War in Ukraine live updates: The U.N. predicts more than 8 million people will flee Ukraine as refugees

Published April 26, 2022 at 7:58 AM EDT
People wait in line for an evacuation bus this week in the Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv.
Anastasia Vlasova
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People wait in line for an evacuation bus this week in the Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv.

The number is more than double what the U.N.'s refugee agency projected in February when Russia invaded the country. The vast majority of those who have already left are women and children.

Here's what we're following today:

Kyiv plans to dismantle a Soviet monument: The People's Friendship Arch was given to Ukraine by the Soviet government in 1982

The U.N. chief meets with Putin: Secretary-General António Guterres said he met with the Russian president as “a messenger of peace.”

State Department

At Senate budget hearing, Blinken stresses takeaways from his recent visit to Ukraine

Posted April 26, 2022 at 12:20 PM EDT
Secretary of State Antony Blinken sits in front of a microphone and paper nameplate, holding sheets of paper.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Just back from a trip to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on Capitol Hill today for a budget hearing. He's telling lawmakers that Russia’s "war of aggression" makes U.S. diplomacy more important.

Blinken says he’s been rallying allies and partners to impose tough costs on Russia and that the U.S. is rushing in more weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

"The budget request before you predated this crisis, but fully funding it is critical to ensuring Russia’s war in Ukraine is a strategic failure for the Kremlin and serves as a powerful lesson to those who might consider following its path," he said.

He says Ukrainians have won the battle for Kyiv and that he saw the once-vibrant city coming back to life during his trip there on Sunday. Blinken spent more than 20 hours traveling from Poland through Ukraine.

International Dispatch
From Lviv

Russian-occupied area of Moldova blames Ukrainian militants for explosions

Posted April 26, 2022 at 11:56 AM EDT
A damaged building on a tree-lined street.
AP
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Ministry of Internal Affairs of Transnistria
The home to the ministry of state security in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Transnistria, was reportedly damaged by several explosions in the disputed territory in Moldova on Monday.

The home to the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, was reportedly damaged by several explosions in the disputed territory in Moldova on Monday.

The president of Trans-Dniester, a Russian-occupied, self-proclaimed independent republic, says his government has traced recent attacks to Ukraine, according to Russian state media. President Vadim Krasnoselsky has called on Kyiv to investigate what he calls the infiltration of Trans-Dniester by Ukrainian militant groups.

Krasnoselsky was referring to explosions this morning that knocked down two radio towers that broadcast in Russian and to what authorities called a "terrorist attack" on a military unit near the Trans-Dniestrian capital of Tiraspol. Yesterday, Trans-Dniestrian authorities also reported a series of explosions at the Ministry of State Security. They attributed the damage to rocket-propelled grenade launchers. There were no reports of injuries in any of the attacks.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense described the recent attacks as “false-flag” operations staged by Russia’s FSB. The purpose, they say, is to spark panic and provide a potential pretext for mobilizing Russian troops in Trans-Dniester to attack Ukraine.

Trans-Dniester, which is a part of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, usually doesn’t get much attention. But political and military leaders in Europe are watching it closely because it is home to about 1,500 Russian troops and shares a 250-mile border with Ukraine.

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Trans-Dniester moved to separate from Moldova in the early 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. The territory, which was loyal to the USSR, fought a short war with Moldovan troops. Russian soldiers intervened on the Transnistrian side and the fighting forces reached a cease-fire in 1992.

Trans-Dniester declared itself a republic, though it remains internationally unrecognized — even by Russia. Last month, the Council of Europe described Trans-Dniester as Russian-occupied territory. Moscow insists its forces are peacekeeping troops.

Recently, a senior Russian military official — Major General Rustam Minnekayev — claimed Moscow's military objectives now included control over all of southern Ukraine — a move that Minnekayev said would allow Russian forces to provide additional protections to Russian-speakers facing "oppression" in Trans-Dniester.

While it was unclear whether Minnekayev's comments reflected official government policy, Moldova's foreign ministry summoned Moscow's ambassador to express "deep concern" over the incident.

American military sources doubt Russia has the military capacity to stretch its forces across the south of Ukraine into the Moldovan breakaway region.

Peace efforts

U.N. chief urges Russia's foreign minister to call a cease-fire and end the suffering

Posted April 26, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT
Two men stand at podiums several feet apart, with a large landscape painting on the wall behind them.
Maxim Shipenkov/Pool
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary-General António Guterres hold a joint press conference following their talks in Moscow on Tuesday.

In talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow earlier today, the U.N. chief pushed for a cease-fire as soon as possible.

In a press conference with Lavrov, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he has come to Moscow as “a messenger of peace.”

“My objective and my agenda is strictly linked to saving lives and to reduce suffering." he said.

The U.N. chief says the sooner the conflict ends, the better it will be for Ukrainians, Russians and the world. Guterres also says the U.N. is ready to help secure humanitarian corridors for those fleeing the fighting in the meantime.

