Russia pounds targets in eastern Ukraine, unleashing rockets on a steel plant that is Ukraine's last redoubt in the port city of Mariupol as fighting continues on 70th day.

Relatives of Ukrainians trapped in the Mariupol steel mill protest in the capital Kiev and call for their safe evacuation.
Relatives of Ukrainians trapped in the Mariupol steel mill protest in the capital Kiev and call for their safe evacuation. (AA)

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Commander: 'Bloody battles' at steel mill

The commander of the main defending force at the Azovstal steel mill in the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has said Russian troops have broken into the territory of the mill, where limited evacuations of besieged civilians occurred last week.

The Russian government, meanwhile, pledged to facilitate humanitarian corridors from Thursday through Saturday to enable more evacuations.

In a video posted on Wednesday, Denis Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, said the incursions had continued a second day "and there are heavy, bloody battles." Russian State TV showed smoke rising over Azovstal. 

Russian troops enter Azovstal plant: Ukrainian lawmaker 

Russian forces have entered the territory of Mariupol's Azovstal plant, Ukraine's ruling parliamentary faction head David Arakhamia has said.

"Attempts to storm the plant continue for the second day. Russian troops are already on the territory of Azovstal," RFE/RL quoted Arakhamia as saying, adding that as of Wednesday evening contact remained between Ukraine's government and the Ukrainian fighters in the plant.

US will discuss 'additional' Russia sanctions with G7: Biden 

US President Joe Biden has said he was "open" to imposing more sanctions on Russia and would be discussing measures with allies from the G7 in the next few days.

"We're always open to additional sanctions," Biden said shortly after the European Union announced plans for banning Russian oil imports and other new measures punishing Moscow for its onslaught on Ukraine.

"I'll be speaking to members of the G7 this week about what we're going to do or not," Biden told reporters.

Macron to talk Ukraine over dinner with Modi

French President Emmanuel Macron will host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris for talks and a "working dinner", hoping to prise New Delhi away from Russia.

Macron will "emphasise the consequences of the war for the international order well beyond the European Union, including in Asia," his Elysee Palace office said.

France wants to "help the Indians diversify their supply" away from Russian arms and energy, officials added. The aim "is not to leave the Indians with no way out, but to offer solutions," they said.

EU countries blocking oil embargo 'complicit' in Russian 'crimes': Kiev

Ukraine has said that EU countries blocking an embargo on imports of Russian oil would be complicit in crimes committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian territory by funding Moscow's military.

"If there is any country in Europe who will continue to oppose the embargo on Russian oil, there will be good reason to say, this country is complicit in the crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine," Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a briefing on social media.

Kuleba said that Russia was using oil and gas revenues to "continue financing their war machine".

Hungary won't support banning Russian oil 

Hungary's foreign minister has said that the country won't support a European Union proposal for banning oil imports from Russia.

In a video on social media, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary’s energy supply “would be completely destroyed” by an EU embargo on Russian oil, which he said would make it “impossible for Hungary to obtain the oil necessary for the functioning of the Hungarian economy.” 

The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect, and reluctance by governments in Hungary and Slovakia to support sanctions against Russian fossil fuels has placed roadblocks before a united EU response.

EU targets Russian Patriarch Kirill with sanctions

The European Commission has proposed freezing the assets of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a diplomat has said.

The Patriarch has been added to a draft blacklist that already includes hundreds of military officers and businessmen close to the Kremlin whom the EU accuses of supporting the conflict in Ukraine.

The sanction, which would entail an asset freeze and a travel ban, needs the backing of EU states to be adopted.

Zelenskyy: No deal without Russian withdrawal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his country could not accept a deal with Moscow that would allow Russian troops to remain in occupied territory.

Speaking to participants in the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces had halted the Russian offensive in what he described as the first stage of the conflict. In the second stage, he said, Ukraine would expel Russian troops from its territory and in the third, would move to fully restore its territorial integrity.

Zelenskyy said he would not accept a ceasefire deal that would allow Russian forces to remain in their current positions ‒ insisting that “we will not accept a frozen conflict” ‒ but gave no further details. He warned that Ukraine would be drawn into a “diplomatic quagmire” like the peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that was brokered by France and Germany in 2015.

Russian helicopter violates Finnish airspace 

A Russian army helicopter violated Finland's airspace, the Finnish defence ministry has said, as the country mulls an increasingly likely NATO membership bid. 

"The aircraft type is a Mi-17 helicopter and the depth of the suspected violation is about four to five kilometres", a ministry spokesperson said.

The incident occurred on Wednesday at 10:40 am (0740 GMT).
This is the second Russian airspace violation this year, following a previous one in April, both of them coming in the wake of the war in Ukraine. 

Russia planning WW II parade in Mariupol: Ukraine 

Ukraine has accused Russia of planning to hold a military parade in the captured city of Mariupol on May 9 to celebrate victory over the Nazis in World War II. 

Kiev said an official from Russia's presidential administration had arrived in the strategic southern port city to oversee plans for the Victory Day parade. 

"Mariupol will become a centre of 'celebration'," Ukraine's military intelligence said in a statement on social media. "The central streets of the city are urgently being cleaned of debris, bodies and unexploded ordnance."

Russia trying to increase tempo of eastern offensive: Ukraine

Ukraine's defence ministry has said that Russia was attempting to increase the tempo of its offensive in eastern Ukraine and that Moscow had carried out nearly 50 air strikes on Tuesday alone. 

UK bans services exports to Russia, sanctions Russian media outlets 

Britain has banned all service sector exports to Russia and announced sanctions against 63 individuals and organisations, including media companies and celebrities it accuses of spreading disinformation.

"Doing business with Putin's regime is morally bankrupt and helps fund a war machine that is causing untold suffering across Ukraine," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

"Cutting Russia's access to British services will put more pressure on the Kremlin and ultimately help ensure Putin fails in Ukraine."

Twenty more civilian bodies found in Kiev region

The bodies of another 20 civilians were found in the past 24 hours in the Kiev region, police has said, raising the total number of bodies found there so far to 1,235.

Kiev regional police chief Andriy Nebytov said the latest discoveries were found in Borodianka and the surrounding villages, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Bucha, the town near Kiev now synonymous with allegations of alleged Russian war crimes.

Others were found in the Vyshgorod area just north of the capital. "A total of 1,235 bodies of civilians" have been found, he said in a video released by the interior ministry.

Moscow says Israeli 'mercenaries' fighting in Ukraine

A spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry has claimed Israeli mercenaries are fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, further fuelling tensions with Israel after Russia suggested Adolf Hitler had "Jewish blood".

"Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine," Maria Zakharova told pro-Kremlin Sputnik radio in an interview.

Azov rose to prominence in 2014, when its far-right activists took up arms to fight pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region but have since fallen under the command of Ukraine's military.

Kremlin denies Russian assault on Azovstal steelworks in Ukraine

The Kremlin has said Russia is not storming the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, after Ukraine accused Moscow of launching a "powerful" assault on the industrial zone where Kiev's forces are holed up.

"The order was publicly given by the supreme commander-in-chief to cancel the assault," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to an order given by President Vladimir Putin last month not to pursue an attack on the area.

"There is no storming," Peskov said.

'Disruptions' to oil supply possible with EU Russia ban: Germany

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said that a gradual EU ban on Russian oil imports could lead to supply "disruptions" and price increases but backed the measure as a necessary step to sanction Moscow.

"I have said a few times that we can of course not guarantee in this situation that there won't be disruptions, primarily regional disruptions," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting, adding that Berlin backed the bloc's measure as a response to the Ukraine conflict.

Russia warns NATO: Transport carrying weapons in Ukraine is a 'target'

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu has said the Russian military will consider NATO transport carrying weapons in Ukraine as targets to be destroyed, RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

Shoigu also said that the Ukrainian fighters holed up in the sprawling Azovstal plant in Mariupol were kept under secure blockade after President Vladimir Putin ordered that they be hermetically sealed off.

Russia bars entry to 63 Japanese, including PM

Russia's foreign ministry has announced sanctions against 63 Japanese officials, journalists and professors for engaging in what it called "unacceptable rhetoric" against Moscow.

The list includes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, among other officials

The sanctions bar the targeted individuals from entering Russia indefinitely, the ministry said.

Russia says it hit 40 Ukrainian military targets including 4 ammo depots

Russia's defence ministry has said that it has disabled six railway stations in Ukraine used to supply Ukrainian forces with Western-made weapons in the country's east.

The ministry said it disabled the railway stations by bombing their power supplies using high-precision air and sea-based weapons. It did not say which Western-made weapons were supplied to Ukrainian forces via those stations.

The ministry also said it had hit 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four depots storing ammunition and artillery weapons.

EU chief proposes 'orderly' Russian oil import ban

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU will impose a gradual Russian oil ban in retaliation for the conflict in Ukraine.

"We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion," von der Leyen said in speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as she presented a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow to deny funding to the war effort against Ukraine.

Von der Leyen also said the EU would ask that the bloc's 27 member states to deny Sberbank, Russia's biggest bank, access to SWIFT, the global banking communications system.

Europe will buy Russian oil via third countries – RIA cites Russian lawmaker

Europe will continue buying Russian oil via third countries once it introduces an embargo, RIA news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of Russian upper house's international affairs committee, as saying.

Ukraine: Scores of civilians killed, wounded

Ukrainian authorities say that scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the latest attacks in the country’s east.

Donetsk regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that 21 civilians were killed and another 27 were wounded in Russian attacks on Tuesday.

He said in a statement on a messaging app that it marked the highest number of civilian victims in the region since April 8 when a Russian missile attack on a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk killed at least 59 people.

In the neighbouring Luhansk region, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said at least two civilians were killed in Russian shelling during the last 24 hours and two others were wounded. 

Ukraine, UN and Red Cross make new effort to evacuate civilians from Mariupol

A convoy of buses has left Mariupol in a new attempt by Ukraine, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the southern Ukrainian city, the regional governor has said.

The buses were heading for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. 

He did not make clear whether any more civilians had been evacuated from a vast steel works in Mariupol where the city's last defenders are holding out against Russian forces.

Ukraine does not exclude possibility Belarus could join Russian war effort

Kiev does not rule out the possibility that Moscow could at some point use the armed forces of Russian ally Belarus in the offensive in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Border Service has said.

Speaking after the Belarusian armed forces began large-scale drills, spokesperson Andriy Demchenko said: "We do not rule out that the Russian Federation could at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine. Therefore, we are ready."

UK: Russia deploys 22 battalion tactical groups near Izium

The British military believes Russia will make a push to try to seize the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The British made the comment in a daily briefing it posts on Twitter about the war. The Defence Ministry said Russia had some 22 battalion tactical groups near Izium in its attempt to advance in the area. Russia uses so-called battalion tactical groups, units of infantry typically reinforced with tanks, air defences and artillery, in its operations. Each group typically has around 800 troops.

The British said: “Despite struggling to break through Ukrainian defences and build momentum, Russia highly likely intends to proceed beyond Izium to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk.” It added: “Capturing these locations would consolidate Russian military control of the northeastern Donbass and provide a staging point for their efforts to cut off Ukrainian forces in the region.”

Belarus says surprise army drills no threat to neighbours

The armed forces of Belarus have begun sudden large-scale drills to test their combat readiness, the defence ministry of Ukraine's neighbour has said.

"It is planned that the (combat readiness) test will involve the movement of significant numbers of military vehicles, which can slow down traffic on public roads," the Belarusian ministry said in a statement.

Against the backdrop of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the ministry said the exercise posed no threat to its neighbours or the European community in general.

Ukrainians wait in Mexico City for US entry

Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees have been camping out in Mexico City and waiting for the US government to allow them into the country.

About 500 evacuees were waiting in large tents under a searing sun on a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital. The camp has been open only a week and from 50 to 100 people are arriving every day.

Some refugees have already been to the US border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun. The US government announced in late March that it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Blinken: Ukraine conflict worsens problems in Americas

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the conflict in Ukraine has worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.

Blinken told the annual Conference of the Americas Luncheon on Tuesday that the effects of the fighting are being felt after the pandemic inflicted "massive economic harm throughout the region."

Giving the luncheon's keynote address in Washington, Blinken said: "Now, with the Russian government's brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, many of these preexisting problems, these preexisting conditions, have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas, from fertiliser to wheat to petroleum, cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas, and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets."

For live updates from Tuesday (May 3), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies