Scores of civilians have been evacuated from the tunnels of a steel plant in Ukraine's Mariupol, but concerns grow over those who are still trapped amid Russia's offensive — now in its 69th day.

Firefighters work at a site of a power substation hit by a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine.
Firefighters work at a site of a power substation hit by a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine. (AP)

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Ukrainian officials: Russia strikes rail infrastructure

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the Ukrainian railways, has said the Russian strikes have hit six railway stations in the country's central and western regions, inflicting heavy damage.

Kamyshin said at least 14 trains were delayed because of the attacks. Dnipro region governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian missiles struck railway infrastructure in the area, leaving one person wounded and disrupting train movement.

The Ukrainian military also reported strikes on railways in the Kirovohrad region, saying there were unspecified casualties.

Ukrainian fighters: Russian forces storming Mariupol plant

Ukrainian commanders say Russian forces backed by tanks have begun storming the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, the last pocket of resistance in battered Mariupol. It is being hit with artillery fire and air strikes, Kiev's fighters say.

How many Ukrainian fighters were holed up inside was unclear, but the Russians put the number at about 2,000 in recent weeks, and 500 were reported to be wounded. A few hundred civilians also remained there, according to Kiev.

“We’ll do everything that’s possible to repel the assault, but we’re calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians that remain inside the plant and to bring them out safely,” Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said on the messaging app Telegram.

UN chief hopes for more 'humanitarian pauses' in Ukraine

The UN secretary-general hopes Ukraine and Russia can organise "more humanitarian pauses," such as the one that allowed the evacuation of about 100 Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

"I hope the continued coordination with Kiev and Moscow will lead to more humanitarian pauses that will allow civilians safe passage away from the fighting and aid to reach people where the needs are greatest," Antonio Guterres said in a statement, without specifying which locations he meant.

Meanwhile, America's UN envoy has announced that Guterres will address the Security Council on May 5. Guterres concluded a visit to Ukraine last week, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Russia: Artillery hit 400 targets in last day

The Russian military says its artillery has hit over 400 Ukrainian targets during the last day. Defence Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday the targets included artillery positions, troops strongholds and two fuel depots.

Konashenkov said Russian aircrafts have hit 39 other targets, including concentrations of troops and weapons and two command posts. 

Russian strikes target Lviv in Ukraine's west

Russian strikes have apparently targeted the western Ukraine city of Lviv. The strikes happened in multiple directions on Tuesday evening, after air raid sirens sounded in the city. At least four distinct explosions could be heard from downtown Lviv.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the strikes damaged two power substations, knocking electricity off in parts of Lviv. Sadovyi wrote on a messaging app that those in the city should take shelter. Trains coming out of Lviv stopped service.

The last major attack targeting the city came April 18, which killed at least seven people. Lviv has become a haven for those fleeing the offensive in the east.

Nobel laureate: Propaganda arguing for nuclear weapons

Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov has decried Kremlin's "propaganda warriors" arguing for using nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict.

"I would not rule out the possibility that nuclear weapons might be used," Muratov told journalists in Geneva, speaking through a translator at an event marking the World Press Freedom Day.

Contrary to the propaganda narrative, deploying such weapons would "not be the end of the war," said Muratov, whose own Novaya Gazata newspaper has been forced to suspend publication amid Moscow's offensive. "This will be the end of humanity."

Macron urges Putin to end 'aggression'

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Russia to rise to the level of its responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council by ending "devastating aggression" in Ukraine.

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron stressed the extreme gravity of the consequences of the Russian onslaught and called on the Russian leader to allow evacuations from the Mariupol steel mill to continue, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Macron asked Putin to restart evacuations at the Azovstal plant, which has served as a refuge for Ukrainians, in coordination with humanitarian units, while allowing evacuees to choose their destination, as called for under international law.

Donetsk death toll rises

The Donetsk regional governor has said the Russian troops shelled a chemical plant in Avdiivka, a city in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 10 people and wounding 15 more.

“The Russians knew exactly where to aim — the workers just finished their shift and were waiting for a bus at a bus stop to take them home,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. 

“Another cynical crime by Russians on our land .”

Slovakia to repair damaged Ukrainian military equipment

A Slovak company will repair damaged Ukrainian military equipment following a request from Kiev, the defence ministry has said.

The state-run Konstrukta-Defence firm has "concluded a contract with the Ukrainian side on repairing and modernising Ukrainian military technology," defence ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova said.

The first lot will consist of dozens of BRDM-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

Over 100 civilians evacuated from Mariupol plant: UN

The UN has said 101 civilians were "successfully evacuated" from the tunnels of the Azovstal plant in Ukraine's battered city of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces for two months, in a joint effort with the Red Cross.

"I am pleased and relieved to confirm that 101 civilians have successfully been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol," Osnat Lubrani, the UN's Ukraine humanitarian coordinator said in statement, adding that the group included "women, men, children and older persons".

West must stop weapons supply to Ukraine: Putin to Macron 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the West must stop supplying weapons to Ukraine and accused Kiev of not taking talks to end the conflict seriously, the Kremlin said.