Lavrov says Moscow welcomed negotiations with Kyiv, but blamed Western arms shipments into Ukraine for undermining peace talks.

The Secretary-General is due to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day.

casualties

Drone footage in Ukraine shows dozens of graves in Irpin

Posted April 26, 2022 at 10:52 AM EDT

Drone footage taken on Monday shows dozens of new graves in the northern Ukrainian town of Irpin for people who died during Russia’s invasion.

Reuters reporters saw at least three new rows of graves, most of which had markings labeled with a date of death after Feb. 24 — the day when Russia invaded Ukraine.

A family that came to bury a loved one on Monday said that their relative was killed by Russian forces during their occupation of Irpin.

History

Kyiv will dismantle a Soviet-era monument and rename streets linked to Russia

Posted April 26, 2022 at 10:33 AM EDT
An aerial view of a large concrete arch with a crack in it, on the banks of a river in a city and with a statue and carousel underneath.
Efrem Lukatsky
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AP
People walk in a city park around a Soviet-era monument in Kyiv, Ukraine, in June 2020. It won't be there for much longer.

For decades, a large titanium arch has stood in central Kyiv, towering over a sculpture of two men holding up a medal representing the Soviet Union's Order of Friendship of Peoples.

The rainbow-shaped installation is called the People's Friendship Arch and was gifted to Ukraine by the Soviet government in 1982 as a symbol of the relationship between the Russia and Ukraine.

The arch has become increasingly controversial over the years, as tensions have risen. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, for example, activists painted a large crack across the top. And now, as Russia wages all-out war in Ukraine, locals are split on what to do with it.

When NPR's Scott Detrow spoke to Kyiv residents earlier this month about what should happen to the arch, one wanted it preserved as a reminder of the war while another offered a suggestion that wasn't exactly fit for the airwaves.

On Monday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced that a decision had been made.

He said that the statue of the men will be dismantled but that the arch will remain standing, with some alterations: It will be renamed and highlighted with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

"This week we will dismantle a bronze sculpture of two workers, erected in 1982 'to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine with Russia,' " Klitschko said, according to CNN. "The eight meters of metal of the so-called 'friendship of two peoples' will be removed from the center of Kyiv."

The dismantling of the sculpture is scheduled to finish by the end of Tuesday, he said.

A black statue of two men holding on to a medal with a ribbon on it raised above their heads, with a cityscape in the background.
Pierre Crom
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Getty Images
The statue under the People Friendship Arch in Kyiv, Ukraine, will be dismantled, but an altered version of the arch will remain standing.

The Friendship Arch isn't the only Kyiv monument that officials are hoping to reclaim these days.

On Monday, the secretary of the Kyiv City Council told a Ukrainian newspaper that it will change the names of streets linked to Russia and Belarus. Volodymyr Bondarenko said there are 279 streets and 60 objects, such as memorials and plaques, that fit the bill in Kyiv, according to Polish news site TVP World.

He said city residents can submit suggestions for streets to be renamed and objects to be removed by May 1, although it will take longer for the signs with street names to actually be removed as "this is not the time for such actions."

"No one intends to take books of Russian classical authors down from library shelves or forbid people to attend concerts of Rachmaninoff," he said. "But the matter of street names and memorials needs to be brought to a close.”

NATO

A former NATO ambassador says the alliance is wary of Russian nuclear threats

Posted April 26, 2022 at 9:44 AM EDT

The highest-profile diplomacy meeting of the war in Ukraine thus far takes place in Moscow today, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials will meet with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is meeting today in Germany with officials from NATO countries and others to discuss aiding Ukraine. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused NATO of waging a proxy war and hinted the risk of a nuclear war shouldn't be underestimated.

For more on what power NATO still can do to help Ukraine win the war, Morning Edition spoke with former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder. Listen to the full conversation here.

Experts say NATO and its allies are working towards achieving three goals: A free and independent Ukraine, a weakened and isolated Russia and a united NATO and western alliance. Part of the goal is "curbing Russia's power until Russia starts to behave like a country that belongs in the family of nations that doesn't use force to change borders," Daalder says.

Daalder says the world always has to take the Kremlin's threats of a nuclear war extremely seriously and that danger is more real now than before Russia invaded Ukraine. A nuclear confrontation between Russia and the U.S. would be catastrophic,experts say.

"At the same time, we cannot and should not allow threats and bluster of the kinds that not only Foreign Minister Lavrov, but of frankly, Vladimir Putin and others in the Russian government have expressed," says Daalder.

"We should not allow those threats to determine our behavior," Daalder says. "We stand on the right side here. And we want Ukraine to be a free and independent country, and therefore we're going to help it to defend itself."

Humanitarian crisis

The U.N. now projects more than 8 million people will flee Ukraine as refugees

Posted April 26, 2022 at 9:29 AM EDT
A woman with luggage talks to a young man as two children look on.
Daniel Mihailescu
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AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian refugee speaks with a local interpreter as she and her two children arrive at the Siret border crossing between Romania and Ukraine on April 18.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) predicted that some 4 million people would flee the country throughout the course of the war.

