Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 53

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Kremlin spokesman says Russia will endure standoff with West

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated he’s sure Russia will endure the current confrontation with the West.

“We can,” he said on Rossiya-1 television on Sunday, when asked by the host if Russia, unlike the USSR, can survive the standoff with the West.

UN official says ‘food is being used as a weapon of war’ in Russia-Ukraine conflict

David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, on Sunday said “food is being used as a weapon of war” in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“We’ve seen food depots that have been blown away, I’ve seen places where there’s nothing in these warehouses but food, and that’s not even in Mariupol. And so there is no question food is being used as a weapon of war in many different ways here,” Beasley told moderator Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin using starvation as a weapon.

Asked if he is confident that the World Food Programme can keep food supply lines open, Beasley stated “no, I’m not.”

He added the group is unable to reach Mariupol, the city currently under siege by Russia.

“I’m not confident at all. In fact, we’re reaching millions of people, us and all of the partners in the international community here inside Ukraine. But there are places that we can’t reach, like in Mariupol, in other places where Russian forces have besieged the city and are not allowing us the access we need,” he continued.

Beasley’s comments come after President Joe Biden last month warned that global food shortages could evolve as a result of the Russian invasion. Global food prices have already hit record levels.

Macron invited to see evidence of ‘genocide’: Zelensky

Ukraine’s president said he has invited his French counterpart to visit his country to see for himself evidence that Russian forces have committed “genocide”.

“I talked to him yesterday,” Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN broadcasted on Sunday.

“I just told him I want him to understand that this is not war, but nothing other than genocide. I invited him to come when he will have the opportunity. He’ll come and see, and I’m sure he will understand,” he added.

Emmanuel Macron has so far avoided using the term genocide to describe atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Putin believes he’s winning war: Austrian chancellor

Austria’s chancellor said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he’s winning the war.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he couldn’t fully explain Putin’s rationale, but did say Putin had his “own war logic,” adding the Russian leader “sent me clear messages about his concerns,” and that he seemed to have a full grasp of what was unfolding on the ground.

“I think he is now in his own war logic. He thinks the war is necessary for security guarantees for the Russian Federation. He doesn’t trust the international community. He blames the Ukrainians for genocide in the Donbas region. So, um, well, he is now in his world, but I think he knows what is going on now in Ukraine,” Nehammer stated.

Nehammer added that Putin switched to German in their face-to-face meeting to warn that it would be better for the war to end sooner rather than later.

Russian forces “gradually withdrawing” from captured Borivs’kyi district: Local council

While Russian forces are still in complete control of the Borivs’kyi district in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Moscow’s troops are “gradually withdrawing” from the area in the direction of Donetsk region, the Borova village council said in a statement on Telegram on Sunday.

“There is no mobile connection and no Internet, which are impossible to restore as the territory is occupied by the Russians,” it announced, adding that “some places are left without electricity and gas.”

According to the statement, Russian troops are housed in the buildings of the village council, the Palace of Culture, hospitals, in the homes of some civilians. “Occupying authorities” in the area have been appointed from among local collaborators, who are now going to coordinate administrative activities in the community.

The council said some parts of the community suffered significant damage and that it hasn’t been able to get in touch with the psychoneurological boarding school in the area, which housed about 200 patients.

Due to the lack of communication, the council has not been able to identify the people who were taken to the hospital from the bus that came under attack by Russian forces on Friday.

The issue of delivery of medicines to a hospital in Borova village, including anesthesia, and humanitarian aid to the population in the form of food, hygiene products and basic necessities is acute, the council added.

Appeals have been sent to the Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who is also Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, and the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, Oleh Synegubov, to organize humanitarian corridors for evacuation and delivery of aid in the area, according to the statement.

Estonia, Bulgaria ban Russian ships from entering their ports

Estonia is banning Russian ships from entering its ports starting Sunday as part of the EU sanctions against Moscow over its special military operation in Ukraine, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure announced.

Bulgaria has also confirmed enacting the ban on Russian-flagged ships on Sunday.

Zelensky calls on Biden to visit

Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky has called on US President Joe Biden to visit his country.