Accusing Ukrainian forces of committing "war crimes", Putin told Macron "the West could help stop these atrocities by putting relevant pressure on the Kiev authorities, as well as halting the supply of weapons to Ukraine."

Putin also said Kiev was not ready for "serious work" on ending the conflict.

India urged to influence Russia over Ukraine

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has urged her visiting Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to try to influence Russia to end the Ukraine conflict.

“Putin has to stop this war,” Frederiksen said, adding immediately, “I hope that India will influence Russia.”

UK PM unveils new military aid for Ukraine

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced another $376 million (£300M, 358M euros) in UK military aid for Ukraine in a remote address to its parliament, hailing the country's fight against Russia as its "finest hour".

"We will carry on supplying Ukraine... with weapons, funding and humanitarian aid, until we have achieved our long-term goal, which must be so to fortify Ukraine that no one will ever dare to attack you again," he told the Verkhovna Rada.

Putin orders retaliatory sanctions against West: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on retaliatory economic sanctions in response to the "unfriendly actions of certain foreign states and international organisations", the Kremlin said.

According to the decree, Russia will forbid the export of products and raw materials to people and entities that it has sanctioned. The decree also prohibits transactions with foreign individuals and companies hit by Russia's retaliatory sanctions, and permits Russian counter parties not to fulfil obligations towards them.

Under the decree, the Russian government has 10 days to compile lists of foreign individuals and companies to be sanctioned, as well as to define "additional criteria" for a number of transactions that could be subject to restrictions.

Russia resumes strikes on Azovstal steelworks 

The Russian military has said that they have resumed strikes on the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol. 

Vadim Astafyev, a Defense Ministry spokesperson, said Ukrainian fighters holed in at the plant “came out of the basements, took up firing positions on the territory and in the buildings of the plant." 

Astafyev said Russian forces along with rebel forces from Donetsk were using “artillery and aircraft ... to destroy these firing positions.”

Russia says it bombed US and European weapons near Ukraine's Odessa

Russia has struck a military airfield near Ukraine's southwestern city of Odessa with missiles, destroying missiles and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by the United States and its European allies, the defence ministry has said.

"High-precision Onyx missiles struck a logistics centre at a military airfield in the Odessa region through which foreign weapons were being delivered," the defence ministry said.

Russian missiles and artillery also struck various military targets across Ukraine, including command centres, arsenals, and an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

Nine civilians killed by shelling in Ukraine's Donetsk region - local governor

At least nine civilians have been killed by Russian fire in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the regional governor has said.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app that at least three civilians had been killed during an aerial bombardment of the town of Avdiivka.

Three more were killed by shelling of the city of Vuhledar and three were killed in shelling of the town of Lyman, he wrote.

Steel mill evacuees 'on their way' to safety

The World Health Organization’s incident manager for Ukraine says evacuees from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol “are on the way” toward government-controlled areas away from the most intense combat zones where Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting.

Dr. Dorit Nitzan, speaking by video to reporters in Geneva from government-controlled Zaporizhzhia, said WHO teams have been among workers from the UN and other aid groups who have deployed to help dozens of evacuees — up to 100 — from the plant.

“Things are moving,” she said. “We know that they are on the way.”

Ukraine claims 24,200 Russian troops killed since start of conflict

At least 24,200 Russian soldiers have so far been killed in Ukraine, the country's military has claimed.

In addition, the Ukrainian troops destroyed 1,062 Russian tanks, 2,567 armoured personnel vehicles, 475 artillery systems, 162 multiple launch rocket systems, the Ukrainian General Staff said in a statement.

The Ukrainian forces also destroyed 194 aircraft, 155 helicopters, 291 UAVs, 10 naval vessels, among other weapon systems, the statement added.

Sanction-hit Russian carmaker asks Iran for spare parts: report

A Russian carmaker has asked Iran to supply it with key components it cannot access due to Western sanctions imposed after the offensive in Ukraine, Tehran's state media reported.

Hossein Bahrainian, from the Iranian Auto Parts Makers Association, said a Russian automaker had enquired about purchasing parts, without specifying the company by name, the official IRNA news agency said.

The components in demand included brake systems, seat belts, airbags, alternators, air conditioners, thermostats and power window systems, Bahrainian said according to the report.

Slovakia says it will seek exemption from any EU embargo on Russian oil

Slovakia will seek an exemption from any embargo of Russian oil agreed by the European Union in its next set of sanctions against Moscow for its offensive in Ukraine, Slovakia's Economy Ministry has said.

"If it comes to an approved embargo of Russian oil as part of a further package of sanctions against Russia, then Slovakia will request an exemption," the ministry said.

Slovakia gets nearly all of its imported crude from Russia, and the country has said it had reserves for 120 days. 

Hungary will not support sanctions on Russian oil and gas shipments – minister

Hungary will not support sanctions that would make Russian oil and gas shipments to Hungary impossible, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said in a statement.

Speaking in Kazakhstan, Szijjarto said Russian oil shipments via the Druzhba pipeline accounted for about 65 percent of the oil Hungary needed and there were no alternative supply routes that could replace that.

Two EU officials said earlier the EU executive may spare Slovakia and Hungary from an embargo on buying Russian oil, mindful of the two countries' dependence on Russian crude.

