War in Ukraine live updates: Russia batters eastern Ukraine, but forces in Mariupol refuse to surrender

Published April 18, 2022 at 7:57 AM EDT
A man in military fatigues stares at a crater by destroyed buildings.
Ronaldo Schemidt
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AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian serviceman looks into a crater at the site of destroyed homes in the village of Yatskivka in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

Russian troops have reportedly taken control of the town of Kreminna in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region, after weeks of bombardment. In Mariupol, Ukrainian forces are refusing to surrender, despite Russia's long and bloody siege.

Here's what else we're following today:

Lviv's first fatalities of the war: At least four missiles hit the city in western Ukraine shortly after sunrise Monday. Seven people are reported dead, and 11 injured in the first fatalities the far western city has seen.

The war's toll on children: At least 202 children have died and another 361 have been injured throughout Ukraine since Russia invaded, according to the prosecutor general's office.

Many Ukrainians are returning home: For the first time since the war began, more Ukrainians crossed the Polish border going into the country rather than out over the weekend, officials said.

On the ground

A humanitarian restaurant in Ukraine linked to chef José Andrés has been destroyed

Posted April 18, 2022 at 1:41 PM EDT

A humanitarian restaurant in Ukraine linked to celebrity chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen was destroyed by a missile, according to a tweet from the nonprofit’s CEO Nate Mook.

In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday, Mook stood by what remained of the building after the blast in the city of Kharkiv. A fire was still burning in a building behind him, he told viewers. Cars were burnt out around him, with some parts strewn in the branches of bare trees above him.

Four of the restaurant’s staff members were wounded, and there was “a lot of damage” to the kitchen. No one was killed in the restaurant, Mook said.

“This was a big hit, as you can see,” he said. “Just a tremendous amount of carnage left behind for no reason.”

Andrés, founder and chief feeding officer at the nonprofit, also responded to the blast on Twitter, sending “a message of hope.” In a video posted from outside a church over the weekend, Andrés said that the four wounded staff members are “okay.”

Staff members planned to cook at another location on Monday, Andrés said.

“You see, the goodness always shines through and we’re going to keep cooking and feeding as many people as we can,” Andrés said.

Military

Senior U.S. defense official says Russia remains focused on eastern Ukraine

Posted April 18, 2022 at 1:13 PM EDT
An aerial view of a large crater in the ground and destroyed homes next to a road.
Ronaldo Schemidt
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AFP via Getty Images
An aerial view shows a crater and destroyed homes in the village of Yatskivka, eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

Russia has moved additional forces into Ukraine over the past several days, part of the ongoing buildup for an expected offensive in the east, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The official says the Russians have added 11 battalion tactical groups — which can have up to 1,000 troops each — in the past few days. With those additions, the Russians now have 76 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, all the east or the south.

The official said recent airstrikes in other parts of the country, like the western city of Lviv, are exceptions, and U.S. officials believe Russia remains focused on eastern and southern Ukraine.

Heavy fighting continues in several cities including Kharkiv (in the northeast), Izium (in the east central) and Mariupol (in the southeast).

While the fighting is ongoing, the official says the Russian buildup appears to involve “shaping operations” for the larger offensive to come. Russian troops are putting more tanks, artillery, helicopters and command-and-control elements in place. This appears to be an effort to have more resources in place and learn from the problems they encountered in the initial invasion.

The official also says the U.S. saw sailors in lifeboats after the explosion on the Moskva last week. But he said he couldn’t provide figures on how many sailors survived and how many might have died.

News reports said there were likely around 500 sailors on board the warship when it was hit. Russia has made no mention of casualties.

Grab the tissues

Watch this rescued puppy reunite with her owner in southeast Ukraine

Posted April 18, 2022 at 12:08 PM EDT

Rescue workers in the Mikhailivka Pokrovsky district of Donetsk in Ukraine dig through rubble with their hands, lifting a puppy out to safety and handing the dog to its thankful owner, who also survived the attack.⁠

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said both the puppy and its 77-year-old owner were in good condition after receiving medical care at the scene.⁠

The SES had reported on April 11 that shelling had damaged 30 houses in the Mikhailivka Pokrovsky district of Donetsk.

World impact

Global food prices soar in March, driven by Russia's war in Ukraine

Posted April 18, 2022 at 11:30 AM EDT
A farmer drives a tractor in a field.
Genya Savilov
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AFP via Getty Images
A farmer sows oats in a field east of Kyiv on Saturday. Ukraine and Russia provide an outsized share of the world's supply of key farm foods.

