s item in Ukraine
A stamp depicting a Ukrainian soldier making an obscene hand gesture at the Russian Black Sea flagship Moskva has become a collector’s item for Ukrainians who see it as a sign of “victory”.
At the central post office in the capital Kyiv, hundreds of Ukrainians of every age could be seen queueing for hours on Friday to get their hands on one of the one million copies printed so far.
The warship, which sank Thursday, gained notoriety in the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when its crew called on a unit of Ukrainian border troops defending the strategic Snake Island to surrender, only to be defiantly refused.
The troops in question were initially believed to have been killed, but in fact were taken captive.
They were released as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia in late March.
The incident quickly became a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s assault.
Ukraine’s postal service last month launched a competition to illustrate the episode. Out of more than 500 submissions, Lviv designer Boris Groh’s winning entry shows a Ukrainian soldier from behind swearing at the warship.
It has proved a hit, selling out in many post offices and quickly appearing for resale online.
7:25pm: US believes sunk Moskva warship hit by two Ukrainian missiles
The US now believes the sunken Russian missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was hit by two Ukrainian missiles, according to a senior Pentagon official.
The senior official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said these were Neptune anti-ship missiles. The US believes there were Russian casualties, although numbers are unclear, the official added.
Russian news agencies cited the defense ministry on Thursday as saying that the Moskva had sunk in stormy seas while it was being towed to port after what Moscow said was a fire and explosions involving ammunition stowed onboard.
Ukraine however said it launched a missile strike on the Moskva from the coast, which ripped open the iconic Soviet-era ship
6:10pm: More than 900 civilian bodies found in Kyiv region: police chief
More than 900 bodies of civilians were discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, according to the regional police chief.
At a briefing in the Ukrainian capital, Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95 percent died from gunshot wounds.
“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.
More bodies are being found every day, under rubble and in mass graves, he added.
Many of the people were killed in Bucha, a town outside the Ukrainian capital, where reports of mass atrocities have shocked the world. “The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses,” said Nebytov.
5:45pm: Russian strikes hit Kharkiv residential area, 7 killed: governor
Russian strikes on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv killed seven people and injured 34 others on Friday, according to the region’s governor.
“The occupiers fired on a residential area in Kharkiv. Unfortunately, 34 people were injured, including three children. Seven people died; one among the dead was a child,” Oleg Synegubov said on social media.
Meanwhile Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that 2,864 people had been evacuated from conflict areas on Friday, including 363 people from Mariupol who used their own transport.
In a statement on Telegram, Vereshchuk said the evacuees also included 370 people from the Luhansk region in the east and 2,131 people from cities in the Zaporizhzhia region.
4:55pm: CIA chief says US cannot ‘take lightly’ threat of Russian use of nuclear weapons
The threat of Russia potentially using tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine cannot be taken lightly, but the CIA has not seen a lot of practical evidence reinforcing that concern, according to CIA Director William Burns.
In a speech at Georgia Tech, Burns referred to the “potential desperation” and military setbacks that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government have suffered since Russian forces moved into Ukraine.
For those reasons, “none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
But FRANCE 24’s Douglas Herbert explains that the CIA has seen “no practical, empirical evidence” that Russia is actually prepared to use nuclear weapons.
“The nuclear rhetoric has been just that for the Kremlin – rhetoric. It knows that by invoking the word “nuclear”, it strikes fear in the West. This is the main reason why NATO is in a defensive crouch, basically pulling out all the stops not to provoke Vladimir Putin, to show him in every way that they do not want to become so-called co-belligirents in this war. They do not want the prospect of a World War III,” explained Herbert.
4:11pm: Russia blocks FRANCE 24 sister station RFI website
Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor on Friday blocked access to the website of FRANCE 24’s sister radio station RFI for violating a law banning the dissemination of false or extremist information.
Roskomnadzor “did not specify” how the radio station had fallen foul of the law, according to an article posted on the RFI website. The Russian media watchdog only indicated that it had responded to a request from the Russian prosecutor general’s office.
The RFI website appeared in Roskomnadzor’s database of blocked websites on Friday and journalists in Moscow were unable to access the station’s English, French or Russian-language websites.
Russia has accelerated efforts to silence independent media and government opponents of the war in Ukraine, which it calls a “military operation”.
3:36pm: Ukraine says Russia used long-range bombers on Mariupol; first time in war
Russia has used long-range bombers – for the first time since the February 24 start of the invasion – to attack the besieged port city of Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry.
Defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk on Friday said Russia was concentrating its efforts on seizing the eastern Ukrainian cities of Rubizhne, Popasna and Mariupol.
Active fighting was taking place around Mariupol’s Illich Steel and Iron Works, as well as in the port area, said Motuzyanyk.
Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of shelling with Ukrainian forces trying to hold out despite being outnumbered and surrounded by a Russian assault.
The city’s Azovstal steel plant, one of Europe’s largest, has become a major hold-out against a Russian advance.