UK: Russian military 'significantly weaker'

The British Defence Ministry has said it believes the Russian military is now “significantly weaker” after suffering losses in its offensive in Ukraine.

The ministry made the comment in its daily statement on Twitter regarding the conflict. It said: “Russia’s military is now significantly weaker, both materially and conceptually, as a result of its military operation in Ukraine. Recovery from this will be exacerbated by sanctions. This will have a lasting impact on Russia’s ability to deploy conventional military force.”

The ministry added while Russia’s defence budget has doubled from 2005 to 2018, the modernisation program it undertook “has not enabled Russia to dominate Ukraine”. “Failures both in strategic planning and operational execution have left it unable to translate numerical strength into decisive advantage," the ministry said.

Pope Francis says he wants to visit Moscow to talk peace

Pope Francis has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been dodging his request for a meeting in Moscow to talk about peace in Ukraine.

Speaking to Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, the pontiff revealed that 20 days into the conflict, which began on Feb.24, the pope asked his deputy Cardinal Pietro Parolin to also pass on the message that he was ready to go to Moscow.

“We still haven’t received an answer and we are still pushing for it, though I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting right now,” Francis said.

Ukraine awaits arrival of evacuees from Mariupol steel plant

Ukraine hopes a column of evacuees from the ruins of a vast steel works in Mariupol will reach the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said more than 200 civilians were still in the Azovstal steel plant where the city's last defenders are holed up. A total of about 100,000 civilians remained in the port city on the Sea of Azov, he said.

"The column (of evacuees) is moving towards Zaporizhzhia. The evacuation continues," Boichenko said on national television. "We are limiting information and hope that the evacuees from Azovstal will reach Ukraine."

Russia says Israel supports neo-Nazis in row over Ukraine

Russia's foreign ministry has accused Israel of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine, further escalating a row which began when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.

The Russian ministry said in a statement that Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's comments were "anti-historical" and "explaining to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev".

Moscow reiterated Lavrov's point that Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy's Jewish origins did not preclude Ukraine from being run by neo-Nazis. "Antisemitism in everyday life and in politics is not stopped and is on the contrary nurtured (in Ukraine)," it said in a statement.

US official: Russia plans to annex parts of eastern Ukraine

A senior US official has warned that Russia plans to annex large portions of eastern Ukraine later this month, and the Mariupol steel mill that has become the city’s last stronghold of resistance came under renewed assault a day after the first evacuation of civilians from the plant.

Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Monday that the US believes the Kremlin also plans to recognise the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic. Neither move would be recognised by the United States or its allies, he said.

Carpenter cited information that Russia is planning to hold sham referendums in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics that would “try to add a veneer of democratic or electoral legitimacy” and attach the entities to Russia. He also said there were signs that Russia would engineer an independence vote in Kherson.

More than 1M Ukrainians taken to Russia

More than 1 million people, including nearly 200,000 children, have been taken from Ukraine to Russia since the Russian offensive began, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday, according to the state-owned news agency TASS.

Defense Ministry official Mikhail Mizintsev said those included 11,550 people, including 1,847 children, in the previous 24 hours, “without the participation of the Ukrainian authorities.”

He said those civilians “were evacuated to the territory of the Russian Federation from the dangerous regions" of Donetsk, Lugansk and other parts of Ukraine, according to the report.

EU hopes to pass new Russian sanctions

The European Union hopes to pass the sixth round of sanctions against Russia at the next meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the bloc's chief diplomat said.

Borrell, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Council meetings, said he hopes the EU will be able to take "measures to significantly limit these imports" but conceded so far there is no agreement from all the members.

"But I am confident that, at least with regard to oil imports, this agreement will be possible between now and the next Council meeting," he added.

Borrell: More Russian banks will be pushed out of SWIFT

A fresh European Union sanctions package over Russia's offensive on Ukraine is set to include "more Russian banks" being pushed out of the global SWIFT network, the bloc's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Monday.

"In the banking sector, there will be more Russian banks that will leave SWIFT," the global banking communications system, Borrell said during a visit to Panama.

Russia: Over 11,500 people evacuated

More than 11,500 people, including 1,847 children, were transported from Ukraine into Russia on Monday without the participation of Kiev's authorities, Russia's defence ministry said.

That number includes evacuations from Russian-backed breakaway regions of Ukraine, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, which Russia recognised as independent just before launching its February 24th attack.

Russia says the people have been evacuated on their own request, while Ukraine has said Moscow has forcefully deported thousands of people to Russia since the beginning of the conflict.

Ukraine has 'adequate stock of international reserves'

Foreign financial aid will ensure the stability of Ukraine's central bank reserves as the country deals with the economic shock from the Russian atrocities, central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko said.

The central bank's international reserves fell to $26.8 billion as of beginning of May from $28.1 billion a month earlier.

"We have an adequate stock of international reserves, despite the ... government's fulfilments of all its foreign debt obligations," Shevchenko wrote on the NV Business media portal.

"With sufficient international financial assistance, we will be able to maintain reserves at the proper level and even increase them."

For live updates from Monday (May 2), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies