By The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has discussed the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol in a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Zelenskyy said on Twitter that he “stressed the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, including Azovstal, and immediate exchange of blocked troops” in Sunday’s call with Erdogan. He noted that the call came before Erdogan’s planned conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine has urged Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians holed up at the giant Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining Ukrainian pocket of resistance in the strategic Sea of Azov port. It also has pushed Russia to conduct talks on a safe exit for the Ukrainian defenders of the plant, but Moscow has stonewalled the demands.
Zelenskyy said he and Erdogan also discussed the course of the negotiation process and possible security guarantees for Ukraine from Turkey and other nations.
Erdogan’s office said he told Zelenskyy in their call that Turkey is ready to mediate and assist in talks between Ukraine and Russia.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Mariupol steel plant under siege; Zelenskyy to meet with U.S. officials
— Ukrainians mark Orthodox Easter with prayers for those trapped
— Ukrainian village faces a churchless Easter
— Sanctions hit Russian economy, though Putin says otherwise
— Possible mass graves near Mariupol shown in satellite images
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has renewed his call for an Easter truce as Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter Sunday, when the faithful mark the resurrection of Jesus.
Without naming countries, Francis urged aggressors to “stop the attack to help the suffering of the exhausted people.”
Francis told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that two months had passed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said that “instead of stopping, the war got worse. It is sad that in these days that are the holiest and most solemn for all Christians, the deadly clamor of arms is louder than the sound of bells announcing the Resurrection.”
BERLIN — Switzerland has rejected two requests by Germany to export Swiss ammunition to Ukraine, citing the Alpine nation’s strict neutrality.
The decision was first reported Sunday by Swiss weekly Sonntagszeitung.
Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs confirmed that “both requests from Germany, whether the ammunition received from Switzerland can be passed on to Ukraine, were answered negatively with a reference to Swiss neutrality.”
Germany needs Switzerland’s consent for the arms delivery as part of the original sale contract. The Swiss office declined to specify what type of ammunition Germany had sought to export to Ukraine.
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has struck a Ukrainian explosives factory, several artillery depots and hundreds of other targets.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that the Russian military used precision-guided missiles to destroy a factory making powder and explosives near Pavlohrad in the Dnipro region in central Ukraine.
Konashenkov said Russian forces also struck several depots with artillery munitions and rockets in Barvinkove, Nova Dmytrivka, Ivanivka, Husarivka and Velyka Komyshuvakha in the Kharkiv region.
He added that the Russian artillery hit 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troops concentrations, while Russian warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military targets.
ISTANBUL — The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians has called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, saying a “human tragedy” was unfolding in the country.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke Saturday night in Istanbul during midnight mass marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ ahead of Orthodox Easter Sunday.
“Let us ask the Risen Redeemer that this year, (Easter) will be the impetus to open humanitarian corridors, safe passages to truly safe areas for the thousands of people surrounded in Mariupol, civilians, among them the wounded, the elderly, women and many children,” Bartholomew said. “The same applies to all other regions of Ukraine, where an indescribable human tragedy is unfolding.”
Istanbul-based Bartholomew is considered first among equals among Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, which gives him prominence but not the power of a Catholic pope.
BERLIN — The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe says it is extremely concerned about the detention of several Ukrainian members of its monitoring mission in the east of the country.
The Vienna-based body said in a brief statement Sunday that it is “using all available channels to facilitate their release.” A spokesperson declined to specify how many national mission members were detained, when or by whom.
Several OSCE observers have been killed or injured since the body’s 57 participating states established a mission to monitor the conflict in eastern Ukraine eight years ago. Russia recently vetoed an extension of the mission.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken of hope and victory for his nation during an Easter Sunday address.
Speaking from the ancient St. Sophia cathedral, Zelenskyy said that “the great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!”
He said that “the Lord and the holy heavenly light are on our side,” adding: “We are going through very difficult ordeals. Let us reach a just end on this path — the beginning of a happy life and prosperity of Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy said that “on Easter, we ask God for great grace to make our dream come true – this is another great day — the day when great peace will come to Ukraine.”
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser has urged Russia to allow civilians to leave a steel mill in Mariupol besieged by the Russian forces.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appealed to Russia to announce a truce in Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday and immediately open a humanitarian corridor for civilians holed up at the giant Azovstal steel plant. He also challenged Russia to conduct a round of talks to negotiate an exit for the Ukrainian defenders of the plant.
Podolyak tweeted that the Russian military is attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery barrage and is accumulating forces and equipment for an assault.