Aid organizations say they're seeing signs that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is driving up global food prices and pushing millions of people into hunger.

A food price index tracked by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that prices spiked 12% between February and March to its highest point since the index started in 1990.

Ukraine and Russia provide an outsized share of the world's supply of key foods including wheat, corn, barley and more.

The impact on people who were already struggling to afford food has been severe, aid groups say. In Afghanistan a month ago, 55% of people were at crisis levels of food insecurity. Now the number has risen to 65%.

In some West African countries, including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali, 27 million people are currently going hungry.

Aid groups are calling on wealthy countries to immediately step up assistance.

Military

As Russian forces enter the Luhansk region, street fighting breaks out in Kreminna

Posted April 18, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT

Russian forces have reportedly taken control of the town of Kreminna in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region, after weeks of bombardment.

Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, shared the update on Telegram Monday.

"The occupiers have taken control of Kreminna! The fighting continues," he wrote, according to a translation from state news agency Ukrinform.

The military administration said on Telegram that "the offensive has already begun," with street fighting breaking out in Kreminna.

Haidai said evacuations from the city are no longer possible.

"We planned the evacuation, literally along forest paths, so that the people would not come under fire. But overnight the situation changed. While fighting [has broken out] in the city, it is unrealistic to count the civilians who remain there," Haidai wrote on Facebook, according to CNN.

He said Russian forces had entered Kreminna with "a huge amount of equipment." He added that the city's Olympus sports facility was "burning down," with a fire covering an area of 2,400 square meters, and that rescuers were hard at work as there is a forest nearby.

He also reported fatalities in other parts of the region: Two people were killed and four injured in Zolote, while seven people were recovered from the rubble of a destroyed building in Rubizhne.

Haidai wrote on Telegram that people are still being evacuated from nearby Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske and Rubizhne.

"Take care of your children!" he added.

Economy

Moscow mayor says 200,000 people could lose their jobs as Western companies withdraw

Posted April 18, 2022 at 10:50 AM EDT
A white-haired man in a white shirt and black jacket speaks in front of a white background reading "World Cup Russia, Host City Moscow."
Sandra Montanez
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Getty Images
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin in 2017.

As a growing number of Western companies distance themselves from Russia, the mayor of Moscow says hundreds of thousands of people could soon be without work.

"According to our estimates, about 200,000 people are at risk of losing their jobs," Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote in a Monday blog post, according to an AFP translation.

He also said authorities have approved a program worth 3.36 billion rubles — or roughly $41 million — to support employees at risk of layoffs with training and temporary employment.

The program is on track to support more than 58,000 employees of foreign companies, he added, with about 12,500 undergoing retraining and the rest getting temporary jobs and opportunities in public works projects in parks and other city organizations.

His blog post details other efforts federal and city officials are making to support families, the pharmaceutical industry and small businesses in Moscow.

More than 750 companies have curtailed operations in Russia to some degree, according to Yale School of Management researchers tracking such movements.

The view from Ukraine

Today in Tim Mak tweets: Ukrainian resistance, scenes from Odesa and a very good dog

Posted April 18, 2022 at 10:39 AM EDT

If you've been following NPR's on-the-ground coverage from Ukraine since the early days of the war, you probably remember investigative correspondent Tim Mak's epic daily Twitter threads of news, interviews and observations.

Well, they're back.

In today's thread, Mak walks us through some of the following:

Read it all here.

religion

How some in Ukraine are celebrating holy days despite the war

Posted April 18, 2022 at 10:23 AM EDT
People look on near a display with lit candles inside a church.
Chris McGrath
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Getty Images
People attend a Palm Sunday church service in Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine.

As fighting intensified in many Ukrainian cities over the weekend, some Ukrainians lined up for Palm Sunday commemorations in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine.

As worshippers gathered in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour orthodox church in Dnipro, an air raid siren went off.

It didn’t seem to bother anyone. Instead, people waited patiently outside for the priest. In Ukraine, most churches follow the Julian calendar, meaning Orthodox Easter will fall next Sunday.

Yesterday, they celebrated the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is normally a joyous occasion.

But Savuch Oleksiy and Zinchenko Valentyna, who were waiting for their palms to be blessed, said the season doesn't feel like Easter, because they keep thinking about the war.

