Leaders of the world’s top industrialised nations will hold video talks with Zelensky on Sunday – Copyright AFP DIPTENDU DUTTA
Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
– New Mariupol mission –
A new UN-led rescue mission is under way to evacuate the last civilians still trapped inside a besieged steel plant in Mariupol that has become the devastated city’s final holdout against Russian forces, Ukraine says.
About 200 civilians, including children, are estimated to remain in hiding in the Soviet-era tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal factory, along with hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office earlier said almost 500 civilians had been evacuated.
– ‘Steel plant assault continuing’ –
Ukraine says that Russia is pressing on with “assault operations” on the Azovstal plant.
“The blockade of (Ukrainian) defence forces in the Azovstal area continues,” said a Kyiv army spokesman in a video.
The Russian military had announced a three-day ceasefire starting Thursday at Azovstal.
President Vladimir Putin says the Russian army is “still ready” to give safe passage to civilians trapped there.
“As for the militants remaining at Azovstal, the Kyiv authorities must give them an order to lay down their arms,” the Kremlin quotes Putin as saying.
– Mariupol road signs taken down –
Moscow-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine say they have taken down traffic signs spelling out the name of Mariupol in Ukrainian and English and replaced them with Russian ones.
Locals wanted to see proof that “Russia has come back here forever,” wrote Denis Pushilin, head of Ukraine’s breakaway region of Donetsk.
Russian forces have for weeks sought to wrest full control of Mariupol, which has been destroyed in the onslaught.
– Oil embargo a ‘red line’: Hungary –
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has crossed “a red line” with a proposed EU Russian oil ban.
Von der Leyen has said the bloc would “phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months, and refined products by the end of the year”. Hungary and Slovakia — both highly dependent on Moscow’s oil exports — would have until the end of 2023.
“I avoid the word ‘veto’,” Orban, who has cultivated close ties with Putin, says on state radio, adding the proposal “has been returned to sender, to Madame President, to work on further”.
– Pentagon denial –
The US Defense Department denies providing intelligence on the locations of Russian generals on the battlefield so that Ukrainian forces could kill them.
“We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says, responding to an explosive New York Times report on US support for Ukraine’s military.
Separately, US media reports Washington had shared intelligence that helped Ukraine sink the Russian warship Moskva last month.
But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells AFP that the United States does not “provide specific targeting information on ships”.
– Germany to send howitzers –
Germany will send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, the defence ministry says.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has been under fire for dragging its feet on arming Ukraine compared to other Western allies.
– G7-Zelensky video conference –
Leaders of the world’s top industrialised nations will hold video talks with Zelensky on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the German government as acting G7 chair says.
– ‘Hostilities’ continue in east –
Ukraine’s defence ministry says fighting continues across the country’s east.
In the Donetsk and Tavriya areas, “the enemy continues conducting active hostilities”, it says. Shelling also continues in the town of Lyman in the Donetsk region.
Moscow is seeking to establish “full control” of the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, and to maintain a land corridor to occupied Crimea.