- Moscow has stepped up its offensive in the southern and eastern Donbass of Ukraine
- 20 civilians were evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant
- Odessa airport, Luhansk and Donetsk hit by missiles
- Officials offer conflicting views on peace talks
DOPROPILIA, Ukraine / KYIV, April 30 (Reuters) – Ukraine officials said Russia launched missile strikes across southern and eastern Ukraine on Saturday, and some women and children were evacuated from a steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol. More than a week.
Moscow has turned its attention to the south and east of Ukraine after failing to capture the capital, Kiev, in a nine-week offensive that razed cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
Its forces captured the southern city of Kherson, set foot 100 km (62 miles) north of Crimea annexed by Russia, and occupied most of the strategic eastern port city of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.
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On April 21, Russia declared victory in Mariupol, despite the fact that hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians had taken refuge in the Azov Steel missions. The United Nations has insisted on an evacuation agreement, saying on Saturday that a Ukrainian militant inside had evacuated about 20 women and children.
“We are pulling civilians out of the rubble with ropes – this is the elderly, women and children,” said militant Svyadoslav Palmer, referring to the rubble within a 4 sq km plant.
Palmer said Russia and Ukraine were respecting the local ceasefire and that the expelled civilians would be transferred to the northwestern Ukrainian city of Saporizia.
There was no immediate comment from Russia or the United Nations. Hundreds of Ukrainians are inside, according to Ukrainian officials.
In the western part of Odessa, where relatively little war has been reported so far, a Russian missile fired from the Crimea destroyed the runway at the main airport, said Ostesta’s regional governor Maxim Marchenko. He said no one was injured. read more
The Ukrainian military says the airport can no longer be used. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has promised in a night-time video conference that the airport will be rebuilt: “Odessa will never forget Russia’s behavior.”
There has been no comment on the strike from Moscow, whose forces have occasionally targeted Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city. Ukrainian officials say eight people were killed in an attack by Russia last week.
The Moscow offensive in the south is aimed at part of the annexation of Crimea to the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, while pushing for complete control. The two provinces of Donbass, Luhansk and Donetsk, were already controlled by pro-Russian separatists before the February 24 invasion of Moscow.
In his speech, Zelenskiy said that Russia was “mobilizing additional forces for new attacks against our military in the east of the country” and “trying to increase pressure on the Donbas.”
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove it from Western-instigated anti-Russian nationalism. Ukraine and the West say Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Despite weeks of peace talks, the two sides were seen far apart on Saturday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the lifting of Western sanctions on Moscow was part of the talks, but senior Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podoliak denied this. read more
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky has called for sanctions to be strengthened and for talks to be held. He warned on Friday that talks could fall short of what he called Russia’s “killing book”.
Ukraine accuses Russian troops of atrocities when it withdrew from areas near Kiev in early April. Moscow denies the allegations. The negotiators last met face-to-face on March 29 and then spoke via video link.
The United States and its European allies have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy and provided arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden is seeking a $ 33 billion aid package for Kiev, including $ 20 billion for arms, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that his country would “continue to provide Ukrainians with the equipment they need to defend themselves.”
Lavrov said that if Washington and its allies in the US-led NATO military alliance really wanted to resolve the crisis, they would have to stop sending arms to Kiev. read more
In the town of Topropilia in Donetsk, the shock wave of Saturday’s strike blew through the windows of an apartment building and left a large abyss in the yard.
A resident, who gave only his first name, Andre, said his partner was in the room facing the yard at the time of the attack and fainted.
“Thank God, all four children were in the kitchen,” he said, standing in the ruined room.
Residents sifted through their possessions and saw what could be saved.
“At 9:20 a.m. this joy flew to our house,” another resident Ole joked. “Everything is ruined.”
On Saturday, Russia announced that it had launched a large-scale offensive against Ukraine in its territory.
Authorities in the Bryansk region of Russia, which borders Ukraine and Belarus, said air security had prevented the Ukrainian plane from entering. They said the resulting shelling hit parts of the Russian oil terminal.
Kursk Governor Roman Starowitz said several bombs had been dropped from Ukraine on the Ukrainian border, south of Bryansk in Russia’s Kursk region, towards a Russian checkpoint. He said there was no loss of life or damage.
Ukraine is not directly responsible for many such incidents in Russian territory. But it described Wednesday’s series of bombings in southern Russia as retaliation and “karma” for Moscow’s invasion. read more
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Report by Hamuta Hassan and George Silva in Topropilia, Ukraine, and Natalia Synets in Kiev; Additional report by Reuters journalists; Written by Francis Kerry and Rami Job; Editing by Catherine Evans, Hugh Lawson and Daniel Wallis
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