Russian forces battle for control of the last stronghold in Ukraine's Mariupol city, and the EU proposes tough oil sanctions against Moscow over its military campaign in Ukraine, continuing on its 71st day.

Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Mariupol, Ukraine.
Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP)

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Ukraine: Russian troops make 'unsuccessful' attempts to advance in eastern regions

Russian troops have made "unsuccessful" attempts to advance in the eastern Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, the Ukrainian army said.

A Facebook post published on the official profile of the Ukrainian General Staff said the Russians also continue to launch missile strikes on transport facilities in order to prevent the movement of humanitarian cargo and military-technical assistance.

Meanwhile, the Russian military said its air force has destroyed 45 Ukrainian military facilities in the latest series of strikes. It said the target included Ukrainian troops and weapons concentrations and an ammunition depot in the eastern Luhansk region.

Zelenskyy: Mariupol evacuation continued on Thursday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol had continued on Thursday but did not say how many people had managed to leave.

In a video address, he also said Russian forces were still storming and shelling the city's Azovstal plant, where civilians and military forces are sheltering. 

Erdogan, Macron discuss Ukraine in phone call 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the Russia-Ukraine conflict in a phone call, the Turkish presidency has said.

"President Erdogan, who said Türkiye was doing its utmost to end the war in Ukraine through diplomacy, stated it is important to support the negotiation process," Erdogan's office said in a statement.

"During the call, Erdogan congratulated Emmanuel Macron for being re-elected to the French Presidency," it added.

UN: 'Safe passage operation' in Mariupol 

The United Nations says a new “safe passage operation” is under way in and around the bombarded Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Humanitarian spokesperson Saviano Abreu said that the UN is working in coordination with the parties to the conflict and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He says they will “share more information when the situation allows.”

A similar joint evacuation effort brought 101 civilians out of the plant over the weekend.

Ukraine has enough grain stocks to feed population: minister 

Ukraine has large enough grain stocks in territory it still controls to feed the population in these areas, and has enough fuel to meet farmers' daily needs, deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy has said.

"Today we have about 25 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds in stocks. If we are talking about the temporarily occupied territory, there were about 1.3 million tonnes of grain," Vysotskiy said.

"From the point of view of providing food (grains and cereals) for all 40 million Ukrainians, we have sufficient reserves in the controlled territory," he added.

Russia 'still ready' to give safe passage to civilians: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his country's army was "still ready" to allow safe passage for civilians trapped at Mariupol's steel plant.

"The Russian military is still ready to ensure the safe exit of civilians," Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Kremlin said.

"As for the militants remaining at Azovstal, the Kiev authorities must give them an order to lay down their arms."

UN agency: Reopen Ukraine ports to ship food 

The United Nations’ food aid agency is appealing for Black Sea ports in Ukraine to be open again to permit shipping of wheat and corn exports, which many poor nations depend on.

The Rome-based World Food Program noted in its appeal that before the start of the conflict, 98 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports had moved through those ports. 

The UN agency said the ports, in Ukraine’s south must resume operations “to protect Ukrainian agricultural production and enable exports that are critical to Ukraine’s economy and global food security.” 

Ukraine begins working on reconstruction plan

A Ukrainian cabinet body began to develop proposals for a comprehensive post-conflict reconstruction plan, according to local media reports.

The Reforms Office, which operates under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, was cited as saying a working group mechanism was launched to "analyse the current situation and develop proposals for the plan for the reconstruction and development of Ukraine."

Over $6.3B collected at Ukraine donors' conference

More than six billion euros ($6.3 billion) were collected at a Ukraine donors' conference in Warsaw, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said.

At "this conference, we were able to gather more than six billion euros and this money will be distributed to support Ukraine and all those who support Ukraine," Morawiecki told a news conference.

"When Russia brings death, the countries of the free world have to bring aid and I think this conference here in Warsaw showed an enormous amount of solidarity amongst all of us." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke via video link at the conference organised by Poland and Sweden with EU participation.

Russia 'violated' promised truce at Mariupol plant: Ukraine 

Russia "violated" a promised truce at Mariupol's steelworks, where Ukrainian forces are making a last stand in the city, a Ukrainian commander has said, pleading for help for "dying" soldiers and the evacuation of civilians.

"The Russians violated the promise of a truce and did not allow the evacuation of civilians who continue to hide from shelling in the basement of the plant," Svyatoslav Palamar, a commander of the Azov regiment, said in a video on Telegram.