Sviatoslav Palamar, an officer with the Azov Regiment defending the plant, said in a video that on Eastern Sunday the Russians are continuing to shower the plant with bombs and shell it with heavy artillery.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have continued to press their attacks in the east.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Sunday that the Russians fired on Ukrainian positions along the entire line of contact on the war’s 60th day. It also said the Russian military intensified its offensive and assault operations in the Siverodonetsk, Kurakhiv and Popasna directions.
A regional official in eastern Ukraine says at least eight people have been killed by the Russian shelling.
Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Haidai said Sunday that two others were wounded by the Russian barrage in the past 24 hours.
The General Staff added that Russian forces have also continued to pummel the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, hitting it with air strikes, including by long-range aircraft.
The shelling comes as the Russians are pressing their offensive in a bid to gain full control over Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called Donbas.
The Russians have also shelled the Dnipro region west of Donbas, where at least one person was killed by a Russian missile, according to Dnipro regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian military said Saturday it destroyed a Russian command post in Kherson, a southern city that fell to Russian forces early in the war.
The Ukrainian military intelligence agency posted a statement saying the command post was hit on Friday and two generals were killed and one was critically wounded.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in an online interview that 50 senior Russian officers were in the command center when it came under attack. He said their fate was unknown.
The Russian military did not comment on the claim, which could not be confirmed.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said new evidence is emerging that shows Russian troops killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol and then tried to cover it up. He said Ukraine has intercepted Russian conversations about “how they are concealing the traces of their crimes.” Satellite images have shown what appear to be mass graves dug in towns to the west and east of Mariupol.
Zelenskyy said the Russians set up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for those trying to leave the city, which has largely been reduced to rubble. He said those who survive these camps are sent to areas under Russian occupation or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East. Many of them, he said, are children.
He said he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday about the situation in Mariupol and the general course of the war.
Zelenskyy promised to find and punish those responsible for the missile attack on Odesa, which he said killed eight people and wounded 18.
Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to observe a curfew and not attend Orthodox Easter services overnight. The lengthy services traditionally begin late Saturday and run through Sunday morning. “But starting from 5 a.m. you may go to the church in your city, town or community,” he said.
SLOVIANSK, Ukraine — The sound of outgoing artillery and air raid sirens were heard Saturday in Sloviansk, a town in northern Donbas that had come under Russian attack the day before.
Two servicemen were brought to a hospital from a nearby town, but one of them was mortally wounded and could not be saved.
The Russian strike early Friday had damaged several buildings, including a school.
The war has brought back painful memories for residents of Sloviansk, where in 2014 Ukrainian government forces repulsed Russia-backed separatists after a fierce battle. In the years since, the separatists maintained control over part of the Donbas, and Moscow has now set out to capture the entire region.
Anna Direnskaya, 70, said she and her son and daughter-in-law decided to remain in Sloviansk.
“I lived through 2014. I was also here. I didn’t go anywhere and I don’t want to go anywhere. I am not hiding from myself,” she said while sitting in a wheelchair outside her damaged apartment building. “I want peace.”
Direnskaya, who like many in eastern Ukraine is a native Russian speaker, said she wishes the Russians would understand that Ukrainians are not bad people and there is no enmity between them.
“Why did this happen? Why is this happening? I don’t know. Tell everyone I want peace and quiet,” she said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says he will meet Sunday in Kyiv with the U.S. secretary of state and secretary of defense.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of the plans Saturday during a press conference. He did not immediately share more detail about the visit from Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin.
The White House declined to comment on Saturday. The U.S. State Department also declined comment.
Zelenskyy has for weeks urged Western allies to send Ukraine more weapons to counter the Russian invasion.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland and Ukraine have signed an agreement increasing cooperation in the railway transport sector, aiming to help Ukraine maintain its trade exchange with foreign countries as the Russian invasion affects its ports.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Poland’s premier, Mateusz Morawiecki, met on Saturday in Krakow, Poland.
Morawiecki said on Facebook that they both agreed that current sanctions on Russia are insufficient, which can be seen by the condition of the “Russian currency, bonds or inflation.” They appealed to the international community for tougher steps that would stop Russia’s aggression on Ukraine and for more military aid to help Ukraine.
Morawiecki drew special attention to the plight of civilians seeking protection in a steel plant in Mariupol, as he called for the assistance.
“In Mariupol soldiers – or rather Russian criminals want to make women and children starve to death. They are waiting until they run out of water. What kind of strategy is that? This is not war. This is genocide.”