"I'm a strong believer and obviously when I go to church I put some candles for our military and for our guys to protect them," said Valentyna in Ukrainian. "I don't know how reasonable it is to do it, maybe it's even something strange, but I always light one candle for the death of Putin."

A priest splashes blessed water on a crowd of people gathered in an ornate church.
Joe Raedle
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Getty Images
Father Taras Borovets blesses parishioners with water on Palm Sunday at the Church of the Transfiguration in Lviv, Ukraine.

Fighting across Ukraine has intensified dramatically in the past few days in what could be the beginning of a new Russian offensive that Ukraine and its Western allies have warned about for weeks.

And while people are trying to live life normally, planning Eastern gatherings next week, there is also constant unease and fear that the war's death and destruction could catch up at any moment.

Hear more of Eyder Peralta's coverage from inside Ukraine on this morning's Up First.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

Many Ukrainians are coming home, despite officials' pleas to stay away for safety

Posted April 18, 2022 at 9:49 AM EDT
A man and woman embrace on a train platform.
Yasuyoshi Chiba
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AFP via Getty Images
Ihor welcomes Lyudmila, who has returned from neighboring Poland on a night train, on a platform at the Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi train station in Kyiv on Sunday.

The Polish border service reports that more people crossed the border to Ukraine than fled into Poland over the weekend for the first timesince the war began.

Many Ukrainians are returning to their cities despite warnings from some officials that it is not yet safe.

The Polish border service tweeted that 22,000 people crossed into Ukraine on Saturday and 19,200 left.

Millions of people have fled Ukraine since Russia first invaded, with most going to Poland, but the United Nations reports that hundreds of thousands have since crossed the border from Poland back to Ukraine.

Russia has warned that it will increase attacks on the capital city, Kyiv, after Ukrainians destroyed its flagship in the Black Sea.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is asking residents who have fled for safer areas not to return. He’s also pleading with residents not to ignore warning signs.

Interview

What Russians think of the war in Ukraine, according to an independent pollster

Posted April 18, 2022 at 8:44 AM EDT
Two people walk on a yellow-and-white striped street near colorful buildings with onion domes.
Kirill Kudryavtsev
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AFP via Getty Images
A couple walk in front of the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower and St Basil's cathedral in downtown Moscow. In a poll, 80% of Russian respondents say they support the military.

What do ordinary Russians think about President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and how much are they feeling the effect of Western sanctions?

Denis Volkov has been working to find out. He's the director of the Levada Center, an independent polling firm in Russia.

As Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep notes, doing anything independently in Russia is tricky (the government has branded the firm a foreign agent), as is conducting polls — since the government prohibits calling the invasion a war, and dissenters are arrested. The Levada Center stays within those parameters by asking whether people support the actions of the Russian military.

He found that some 80% of respondents do support the military, but that group is by no means a monolith. He says about 50% have "definite support" without any qualms, but the other 30% have support with reservations. And he sees shock and anxiety across the entire group.

Volkov told Inskeep that he's aware of the pitfalls with these polls, but they may still have valuable information to teach us.

"We must understand that polls show us not what people really think or really believe, but what they want to share," he says.

Volkov says these polls are conducted face-to-face, and people are assured of anonymity. Still, he notes, the survey results reveal at least as much about what people are willing to say in public than about how they truly feel.

"We are measuring public attitudes that, more or less, coincide with how people will behave in public," he adds.

He says the firm asks about peoples' feelings, and is seeing that both groups — those who support and oppose the military's actions — are anxious and afraid. He contrasts this to public opinion surrounding the annexation of Crimea in 2014, recalling that there were positive feelings and even "euphoria" at the time.

"This time, you do not see this euphoria," Volkov says. "It's rather that people understand that this is serious, that there is fighting. But at the same time, many say that they're supporting and some people even say that they should support, because it's international conflict and they have to support their government."

Volkov adds that public opinion matters, even though the Russian government isn't taking the public's pulse in order to plan its next moves. He says officials are instead monitoring the situation to make sure that it's "under control."

And as Russia's war in Ukraine continues, the U.S. and other Western allies are hitting it with more economic sanctions.

One-quarter of respondents say they already feel the effect of those sanctions, according to Volkov. People who are from disadvantaged groups are suffering the most, he adds, because they don't have the resources to adapt.

On the other hand, Volkov says that people in big cities who are well-off and well-connected do have the resources, but are suffering "morally." By that, he means that those who were most connected to the outside world might have been less inclined to support Putin's military operation, but now find themselves cut off from the West. That means they're on conflicting sides — and feel the shunning of Russia most of all.