Metinvest, the company that controls the Illich and Azovstal plants, has vowed never to operate under Russian operation in a statement.
The company said the sites had been damaged but that it was impossible to take stock and assess the scale of damage with fighting still raging.
“We believe in the victory of Ukraine and plan to resume production after the end of hostilities. Metinvest’s metallurgical enterprises will never operate under Russian occupation,” said the company statement.
2:23pm: Five million people have fled war in Ukraine: UN
More than five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, according to the latest UN figures.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,796,245 million Ukrainians had fled across the borders, while the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals have also escaped to neighbouring countries.
The exodus is Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.
Friday’s figures from the UNHCR were up 59,774 on those issued Thursday.
More than 2.7 million Ukrainian refugees – nearly six in 10 who have left since the war began – have fled to Poland. More than 725,000 reached Romania.
UNHCR figures show nearly 645,000 Ukrainians fled in February, with nearly 3.4 million doing so in March and more than 760,000 leaving so far this month.
Women and children account for 90 percent of those who have left Ukraine, with men aged 18 to 60 eligible for military call-up and unable to leave.
1:19pm: Russian deputy PM says several buyers agree to pay in roubles for Russian gas
Several buyers of Russian gas have agreed to switch to payments in roubles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday. “We expect the decision (to switch to roubles) from other importers,” he added, in comments published in the ministry’s in-house magazine. He did not disclose the identities of customers who had already switched.
12:59pm: Ukraine missile manufacturing site outside Kyiv hit by Russian strike
A Ukrainian military factory outside Kyiv that produced missiles allegedly used to hit Russia’s Moskva warship was partially destroyed by overnight Russian strikes, an AFP journalist at the scene confirmed Friday.
A workshop and an administrative building at the Vizar plant, which lies near Kyiv’s international Zhuliany airport, were seriously damaged. Russia had earlier announced it had hit the factory.
12:31pm: Russia says buildings, school damaged by Ukrainian shelling in border region
More than 20 buildings and a school were damaged as a result of Ukrainian shelling of a Russian village in the Belgorod region on Thursday, TASS news agency reported on Friday, citing regional authorities.
12:30pm: Russia blocks The Moscow Times website
Russia’s communications watchdog has blocked access to the website of The Moscow Times, an English language newspaper that has covered Russia for three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
12:29pm: Ukraine says seven killed in Russian attack on evacuees
Ukraine said Friday that seven people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a Russian attack on buses ferrying civilians from the war-torn east of the country.
“On April 14, Russian servicemen fired on evacuation buses carrying civilians in the village of Borova in the Izium district. Preliminary data shows seven people died. Another 27 people were injured,” the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in a statement on social media.
12:00pm: Russia says it wants to expand rouble use in energy exports but no deadlines yet
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia wanted to expand the use of the rouble for energy exports, but that it was too early to talk of deadlines and details. “The president has set a methodical and step-by-step approach to expanding the use of national currencies”, Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the role of national currencies in export deals should rise, amid Russia’s stated desire to switch to roubles in payments for its gas supplies, mainly to Europe.
11:38am: Russia warns US to stop arming Ukraine
Russia has warned the United States that there will be “unpredictable consequences” if Washington keeps arming Ukraine, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
“We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarisation of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the Washington Post quoted Russia as saying in a diplomatic note to the United States.
10:23am: Ukraine says swapped captured soldiers with Russia
Ukraine said Friday it swapped several captured soldiers with Russia in the south of the war-scarred country, where Moscow’s invading forces have solidified their greatest gains. “After tense negotiations, we managed to reach agreements on a prisoner exchange near the village of Posad-Pokrovskoye, where four Russian military personnel were exchanged for our five,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said.
Russian troops have captured the city of Kherson, which is the administrative capital of the eponymous region where Friday’s declared swap took place. The exchange followed an announcement from Kyiv on Thursday of a fourth swap of prisoners since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a total of 30 people on the Ukrainian side were involved in that exchange. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky this week offered to swap pro-Kremlin tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, one of the richest people in Ukraine and who was arrested by Kyiv after escaping house arrest, for Ukrainians captured by Russia.
9:47am: Russia says killed up to 30 ‘Polish mercenaries’ in Ukraine
Russia said on Friday that it has killed up to 30 Polish mercenaries fighting for Ukrainian forces in the war-torn country’s northeastern region of Kharkiv.
The Russian defence ministry said its strategic rocket forces “eliminated up to 30 Polish mercenaries” in a strike on the village of Izyumskoe, not far from the city of Kharkiv.
9:46am: Moscow warns attacks on Kyiv ‘will intensify’
Russia’s defence ministry warned Friday it would intensify attacks on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in response to strikes on Russian soil, after accusing Ukraine of targeting Russian border towns.
“The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or sabotage committed by the Kyiv nationalist regime on Russian territory,” the ministry said in a statement. Russia hit a “military” factory outside Kyiv late Thursday using Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles, it added.