Palamar said Russian soldiers broke into the plant "three days ago" triggering intense clashes, and that "heavy bloody fighting continues."

Japan to add 140 individuals to Russian sanction list

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that 140 individuals would be added to a Russian asset freeze list while an export ban will be expanded to Russian military firms.

Kishida, speaking in London via a translator after a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, added that now was the time for the Group of Seven leading nations to solidify its unity.

Belarus admits Russia-Ukraine conflict 'drags on'

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko has defended Russian onslaught on Ukraine but said he didn’t expect the 10-week-old conflict to "drag on this way."

He also spoke out against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine but wouldn’t say if Russian President Vladimir Putin had plans to launch such a strike.

“But I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it," he said in the nearly 90-minute interview at Independence Palace in Minsk. “I want to stress one more time: I feel like this operation has dragged on.”

New gas pipeline reduces dependence on Russia

A 500-million-euro ($530 million) Lithuanian-Polish natural gas transmission pipeline has been inaugurated, completing another stage of regional independence from Russian energy sources.

The Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania pipeline that runs more than 500 kilometres (310 miles), comes “at a time when Russia has once again tried to blackmail us using gas,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said at the inauguration.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingridas Simonyte added that “any reduction or disappearance of this source of funding would have a very significant impact on the Russian economy and the ability to continue financing the war in Ukraine.”

Finland prepared for Russia cutting its gas supplies: minister

Finland is prepared for the possibility of its eastern neighbour Russia cutting off its gas deliveries, a government minister has said.

The Finnish government said on April 28 it would not abide by Russia's demand for gas payments to be made in roubles, which could lead to Russia cutting off its gas supplies this month, as has happened in Poland and Bulgaria.

Finland's state-owned gas operator Gasum is due to respond this month to a letter on the rouble payments from Russia's Gazprom.

Russian forces stole 400,000 tons of grain: report

Russian forces stole 400,000 tons of grain from the four Ukrainian regions they occupied, local media has reported.

They stole 100,000 tons of grain from each occupied region – Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, said Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of agrarian policy and food, according to news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda.

This amounts to one-third of all reserves in these regions, he noted. If this continues and if Russians take away what was left in the regions for food before the new harvest, there is a risk of famine, the report warned.

Kremlin accuses the West of preventing a quick end to Ukraine conflict

The Kremlin has accused the West of preventing a "quick" end to Russia's military campaign in Ukraine by supplying weapons to the pro-Western country.

"Coupled with the flow of weapons that these countries are sending to Ukraine, these are all actions that do not contribute to the quick completion of the operation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov also said that humanitarian corridors to get civilians out of Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant were functioning, after the Russian army announced a three-day ceasefire at the site.

Russian negotiator accuses Kiev of 'rolling back' on agreements - TASS

A Russian lawmaker taking part in talks with Ukraine said negotiations are difficult and accuses representatives from Kiev of "rolling back" on existing agreements, TASS news agency has reported.

"I am one of the four negotiators from the Russian side, however, it is difficult to negotiate. Ukrainian counterparts come to an agreement, and then roll back", TASS cited negotiator Leonid Slutsky as saying.

Russia 'trying to destroy' last Ukrainian units in Azovstal: Kiev

Ukraine has said Russia is "trying to destroy" its remaining soldiers holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant, with Kiev's last defenders in the battered city saying Moscow forces have broken into the giant factory.

"Russian occupiers are focusing on blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area," Kiev's army said in a statement.

"With the support of aircraft, Russia resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant."

Poland, Sweden host donors' conference to help Ukraine

Poland and Sweden are co-hosting an international donors' conference in Warsaw to raise funds for humanitarian efforts to help Ukraine, where thousands have been killed, cities devastated and millions of people displaced by Russia's attack.

The High-Level International Donors' Conference for Ukraine is jointly organised by the Polish and Swedish prime ministers in collaboration with the European Commission and European Council presidents.

The aims are to allow the international community to announce new pledges to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Ukrainian society and to create a forum to discuss how to support Ukrainian society over the longer term.

3 more Ukrainian fighter jets shot down, says Russia

Russia has said it has downed three more Ukrainian fighter jets in overnight operations.

A Su-24, a Su-25 and a Su-27 were shot down by Russian air defence systems in three different areas of Ukraine, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a press briefing in Moscow.

He said another 14 unmanned aerial vehicles and two rockets of the Smerch multiple rocket launcher were also destroyed.