“I think he’s the leader of the United States and that’s why he should come here to see,” Zelensky said during an interview with US CNN.

“It’s his decision, of course,” he stated, added that any plans would depend on the security situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine is not prepared to give up its territories and is ready, if needed, to fight with Russia “for ten years,” Zelensky stressed.

The Ukrainian president stated that for Ukraine “the battle for Donbass is very important” for a number of reasons. He explained that this battle might influence “the course of the whole war.” However, the president stressed that the preferable solution of the conflict is the diplomatic one.

Ukrainian FM: Mariupol situation may be ‘red line’ in talks

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, said there had not been any recent diplomatic communications between Russia and Ukraine at the level of their foreign ministries and that the situation in the port of Mariupol, which he described as “dire”, may be a “red line” in the path of negotiations.

“Mariupol may be a red line”, he told CBS News in an interview.

Zelensky: “I don’t believe world, after we have seen what’s going on in Ukraine”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he has difficulty believing in the reliability of “some countries or some leaders” after the escalation of the war in his country.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Zelensky during an exclusive interview about whether he finds statements when world leaders use the term “never again,” a slogan that is associated with Holocaust and often uttered after crimes against humanity, “hollow” now.

“You lost ancestors in the Holocaust. Every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, politicians put out statements that say, never again, never again. Those statements must seem really hollow right now to you. When the world says never again, do they ever mean it?” Tapper asked.

Zelensky responded, “I don’t believe the world. After we have seen what’s going on in Ukraine, we’ve — I mean that I don’t believe to this feeling that we should believe to the — to the — some countries or some leaders. We don’t believe the words. After the escalation of Russia, we don’t believe our neighbors. We don’t believe all of this.”

The Ukrainian president went on to say that he doesn’t even believe in documented security assurances and international law as the war in Ukraine rages, and with Russia accused of alleged war crimes.

“Even I don’t believe documents, because we also have a Budapest Memorandum — I think you know all of the details of this. For me, that is just a piece of paper and costs nothing,” he added.

Zelensky told CNN that his faith and his belief lies with practical, tangible efforts and the Ukrainian people.

“We just believe contracted, pragmatic things. If you are our friends or partners, give us weapons, give us hand, give us support us, give us money and stop Russia, kick Russia. You can do it if you’re a friend. If you think about this democracy and everything just of this moment because we have the same thoughts, if we are speaking about freedom, not because we want to have dialogue about freedom,” he stated.

Zelensky continued, “The only belief there is belief in ourselves, in our people, belief in our Armed Forces, and the belief that countries are going to support us not just with their words but with their actions. And that’s it. Never again … Really, everybody is talking about this and yet, as you can see, not everyone has got the guts.”

41 bodies recovered so far in Borodianka apartment complexes destroyed by Russian shelling

Ukrainian rescuers on Saturday found a body of a civilian in Borodianka, Kyiv, region, while dismantling the rubble of two high-rise apartment buildings destroyed by Russian shelling, raising the number of civilian casualties from the strikes to 41 dead, the country’s State Emergency Service reported on its verified Telegram page on Sunday.

On Saturday, rescuers finished dismantling the debris of two additional buildings destroyed by strikes, completing the search in five out of seven destroyed residential towers in the city since the efforts began on April 6.

Ukraine’s president won’t give up territory in the east to end the war with Russia

President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Ukraine is not willing to give up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia, and Ukraine’s military is prepared to fight Moscow’s military in the Donbas region in a battle he says could influence the course of the entire war.

Zelensky said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper from the office of the president in Kyiv that his country has no guarantee that Russia wouldn’t try again to seize Kyiv if it is able to capture Donbas.

“This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle … it can influence the course of the whole war,” Zelensky added.

“Because I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership,” he continued. “That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv — from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction — it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv,” he continued.

Ukrainian PM says forces in Mariupol have not surrendered

Ukrainian forces that remain in the besieged city of Mariupol are still fighting and have not surrendered, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a US news outlet.

“The city still has not fallen,” Shmyhal told ABC’s “This Week” program, adding that Ukrainian soldiers continue to control some parts of the city.