9:37: Russia says it has captured Mariupol steel plant
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had also completely taken control of the Ilyich Steel Plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
Russia said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, had surrendered near the steel plant. Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks, has seen the fiercest fighting and the most comprehensive destruction since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24.
9:07am: Ukraine says 5 dead in Russia strikes near Kyiv
Ukraine said Friday that Russian strikes had killed five people in the east of the country after President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s forces were aiming to “destroy” the region.
In a report issued by the presidency, Kyiv said two people had been killed and two more wounded in the eastern Lugansk region while another three had been killed and seven wounded in the neighbouring Donetsk region.
The presidency said “fighting was continuing along the entire front line” in Donetsk. In a late-night address Thursday, Zelensky said that “Donbas is the main target for Russia.”
“It’s Donbas that Russia wants to destroy. It is the Lugansk and Donetsk regions that Russian troops are destroying so that only stones remain and so there are no people left at all”. The statement Friday added that explosions were heard in the Vasylkiv area outside the capital and that according to initially available information air defences had been activated. Since Russian troops began withdrawing from regions of the capital last month, air sirens have been heard less frequently. They have instead focused on gaining control of the eastern Donbas region.
8:54am: Ukraine deputy PM: Nine humanitarian corridors agreed for Friday
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed for Friday to evacuate civilians, including by private car from the besieged city of Mariupol. Other evacuation routes include ones from Berdiansk, Tokmak, Enerhodar and Sievierodonetsk.
8:44am: Governor of Luhansk region urges residents of 6 towns to evacuate
The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, on Friday urged residents of six towns to evacuate, adding that one person had been killed and five wounded in Russian shelling of the town of Kreminna. Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “Don’t hesitate and leave while that possibility remains. … Choose life, buses are waiting for you at the pickup points. As are trains, of which there are enough.”
8:02am: Tough to find alternatives for Russian thermal coal, says Japan utilities group head
Alternatives for Russian thermal coal are difficult to find as the market is getting tighter, the head of a group representing Japanese utilities said on Friday.
“We want the government to provide maximum support (on the issue),” Kazuhiro Ikebe, the chairman of Japan’s federation of electric utilities, told a news conference. The Japanese government said earlier this month that it would ban coal imports from Russia in a broad escalation of sanctions after gradually reducing imports while looking for alternative suppliers.
7:07am: Zelensky hails Ukrainians’ resolve 50 days into invasion
On a day that saw Moscow suffer a stinging symbolic defeat with the loss of its Black Sea fleet flagship, Ukraine’s president hailed his people for their resolve since Russia invaded in February and for making “the most important decision of their life – to fight.”
In his nightly address, Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians late Thursday that they should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the invaders “gave us a maximum of five.”
6:05am: Loud explosions heard in Kyiv
Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv early on Friday, and air raid sirens blared across Ukraine as residents braced for new Russian attacks after Moscow’s lead warship in the Black Sea sank following a fire.
The explosions appeared to be among the most significant in Ukraine’s capital region since Russian troops pulled back from the area earlier this month in preparation for battles in the south and east.
3:30am: France 24’s Rob Parsons says the sinking of the Moskva warship is a huge blow for Russia
1:23am: CIA warns desperate Putin poses nuclear threat
Russia’s setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine could lead President Vladimir Putin to resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon, CIA director William Burns said Thursday.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said during a speech in Atlanta.
The Kremlin said it placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the assault began February 24, but the United States has not seen “a lot of practical evidence” of actual deployments that would cause more worry, Burns added, speaking to students at Georgia Tech university.
“We’re obviously very concerned. I know President Biden is deeply concerned about avoiding a third world war, about avoiding a threshold in which, you know, nuclear conflict becomes possible,” said Burns.
11:50pm: Sinking of warship a ‘big blow’ to Russian fleet, says Pentagon
The sinking of the warship Moskva after it was engulfed in an inferno was a “big blow” to Russia’s naval strength in the Black Sea, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“This is a big blow to the Black Sea fleet, this is…a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
“This is going to have an effect on their capabilities.”
10:22pm: Russia says flagship Moskva cruiser of Black Sea fleet has sunk
Russia’s defence ministry said the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank as it was being towed back to port in stormy weather following an explosion and fire, according to Russian news agencies.
“While being towed … towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank,” state news agency TASS reported, quoted the defence ministry.
The ministry said earlier on Thursday that the Soviet-era ship had been badly damaged by the fire, which Ukraine said was the result of a missile strike.
8:47pm: ‘You wield the nuclear card and it scares the West’
According to Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of the Russian National Security Council and a former Russian president, if Finland and Sweden join NATO – perhaps in the next few weeks or months – the Baltics will no longer be a non-nuclear zone, noted FRANCE 24 international affairs commentator Douglas Herbert.
“He’s implying that there will be nuclear-armed weapons within range of […] the homes of ordinary people in Finland and Sweden,” Herbert said. “It’s bullying; it’s menacing. Russia is reading from its script, its playbook: You wield the nuclear card and it scares the West – it scares a lot of people.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)
Originally published on France24