Listen to the full conversation here.

For the record

More than 200 children have been killed in the war, Ukrainian officials say

Posted April 18, 2022 at 8:22 AM EDT
A woman carries a child, facing away from the camera, as she steps off a train.
Jeff J. Mitchell
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Getty Images
A woman holding a child disembarks a train at Przemysl station after fleeing from war-torn Ukraine on April 9 in Przemysl, Poland.

At least 202 children have died and another 361 children have been injured in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to new figures from the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office.

But officials note those numbers could change, since they’re still collecting data on casualties in areas with active hostilities.

The prosecutor general’s office says the Donetsk region saw the most youth casualties, while the Kyiv region had the second-highest number of deaths and injuries among children.

UNICEF, the U.N. agency for children, estimates that nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children have been displaced in the conflict. Officials also say Russian bombing and shelling damaged more than 1,000 educational institutions in the country.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

Ukraine's prime minister says Mariupol will fight to the end

Posted April 18, 2022 at 8:12 AM EDT
Three people in military uniforms walk past damaged buildings with a bare tree lying on the street.
Alexei Alexandrov
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AP
Servicemen of Donetsk People's Republic militia walk past damaged apartment buildings in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine on Saturday.

Ukraine says it won't surrender to Russian forces in Mariupol, with the country's prime minister vowing that Ukrainian troops will fight to the end there.

The Russians long have had the Ukrainian forces outgunned, and appear to be on the verge of taking over the city. But Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that the port city still has not fallen.

“We will not surrender. We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war,” he said.

Capturing Mariupol would be a welcome victory for Russia following some embarrassing failures in the war, including getting pushed back from Kyiv and losing their flagship in the Black Sea.

The battle for Mariupol has been a bloody siege, and Ukrainian President Voloydymr Zelenskyy has called the conditions there inhuman.

Recap

Catch up on some of the weekend's biggest developments

Posted April 18, 2022 at 8:03 AM EDT
People walk by high-rise buildings that are burnt and falling apart.
Sergei Supinsky
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AFP via Getty Images
People walk in front of buildings destroyed during bombardment of the town of Borodyanka, in Ukraine's Kyiv region on Sunday.

It's been a busy weekend, especially with many people celebrating Easter, Passover and Ramadan.

In case you didn't have time to follow all of the news out of Russia and Ukraine, you're in luck — NPR brings together the latest updates and analysis in its daily recaps, which you can find here.

Here are some of the biggest stories from Saturday and Sunday:

  • Russians have resumed attacking Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv. The mayor is urging residents to remain vigilant after more strikes occurred in the southeastern part of the city Saturday night. And the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it destroyed an ammunition factory near the city of Brovary, in the Kyiv region, overnight.
  • The deputy governor of Kharkiv told NPR that he expects the region around Izyum to be the Russians' next primary target and that there will be heavy fighting.
  • A group of Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are told by Russian forces to surrender "in order to save their lives." The Russian military has been unleashing a relentless assault against the port city in southeastern Ukraine, which is key to Moscow's invasion of the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the current situation in Mariupol as "inhuman."
  • Humanitarian corridors were closed Sunday due to failed talks between the two countries. That left as many as 100,000 civilians trapped in Mariupol with no way out.
  • On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis called for an end to war in Ukraine. "May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged," he told a crowd of worshippers in St. Peter's Square.

For context and more in-depth stories, you can find NPR's full coverage here. Also, listen and subscribe to NPR's State of Ukrainepodcast for updates throughout the day.

International Dispatch
From Ukraine

Russian forces strike the western city of Lviv, resulting in its first fatalities

Posted April 18, 2022 at 7:52 AM EDT
Black smoke rises above several high-rise buildings.
Joe Raedle
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Getty Images
Smoke is seen on the horizon in Lviv, Ukraine after Russian missiles struck the area on Monday.

Officials in the Ukrainian city of Lviv report that at least four missiles hit the city shortly after sunrise Monday. Seven people are reported dead, and 11 injured in the first fatalities the far western city has seen.

Ukraine’s western air command says three military targets were damaged and a tire shop was destroyed.

The tire shop was right next to a hotel and the main train station for Lviv — it’s a densely-populated area that has served as a major transit point for refugees. More than a half-million displaced persons are in the region, which borders Poland.

Lviv has only been hit a few times since the war began, and Ukrainian air defense had intercepted two attacks in recent weeks.

Read more here.