Shmyhal stated Ukraine needs “more ammunition” and “more sanctions” from its allies in the West as Russia’s invasion approaches its second month.

Strikes leave five dead in east Ukraine city of Kharkiv

A series of strikes in Kharkiv left at least five dead and 13 injured, a regional health official told AFP.

Maksym Khaustov, the head of the Kharkiv region’s health department, confirmed the deaths following a series of strikes that AFP journalists on the scene said had ignited fires throughout the city and tore roofs from buildings hit in the attacks.

Ukrainian Suspilne public broadcaster, citing local health authorities, reported the same casualties, adding that rescue efforts were still ongoing.

Shelling kills two, injures four in eastern town of Zolote

At least two people were killed and four others have been injured on in the shelling of the eastern Ukrainian town of Zolote, the local governor has claimed.

“In one of the high-rise buildings, two floors were destroyed … We have at least two dead citizens, four more wounded,” said Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region.

Iran has offered zero foreign aid to Ukraine: Ukrainian ambassador

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Iran Sergei Burdiliak has reportedly said the Iranian government has offered zero aid to Ukraine despite a Russian war on his country.

‘Useless’ talking to Putin: Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has complained in a newspaper interview that Western diplomatic efforts to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war in Ukraine had so far led nowhere.

“I am beginning to think that those people are right when they say ‘It is useless to talk to him, it’s just a waste of time’,” Draghi told Il Corriere della Sera, adding Putin’s goal appeared not peace but “to annihilate the Ukrainian resistance, occupy the country and entrust it to a friendly government.”

Russia calls increased NATO military activity in the Arctic worrying

Russia is worried about increased activity of NATO forces in the Arctic and sees risks of “unintended incidents”, Russian ambassador-at-large Nikolai Korchunov reportedly said.

“The recent increase in NATO’s activity in the Arctic is a cause for concern. Another large-scale military exercise of the alliance was recently held in northern Norway. In our view, this does not contribute to the security of the region,” Korchunov added.

According to the diplomat, such activity raises the risk of “unintended incidents”, which, in addition to security risks, can also cause serious damage to the Arctic ecosystem. He did not specify what type of incident he might be referring to.

‘Easter of war’: Pope urges halt to hostilities

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to hear calls for peace during an “Easter of war,” including conflict-ravaged Ukraine.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” the pontiff said during his traditional Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi address on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

“Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war,” he continued, adding, “May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”

Russia threatens ‘elimination’ of resistance after Mariupol ultimatum rejected

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Sunday threatened the “elimination” of resistance soldiers still fighting in the besieged southwestern Ukraine city of Mariupol as it confirmed that an ultimatum demanding their surrender had been ignored.

In a statement, it said that Ukrainian soldiers surrounded in a gigantic steelworks in the city had been urged “to voluntarily lay down arms and surrender in order to save their lives.”

“However, the Kiev nationalist regime, according to the radio intercept, forbade negotiations about surrendering,” the ministry claimed.

The ministry also asserted that according to Ukrainian soldiers who had previously surrendered “there are up to 400 foreign mercenaries who joined the Ukrainian forces” trapped at the steel plant, including, it said, Europeans and Canadians.

“In case of further resistance, all of them will be eliminated,” it added.

Civilians’ evacuation from the east halted

There will be no humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from the east of the country for the day, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has stated, as Ukrainian and Russian forces have failed to commit to a ceasefire.

“As of this morning, April 17, we have not been able to agree with the occupiers on a ceasefire on the evacuation routes,” she said in an online post.

“We are working hard to get the humanitarian corridors back on track as soon as possible,” she added.

Vereshchuk urged for the opening of corridors to allow civilians, especially women, children and wounded soldiers, in the southern city of Mariupol to flee violence.

Ukraine asks G7 for $50bn to cover budget deficit

Ukraine has asked G7 nations for $50 billion in financial support and is also considering issuing 0 percent coupon bonds to help it cover a war-linked budget deficit over the next six months, the president’s economic adviser Oleh Ustenko said.