In fact, that's how many Ukrainians left their homeland in just about the first month of the conflict. And that number surpassed 5 million last week.

The UNHCR now projects that some 8.3 million refugees will leave Ukraine, and the agency is calling for more financial support for them and their host countries.

It's bringing together 142 organizations including U.N. agencies, Red Cross societies, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based institutions to revise what it calls its "Regional Refugee Response Plan" accordingly.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday that the plan will prioritize food security, education, basic needs, sanitation, resilience and logistics, as well as transitional cash assistance.

"Launching an updated Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for the Ukraine situation yesterday, UNHCR and partners are seeking US$1.85 billion to support a projected 8.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries, namely Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as well as other countries in the region, including Belarus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic," she said.

Mantoo acknowledged that countries in the region have welcomed refugees since the start of the war, calling the mobilization of national authorities, host communities, grassroots organizations and volunteers "remarkable."

And while they have existing mechanisms to respond to the influx of refugees, Mantoo said, "The scale of refugee arrivals and the breadth of their needs requires further support for national social protection systems and services."

The response plan aims to ensure Ukrainian refugees have access to humanitarian assistance, safety and international protection, while also promoting social and economic opportunities, she added.

According to the UNHCR, some 7.7 million Ukrainians remain displaced inside of their home country, while another 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas and unable to leave because of security risks. Of those who have been forced to flee their homes, 90% are women and children.

The agency says more "robust and flexible funding" will play a critical role in allowing neighboring countries to support and protect this growing population of refugees. Mantoo added: "Until we see an end to this war, humanitarian needs will continue to grow and displacement will not cease."

Peace efforts

The head of the United Nations is meeting with Putin in Moscow today

Posted April 26, 2022 at 8:26 AM EDT
Two men wearing suits, one with a face mask on, walk through a doorway while speaking to each other.
Maxim Shipenkov/Pool
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Moscow on Tuesday.

The head of the United Nations is in Moscow today to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials. Heading the agenda is peace efforts in Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrives to Moscow having called on Putin publicly to end the conflict and bring Russian troops home.

The U.N. chief will now make that appeal personally — in meetings with the Russian leader and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In opening remarks with Lavrov, Guterres recognized that he and his Russian hosts had “very different interpretations of what's happening in Ukraine.”

“But that does not limit the possibility to have a serious dialogue,” he added. “On our best, we can work to minimize the suffering of people.”

Lavrov said the fact that Putin was to meet with the U.N. chief personally underlined the importance that Russia views its work with the United Nations.

Yet the Kremlin has shown little interest in negotiating an end to what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russia insists its campaign has entered a new phase aimed at “liberating” the entire Donbas region in Ukraine’s east. The Kremlin also accuses the West of prolonging the conflict through massive arms shipments to the government in Kyiv.

For that reason, discussions are expected to also focus on humanitarian efforts and what role the U.N. can play in limiting civilian suffering.

International Dispatch
From Odesa

As heavy fighting continues, Ukrainian officials say they've repelled enemy attacks

Posted April 26, 2022 at 8:01 AM EDT
Concrete blocks and small circular mines sit on a road surrounded by grass and trees.
Yasuyoshi Chiba
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AFP via Getty Images
Anti-tank mines litter a road near Barvinkove in eastern Ukraine on Monday.

More heavy fighting was reported today in eastern and southern Ukraine as Russia continues its assault, although Ukrainian military officials say they’ve repelled attacks in some areas.

Ukrainian officials describe ground assaults and artillery strikes by the Russian army along much of the front. Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for Ukraine's armed forces, says Ukraine's army pushed back assaults in the Donbas region.

"Six enemy attacks have been repelled," Shtupun says, "with four Russian tanks and five Russian artillery systems destroyed."

The latest fighting comes as U.S. officials plan to meet in Europe with other NATO countries in a bid to increase military support for Ukraine.

In an interview with state television, meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said NATO's support for Ukraine heightens the danger of nuclear war, adding that "the risks are now considerable."

International Dispatch
From Berlin

Military officials from U.S. and other countries meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany

Posted April 26, 2022 at 7:56 AM EDT
People in suits and military uniforms sit at three long adjoining tables in a large room with a patterned carpet and computer screens in the center.
Thomas Lohnes
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Getty Images
German Federal Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov attend the Ukraine Security Consultative Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base on Tuesday in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.

In Germany, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is hosting military officials from 40 countries for talks on how to help Ukraine win the war.

The meeting has already yielded results from Germany, which has been slow to provide heavy weapons.

Speaking at Ramstein Air Base — the largest U.S. military installation on foreign soil — Austin said everyone present today will agree on how to “strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy.”

"Your country has been ravaged, your hospitals have been bombed, your citizens have been executed, your children have been traumatized," he said.

Austin assured Ukraine the world has its back, condemning Russia’s invasion as “baseless, reckless and lawless.”

Austin’s demands appear to have been heard by Germany. Berlin announced this morning that it will approve the delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine.