Ukraine war live updates: Evacuation of civilians from Mariupol steel mill to continue

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civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, 19 April 2022

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An effort to evacuate people from a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was planned to continue on Monday to bring people out of the steel plant where the city’s last defenders have been holding out, the Mariupol City Council said.

An estimated 100,000 civilians remain in the port city which has faced constant shelling since early on in the war.

Russia’s offensive in the east of the country has continued as Ukrainian forces fight village by village to stall their advance.

Follow the latest updates from Ukraine in our blog below or watch our TV coverage in the video player above.

06:27

Monday’s key events:

    EU energy ministers hold crisis talks on Monday, striving for a united response to Moscow’s demand that European buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles or face their supply being cut off. Diplomats say the EU is edging towards a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

    A safe passage operation at the steel plant in Mariupol was to continue on Monday at 7 am local time, local officials said. The plant is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city.

    Zelenskyy said on Sunday that a group of about 100 people were evacuated from the Azovstal plant during the day. Russia’s defence ministry put the number at 80 civilians.

    He also accused Moscow of waging a “war of extermination”, citing a number of civilian targets hit by the Russian army on Sunday alone.

    Meanwhile, the Russian troops continued to shell the Azovstal plant as soon as the evacuation operation ended, according to Ukrainian military sources.

    At least four civilians were killed and another 11 injured in the Donetsk region on 1 May, governer Pavlo Kyrylenko said in his daily update. The number does not include casualties in Mariupol and Volnovakha.

    Three people were killed and another three, including a child, were wounded in the eastern Luhansk region over the last 24 hours, Zelenskyy’s office said.

    More than a quarter of all troops Russia deployed for its war in Ukraine are now “combat ineffective”, says UK military intelligence.

    Poland’s armed forces said that military exercises involving thousands of NATO soldiers have begun.

12:15

Russia reportedly shifts battalions from Mariupol to eastern Luhansk

The Ukrainian military says that Russia has redeployed some of its forces from the port of Mariupol to join its offensive in the east.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Monday that several Russian battalions had been sent from Mariupol to the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region.

Popasna has been one of the epicentres of fighting in the east as the Russian military has sought to break through the Ukrainian defences there in a bid to encircle the forces in the east.

The Ukrainian General Staff also said that the Russians were trying to press their attacks from Izyum to the towns of Slovyansk and Barvinkove.

The Russian military is still struggling to uproot the last remaining Ukrainian pocket of resistance at the giant Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. The UN is set to coordinate an effort Monday to evacuate civilians sheltering at the plant.

11:23

Russian gas: EU crisis talks seek unity over roubles payment demand

EU energy ministers hold crisis talks on Monday, striving for a united response to Moscow’s demand that European buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles or face their supply being cut off. 

Diplomats say the EU is edging towards a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

Read more here:

EU ministers hold emergency talks over Russian gas purchase in roubles

Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week after they refused to meet its demand to effectively pay in roubles.

10:48

10:27

Israel summons Russian ambassador over Lavrov’s antisemitic remarks

Israel has summoned the Russian ambassador over comments made by the Russian foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism.

In an interview with an Italian news channel, Sergey Lavrov explained that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish.

“Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean anything,” he said, according to an Italian translation.

In a statement Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the remarks “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error”.

“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.”

Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem called the remarks “absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation”.

09:43

A quarter of Kremlin’s troops combat ineffective, including some of its elite forces

More than a quarter of all troops Russia deployed for its war in Ukraine are now “combat ineffective”, the UK Ministry of Defence stated in its daily briefing on Monday.

Russia committed over 120 so-called “battalion tactical groups” into the war since February, which represents 65% of all of Moscow’s combat strength.

The ministry said, “It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective.”

The British military said that some of Russia’s most elite forces, like the VDV Airborne, “have suffered the highest levels of attrition”.

“It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces,” the ministry said.

09:04

Russian tourists expected in Turkey despite war, Erdogan says

Turkey’s president says the war in Ukraine should not negatively affect the tourism season.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday morning that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is “very sensitive” about Turkey’s need for tourism revenue and has already pledged to give his support.

Turkey suffers from skyrocketing inflation and needs tourists’ foreign currencies.

Erdogan added that Saudi tourists would also be arriving following his visit to the country last week.

In an interview with Greek state broadcaster ERT, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian tourism brought revenue to neighbouring Greece and Turkey and called this “blood money.”

Zelenskyy pointed to a double standard where Turkey acted as a meditator between Kyiv and Moscow while preparing destinations for Russian tourists.

Erdogan said he’ll speak with Putin this week to discuss speeding up evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and find a way for grain exports from Ukraine and Russia.

07:29

Zelenskyy: Russia wages ‘war of extermination’

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of waging “a war of extermination,” citing strikes against non-military targets on Sunday.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that Russian shelling had hit food, grain and fertilizer warehouses, and residential neighbourhoods in the Kharkiv, Donbas and other regions.

“The targets they choose prove once again that the war against Ukraine is a war of extermination for the Russian army,” he said.

He said Moscow will gain nothing from the damage but will further isolate itself from the rest of the world.

“What could be Russia’s strategic success in this war?” Zelenskyy said. “Honestly, I do not know.

07:26

Several killed in Russian bombardment of Donetsk region, local authorities say

Four civilians were reported killed and 11 more were injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region on Sunday, the Ukrainian regional governor said that evening.

The deaths and seven of the injuries were in the northern city of Lyman, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. One person also died in the city of Bakhmut from injuries received in the Luhansk region, he said.

In the same post, Kyrylenko said that it was impossible to determine the number of victims in the bombed-out port city of Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists.

07:25

Railway bridge in Russia’s Kursk region damaged, explosions heard in Belgorod overnight

An explosive device damaged a railway bridge on Sunday in the Kursk region of Russia, which borders Ukraine, and a criminal investigation has been started.

The explosion on Sunday caused a partial collapse of the bridge near the village of Konopelka, on the Sudzha-Sosnovy Bor railway, the region’s government reported in a post on Telegram.

Overnight on Monday, two loud explosions could be heard in the area of Belgorod.

According to the region’s governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, there was no damage or casualties.

Social media users reported seeing bright flashes in the sky and hearing the sound of explosions.

Recent weeks have seen a number of fires and explosions in Russian regions near the border, including Kursk.

An ammunition depot in the Belgorod region burned after explosions were heard, and authorities in the Voronezh region said an air defence system shot down a drone.

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