Speaking on national television, Ustenko added these options were being actively discussed.

Officials in Mariupol reject Russian surrender ultimatum

Ukrainian forces will continue to defend the city of Mariupol despite an ultimatum by Russia, Mariupol officials said Sunday.

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol has responded to the demand by the Russian Ministry of Defense that Ukrainian soldiers still resisting in part of the city should surrender, stating Ukrainian forces continue to fight.

“In the (Saturday) evening, the occupiers announced they would provide ‘a surrender corridor’ for the remaining troops,” Petro Andriushchenko said on Telegram.

“But as of today, our defenders continue to hold the defense,” he added.

Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov, lies in the center of Russia’s push to link up its forces in the east and south of Ukraine.

Andriushchenko also noted resistance to the Russians continued beyond the Azovstal steel works, a gigantic facility that has been a bastion for Ukrainian forces fighting in Mariupol.

“Despite the occupiers’ desire to show that the place of hostilities is limited to the Azovstal steel plant, this does not correspond with reality,” he continued, adding, “Last night there were fights on the Taganrog Street that is located five kilometers away from Azovstal.”

He stated that “during the fighting, the occupiers shelled private residential houses with heavy artillery again. The shelling of the port area also continued.”

Moscow claims Kiev bans negotiations on surrender, orders Azov Nazis to shoot those willing to lay down arms

Kiev ordered the Ukrainian neo-Nazi battalion Azov to shoot those who choose to lay down their arms to the Russian military at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed on Sunday.

“However, the Kiev nationalist regime, according to the radio intercept, prohibited any negotiations on surrender, ordering Azov Nazis [who are under criminal investigation in Russia] to shoot on the spot any Ukrainian serviceman or foreign mercenary willing to lay down arms,” Konashenkov said.

Russian special forces freed and rescued Muslims held by Ukrainian Nazis in a mosque in Mariupol, Konashenkov added.

He claimed Kiev employed more than 6,800 foreign mercenaries from 63 countries since Russia started its special operation.

“The Kiev nationalist regime has employed a total of 6,824 foreign mercenaries from 63 countries since the start of the special military operation,” he said.

Most mercenaries – 1,717 people – came from Poland, about 1,500 from the US, Canada and Romania, the spokesman said. Up to 300 people arrived from the UK and Georgia each while 193 people came from the areas of Syria that are controlled by Turkey, Konashenkov added.

The Russian armed forces have killed 1,035 foreign mercenaries in Ukraine, Konashenkov claimed.

EU allocates another 50 million euros in aid to civilians affected by war in Ukraine

The European Union announced on Sunday it would allocate another 50 million euros ($54 million) in humanitarian aid for people harmed by the war in Ukraine.

The funds will support medical services, safe drinking water, shelter, cash assistance and aid for victims of gender violence, and brings the total EU aid for the war to more than $154 million.

Three killed in Kharkiv: Local authority

At least three people were killed as Russian forces shelled multiple locations overnight in northeastern Kharkiv, regional governor Oleg Synegubov has said on his Telegram channel.

The attacks took place in areas including northern Saltivka, Pyatihatki and Oleksiyivka, Synegubov stated, adding that more than 30 were wounded, including four children.

“I appeal to the people of Kharkiv: do not be on the streets unnecessarily,” he continued.

Missile hit infrastructure in Brovary

A missile hit Brovary, a eastern suburb of the capital Kyiv, damaging an infrastructure, its mayor Igor Sapozhko has stated on social media.

Russia has claimed its high-precision air-launched missiles destroyed ammunition plant in Brovary.

Russian troops having ‘significant problems with provision’: Ukraine military

Ukraine’s military says Russian troops are having significant problems with provisions and there was a growing discontent among the soldiers deployed at the line of combat.

“Russian servicemen constantly complain about the lack of rotation, equipment that constantly breaks down, the quality of the fuel supplied and food,” stated Oleksandr Shputun, representative of the General Staff of Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Speaking at a daily briefing, Shputun added Russian soldiers were continuing looting and violent actions against the civil population of the occupied territories.

“These actions are encouraged by their military command,” he continued.

