Day 57 of Putin's war. Saboteur groups uncovered in Kyiv Oblast, Putin orders blockade of AzovStal in Mariupol

21 April, 10:18 AM
A Ukrainian serviceman in Kharkiv Oblast. (Photo:REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

A Ukrainian serviceman in Kharkiv Oblast. (Photo:REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

Today, April 21, is the 57th day of Ukraine's defense against a full-scale Russian invasion. The battle for Donbas, marking the second stage of the invasion, has begun.

1943: Russian occupiers have started the forced conscription of men in the occupied parts of Kherson Oblast, Ukraine's Army General Staff has reported. 

The invaders have announced a sham referendum is to be held on April 27. They've been conducting population census and forbidden locals to travel between settlements. 

Видео дня

1829: Despite Putin's order to stop the assault on AzovStal the occupiers continue to shell the steel factory in Mariupol, Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, has said in a statement.

Active fighting is going on near the tram depot in the Azovstal district.

More than 2000 Ukrainian servicemen are still sheltering in the underground corridors of the steel factory. Some 500 of them are wounded.

1609: Ukraine and Russia conducted another prisoner swap on April 21, Ukraine's reintegration minister Iryna Vereshchuk has reported.

Nineteen Ukrainians returned home: eight soldiers, two officers, and nine civilians. Some of them are reportedly wounded.

1402: Estonia has become the first country to officially recognize Russia's war in Ukraine as genocide. 

Today the Estonian Parliament recognized Russia's actions in Ukraine as war crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian population and called on other nations to do the same.

The Parliament of Latvia also recognized the Russian war against Ukraine as genocide against the Ukrainian people shortly after. 

1307: Russian occupying forces have been completely isolating the occupied territories from the rest of Ukraine, the Defense Ministry of Ukraine Main Intelligence Directorate has reported.

As of today, the occupied settlements in Kharkiv's Oblast's Velykoburlutskiy District are cut from Ukraine. Locals can leave the active war zone only to Russia.
Russians have also banned any humanitarian aid shipments from Ukraine. Locals are warned that volunteers who deliver the aid are being shot dead by the Russian occupiers.

1254: Ukraine can't lift the blockade of Mariupol using military force yet, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said in an interview with BFM TV.

"We are doing everything we can. But today it is impossible for our army to pass through the 120 kilometers of Russian-occupied Ukrainian land around Mariupol," Zelensky said. "Russian military equipment does not allow us to do that. So so far all we can do is arrange humanitarian corridors and evacuate at least some people from there."

1042: Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops to stop attempting to storm the AzovStal in Mariupol and instead fully blockade the steel factory "so that even a fly cannot pass unnoticed."

AzovStal has become a stronghold of the Ukrainian forces in the city. Its underground corridors now shelter more than 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 1,000 civilians.

Russia has refused to allow civilians from Mariupol to be evacuated to Ukraine. Instead, Putin has guaranteed that everyone who surrenders to the Russian invaders in Mariupol will not be killed.

In a conversation with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said Russia's occupation of Mariupol was a success.  

Mariupol had been under siege since March 1. More than 90 percent of the city's buildings have been destroyed. The Russians heavily bombed residential areas, killing at least 20,000 residents. They have also deported more than 142,000 Ukrainians from the city to Russia.

Morning Digest

Yesterday's attempt by the Ukrainian government to save civilians from Mariupol failed. The Russians did not bring the evacuees to the meeting point in Orikhiv, a town in Zaporizhzhia Oblast that is occupied by invading Russian forces.  Today, Ukrainian Reintegration Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there will be a different meeting point. The Ukrainian authorities have also agreed on the opening of the first humanitarian corridor from Kherson Oblast. 

Meanwhile, Russia has refused to abide by an Easter truce proposed by the United Nations. Ukraine agreed to it earlier.

While Russia claims it is winning the war in Ukraine, more and more high-profile Russians are reportedly unsatisfied with Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Bloomberg has reported.

Russia aims to win a clear victory in Ukraine by May 9, the day when Russia celebrates victory over Nazism in WWII, British intelligence has said. The occupiers now control 80 percent of Luhansk Oblast, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai has reported.

Russia has already lost 21,000 soldiers killed in action in Ukraine since Feb. 24, the Ukrainian Army General Staff said in a statement on April 21.

In the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have successfully repelled nine attacks by Russian invading forces in the Donbas. 

Meanwhile, in Kyiv Oblast, Ukrainian law enforcers have uncovered new Russian sabotage groups.

In Irpin, Ukrainian police detained two saboteurs working for the Russian occupiers, while seven other saboteurs are on the run. There are three other saboteur groups working in the Irpin district, Kyiv Oblast authorities have reported. Their main goal is to abduct Ukrainian army officers, authorities say.

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