Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow troops focus on south, east Ukraine; peace talks in danger of collapse, and more

Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow troops focus on south, east Ukraine; peace talks in danger of collapse, and more

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Ukrainian forces fought to hold off Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, where the Kremlin is seeking to capture the country’s industrial Donbas region, and a senior US defense official said Moscow’s offensive is going much slower than planned. While artillery fire, sirens and explosions were heard Friday in some cities, the United Nations sought to broker an evacuation of civilians from the increasingly hellish ruins of Mariupol, where the mayor said the situation inside the steel plant that has become the southern port city’s last stronghold is dire.

Wives of Mariupol defenders appeal for soldiers’ evacuation

Two Ukrainian women whose husbands are defending a besieged steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol are calling for any evacuation of civilians to also include soldiers, saying they fear the troops will be tortured and killed if left behind and captured by Russian forces.

“The lives of soldiers matter too. We can’t only talk about civilians,” said Yuliia Fedusiuk, 29, the wife of Arseniy Fedusiuk, a member of the Azov Regiment in Mariupol. “We are hoping that we can rescue soldiers too, not only dead, not only injured, but all of them.”

Yuliia Fedosiuk (first from left) and Kateryna Prokopenko (third from left), along with other army wives, pose for a picture in Rome, Italy, April 29, 2022. (Reuters)

She and Kateryna Prokopenko, whose husband, Denys Prokopenko, is the Azov commander, made their appeal in Rome on Friday for international assistance to evacuate the Azovstal plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic and now bombed-out port city.

Ukraine says Russia stole ‘several hundred thousand tonnes’ of grain

Russian forces have stolen “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain in the areas of Ukraine they occupy, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister said on Saturday. Speaking to Ukrainian national TV, Taras Vysotskiy expressed concern that most of what he said was 1.5 million tonnes of grain stored in occupied territory could also be stolen by Russian forces. Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Russia on Thursday of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act it said increased the threat to global food security.

Britain says Russia forced to merge, redeploy depleted units

Russia has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from failed advances in northeast Ukraine, a British military update said on Saturday.

“Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements,” the military tweeted. “Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines and simplifying command and control,” it said.

Here are the key updates on the war and its impact across the world.

➡️ More than 1 million people have been evacuated from Ukraine into Russia since February 24, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in remarks published early on Saturday. They include 1,20,000 foreigners and people evacuated from Russian-backed breakaway regions of Ukraine, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics.

➡️ Russia was attacking the entire Donetsk front in the east with rockets, artillery, mortar bombs and aircraft to prevent the Ukrainians from regrouping, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

➡️ Lavrov said lifting Western sanctions on Russia was part of peace talks to end the war. Zelenskyy said chances were “high” that the talks would end because of Russia’s “playbook on murdering people”.

➡️ US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday she hopes to pass Biden’s $33 billion aid package “as soon as possible.”

(Compiled from Reuters and Associated Press updates)

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