Explosions heard in Kyiv

Explosions were heard in the early hours on Sunday in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, according to local media.

Overnight, air raid sirens were going off over nearly all of Ukraine.

Russia continuing to redeploy combat equipment towards eastern Ukraine: UK

The British Ministry of Defence announced Russian forces continuing to redeploy combat and support equipment from Belarus towards eastern Ukraine.

This includes locations close to Kharkiv and Severdonetsk, it said in its latest intelligence update.

“Though Russia’s operational focus has shifted to eastern Ukraine, Russia’s ultimate objective remains the same. It is committed to compelling Ukraine to abandon its Euro-Atlantic orientation and asserting its own regional dominance,” it added.

EU eyeing banking, energy sectors for sixth package of sanctions: EC chief

President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the European Union was considering measures against the banking sector, in particular, Sberbank, as well as restrictions in the energy sector in discussing further sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

“We continue to consider the banking sector, specifically Sberbank, which accounts for 37% of Russia’s banking sector. And of course, the energy sector is discussed,” the European Commission chief said on Sunday, in comments on the key points of the sixth package of sanctions against Russia.

The European Union is currently developing ‘smart mechanisms’ that will allow oil to be included in the next package of sanctions against Russia, she stressed.

von der Leyen is calling on EU countries to supply Ukraine with more weapons as soon as possible, amid Russia’s ongoing special military operation.

“For all member states, those who can, should deliver (weapons) quickly, because only then can Ukraine survive in its acute defensive struggle against Russia,” she stated.

She added that everything possible needs to be done to help end the Ukraine conflict, although the hostilities could “last for months or even years in the worst case.”

“Ukraine needs to get what it needs to defend itself and what it can handle,” von der Leyen continued, adding “I don’t differentiate between heavy and light weapons.”

Zelensky says he needs more than one meeting with Russian leadership

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky believes that he will need more than one meeting with Russia’s leadership to resolve the Ukraine conflict.

“I stand for holding a meeting with Russia as soon as possible. I do not think one meeting is enough,” the Ukrainian president stated in an interview with national media outlets.

“I do not think that we can meet once and agree on everything, as there are lots of questions. For some of them, I cannot see yet that they will go for our option or we well go for their option,” he explained.

Zelensky has admitted that he does not yet know what security guarantees the West is ready to offer, and that there is a difference between what the Ukrainian leadership requests and what the international partners are ready to offer.

US security assistance shipments to Ukraine arrive: White House official

Shipments from the Joe Biden administration’s latest security assistance package to Ukraine “have begun arriving,” a White House official told CNN.

Biden this week approved an additional package of $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition, and security assistance to Ukraine.

The US has, for the first time, agreed to provide Kyiv with the types of high-power capabilities some Biden administration officials a few short weeks ago viewed as too great of an escalation risk, including 11 Mi-17 helicopters; 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons[ and 300 more Switchblade drones.

The $800 million shipment brings the total amount of military assistance the US has provided to Ukraine to more than $3 billion.

Situation in Mariupol is ‘inhuman’: Ukraine leader

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the situation in Mariupol was “inhuman” and called on allies to provide heavy weapons in order to save the city from Russian forces.

“The situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible – just inhuman. This is what the Russian Federation did, and deliberately continues to destroy cities. It is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol,” stated the president.

“Although we have heard many intentions from those who wanted to help and who really have international prestige, nothing of that has been realised yet. However, we will not abandon these efforts,” he added.

Russia accuses Ukraine of hiding military losses

Ukraine has suffered the “irretrievable loss” of an estimated 23,367 troops since Russia launched its military offensive in February, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow stated.

The casualty figures were revealed by Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, who said that in the city of Mariupol alone Ukraine has lost more than 4,000 fighters, including “foreign mercenaries” and “Nazis” associated with the notorious Azov and Aidar regiments.

In a statement, the general accused President Volodymyr Zelensky of hiding the true scale of his country’s losses, adding the president “is afraid to tell the people of Ukraine” how many soldiers have died.

Konashenkov explained that Russia has obtained documents proving the figures, and would soon publish more detailed information from these files.

Ukraine claims to have lost between 2,500 and 3,000 soldiers across its entire territory. This was the figure Zelensky gave to CNN in an interview on Friday, while claiming that the Russian military had suffered as many as 20,000 casualties of its own. Moscow heavily disputes Zelensky’s claims. According to a count published by the Russian government last month, just over 1,3450 Russia had died, at that juncture.

Russian general killed in Ukraine

Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg announced the death of a Russian general in Ukraine in a statement of condolence Saturday.

The city expressed condolences for the deputy commander of Russia’s 8th Army, Major General Vladimir Frolov, who died in Ukraine this week, the mayor’s press office said in a statement.

St. Petersburg Mayor Alexander Beglov attended the funeral, held at the historic Serafimovskoe Cemetery on Saturday, the statement added.

“Today we say goodbye to a true hero,” Beglov said, according to the statement.

“Vladimir Petrovich Frolov died a heroic death in battle with Ukrainian nationalists. He sacrificed his life so that children, women and old people in the Donbas would no longer hear the explosions of bombs. So that they stop waiting for death and, leaving home, say goodbye as if it were for the last time,” Beglov added.

Remains of chemical weapons found in Sumy village: Official

The mayor of Trostianets, a city in Ukraine’s northern Sumy region, claims authorities have found the remains of sarin in a village previously occupied by Russian troops.

“We found the remains of chemical weapons in the village of Bilka — sarin and other substances. We discovered ampoules. The Security Service of Ukraine is currently working on this. It is possible that the occupiers wanted to use this chemical to strike Kyiv, Poltava or other cities,” Yuriy Bova told Ukrainian radio.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the latest allegation.

Bova also added Russian troops had mined cemeteries, administrative buildings, forests and parks during their occupation of Trostianets.

Russia holding 1,700 Ukraine captives: Official

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk claims 700 Ukrainian troops and more than 1,000 civilians – about half of them women – are currently being held captive by Russian forces.

Vereshchuk stated Kyiv intends to swap the captive soldiers, since Ukraine holds about the same number of Russian troops, but demands to release the civilians “without any conditions”.

Russia claims Mariupol ‘completely cleared’, urges surrender

Strategic port city has been ​​’completely cleared’ with a small group of holdout fighters on the outskirts told to ‘lay down their arms’, the Russian defence ministry announced.

Russia’s claim to have all but taken control of Mariupol – the scene of the war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe – could not be independently verified. It would be the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces since the February 24 invasion.

“The entire urban area of ​​Mariupol has been completely cleared and remnants of the Ukrainian [armed] group are currently completely blockaded… Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender,” Igor Konashenkov, the defence ministry’s chief spokesman, stated.

Zelensky repeats warning over Russian nuclear weapons

The world should prepare for the possible use by Russia of nuclear weapons, Ukraine’s president stated, repeating an earlier warning.

“We shouldn’t wait for the moment when Russia decides to use nuclear weapons,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with Ukrainian news media.

“We must prepare for that,” he added.

Zelenskyy earlier warned the world should be worried about the threat Russian President Vladimir Putin posed, echoing comments by CIA director William Burns.

Burns noted on Thursday that Russia’s battlefield setbacks raised the risk that Putin could deploy a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon.

Johnson pledges to send Ukraine armoured vehicles in ‘coming days’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the delivery of armed vehicles “in the coming days,” according to Downing Street.

Johnson assured Zelenskyy that Britain would “continue to provide the means for Ukraine to defend itself,” according to a statement issued by his office.

The two leaders also discussed the need for a long-term security solution for Ukraine during their phone call, the statement said.

Johnson also assured Zelenskyy he would continue working with Britain’s partners and allies to “ensure Ukraine could defend its sovereignty in the weeks and months to come.”

Russian air defense shot down plane with Western arms for Ukraine near Odessa

Russian air defense units have brought down a military transport plane carrying Western arms outside Odessa, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

“Near Odessa Russian anti-aircraft defense forces have shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane, which was delivering a large shipment of arms supplied to Ukraine by Western counties,” he stated.

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