Russia expels 7 Danish diplomats in retaliatory move

Russia's foreign ministry has said it has declared seven Danish diplomats 'persona non grata' in response to Copenhagen expelling 15 Russian diplomats last month, with Moscow also objecting to Denmark's providing military assistance to Ukraine.

The ministry said Denmark's openly anti-Russian policy was seriously damaging bilateral relations and that Russia reserved the right to take additional steps in response.

UK revokes Moscow bourse's status as recognised exchange

Britain has revoked the Moscow Stock Exchange's (MOEX) status as a recognised stock exchange, removing some tax relief for new investors.

"With the Moscow stock exchange failing to withdraw their restrictions on foreign investors, the UK had no choice but to remove its recognised status," said Lucy Frazer, Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

"This will stop further money being channelled into Russian assets and send a clear message that there is no case for new investment in Russia."

Russia killed over 600 Ukrainian fighters in artillery strikes - defence ministry

Russia has said that its artillery has struck multiple Ukrainian positions and strongholds overnight, killing over 600 fighters.

"The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue the special military operation in Ukraine", the defence ministry said. "Over 600 nationalists and 61 units of weapons and military equipment were destroyed".

The defence ministry also said its missiles destroyed aviation equipment at the Kanatovo airfield in Ukraine's central Kirovohrad region and a large ammunition depot in the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Two Russian villages shelled by Ukraine, governor says

Two villages in Russia's Belgorod region bordering Ukraine have been shelled by Ukraine, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov has said, adding that there are no civilian casualties.

"There is shelling from the Ukrainian side on Zhuravlyovka and Nekhoteevka," he said. 

Ukraine: 11 attacks repelled in Donbass region

Ukraine’s General Staff says the country’s forces have made some gains on the border of the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv and repelled multiple Russian attacks in the east.

In its daily morning update, the General Staff said that the Russians “lost control over several settlements on the border of Mykolayiv and Kherson regions.” Ukrainian forces also repelled 11 attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the update said.

At the same time, fighting over the Azovstal plant in Mariupol continued, the General Staff said. “With the support of aircraft, the enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant,” the update said, adding that the Russian troops were “trying to destroy Ukrainians units” at this last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the ravaged port city.

Five civilians killed by shelling in Ukraine's Luhansk region - governor

Five civilians have been killed by shelling from Russian forces in Ukraine's Luhansk region in the past 24 hours, governor Serhiy Gaidai has said.

Gaidai said the shelling focused on Sievierodonetsk and Popasna, Hirske and Lysychansk.

Russian ceasefire to begin at besieged Mariupol steel plant

A Russian-announced ceasefire is due to begin at the besieged steel plant in the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol, to allow civilians to flee even as its defenders vowed to fight to the end.

Russia's defence ministry announced a daytime ceasefire for three days.

"The Russian armed forces will open a humanitarian corridor from 0500 to 1500 GMT (08:00 to 18:00 Moscow time) on May 5, 6 and 7 from the site of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians," the ministry said.

Japan says difficult to immediately follow Russia oil embargo

Japan will face "difficulty" to immediately follow a move to cut off Russian oil imports over the Ukraine conflict, its minister of economy, trade, and industry Koichi Hagiuda has said.

Hagiuda made the remark during a visit to Washington, after the European Union's executive proposed the toughest package of sanctions yet against Moscow, including the embargo on crude oil.

"Given Japan has its limit on resources, we would face some difficulty to keep in step immediately" with other countries, Hagiuda told reporters.

Ukraine killing Russian generals 'with help' of US intel

Ukraine has managed to target and kill many Russian military generals as a result of intelligence provided by Washington during the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Citing senior American officials, the Times said, "the targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine."

"That intelligence also includes anticipated Russian troop movements gleaned from recent American assessments of Moscow's secret battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine," the report said.  

Ukrainian officials claim Russia lost some 12 generals in the last 70 days of fighting. It is not clear how many of them were killed as a result of US intelligence to Kiev.    

Zelenskyy slams Russia's 'unacceptable remarks' 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and discussed the "scandalous and completely unacceptable remarks" by Russia's foreign minister about Hitler.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy said the comments by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had outraged the entire world. In an interview on Sunday, Lavrov said the Nazi dictator had had "Jewish blood."

Moscow has also claimed Israeli mercenaries were fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, saying "Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine", sparking a diplomatic standoff with Tel Aviv. 

For live updates from Wednesday (May 4), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies