Ukraine war: Mariupol defenders fighting ‘heavy, bloody battles’ with Russian troops

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Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

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AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov

The Ukrainian military said early on Thursday that Russian forces had “resumed the offensive” to seize the large Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the city’s last defenders are still resisting.

The reports call into question a pledge by the Russian military to pause its military operation there for three days from Thursday morning to allow civilians to leave.

Follow the latest updates in the live blog below, and watch Euronews TV coverage in the video player above.

06:56

Thursday’s key points:

    Russian forces have “resumed the offensive to take control” of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine’s military command says.This comes despite a Russian military pledge to open a humanitarian corridor from 0800 to 1800 Moscow time (0700 to 1700 CEST) on May 5, 6 and 7 to allow civilians to leave the besieged plant. The Kremlin said on Thursday the arrangements were “working”.Late on Wednesday the commander of the main Ukrainian defending force at the plant said Russian troops had broken into the premises for the second day running and “there are heavy, bloody battles”. Earlier, Mariupol’s mayor said contact with Ukrainian defenders had been lost.Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said women and children are still trapped in Azovstal and a prolonged ceasefire is needed to get them out. He has appealed for UN help. No civilians were reported evacuated from the plant on Wednesday.Poland and Sweden are co-hosting an international donors’ conference on Thursday in Warsaw to raise funds for humanitarian efforts to help Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an extra €200 million in EU aid.Air raid sirens sounded in cities across Ukraine on Wednesday night and missile fire followed shortly after in the cities of Cherkasy, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia. Five people were killed and at least 25 more wounded in shelling of several eastern cities over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said.Ukraine’s foreign minister has accused Russia of wanting to “break us down with their missile terrorism”.Mariupol theatre death toll is feared to be double the initial estimate, according to the Associated Press. Hungary says it won’t support an EU proposal for banning Russian oil imports in a move that could derail the bloc’s efforts to apply united pressure against Moscow.Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed that EU nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year as part of a sixth package of sanctions.

15:09

14:26

Lithuanian-Polish natural gas pipeline inaugurated 

A €500 million Lithuanian-Polish natural gas transmission pipeline was inaugurated Thursday, completing another stage of regional independence from Russian energy sources.

The Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania pipeline that runs more than 500 kilometres, 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.”

The Lithuania-Poland leg is integrated with pipelines in the other two Baltic states — Estonia and Latvia — and Finland, and into the European Union gas transmission system. Before the pipeline was built, the four countries could only receive pipeline gas from Russia.

(AP)

14:11

Russia expels Danish diplomats

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Thursday that Russia has decided to expel four diplomats with Denmark’s Embassy in Moscow.

“They have wrongfully become pieces in Putin’s cynical power play,” Kofod said. “It is a completely unjustified and deeply problematic decision, which underscores that Russia no longer wants real dialogue and diplomacy.”

Moscow said seven Danish diplomats were expelled. Danish media said that those expelled include four diplomats and three others without diplomatic status. They must leave within two weeks.

Moscow’s tit-for-tat decision came after Denmark last month expelled 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen. Several other European countries also expelled Russian intelligence officers.

(AP)

14:08

Russia admits military progress slowed by Western help for Ukraine

Russia acknowledged on Thursday that Western support was slowing its offensive in Ukraine but said it would not “prevent it from achieving its goals”.

“The US, the UK, Nato as a whole are sharing intelligence data with the Ukrainian armed forces all the time. Together with the supply of weapons (…) these actions do not allow for a quick completion of the operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. 

He was reacting to reports in the New York Times that intelligence provided by the US to the Ukrainian army had helped target several Russian generals near the frontline.

These Western actions “are not, however, able to prevent” the objectives of the Russian offensive in Ukraine from being fulfilled, he added.

So far, Moscow has only been able to claim full control of one major Ukrainian city, Kherson in the south. But it hopes soon to take complete control of Mariupol.

After their failure to take Kyiv, Putin’s forces withdrew from areas around the capital and northern Ukraine to focus on the east of the country.

(with AFP)

13:59

Zelenskyy launches Ukraine crowdfunding platform

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Thursday the launch of an online crowdfunding platform designed to help Kyiv win the war against Russia and rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

13:48

Spain arrests Ukrainian politician-blogger

Spanish authorities have arrested a Ukrainian politician-blogger accused of treason in his home country.

An official with the Spanish national police confirmed that Anatoly Shariy had been detained Wednesday in Tarragona under an international arrest warrant. Shariy is being transported to Madrid to appear before a judge, who will decide upon his extradition, the official said.

Ukraine’s security services announced the arrest on Thursday and said there was reason to believe Shariy “was acting on behalf of foreign entities.”

Shariy has been a vocal and active critic of Ukraine’s government. As recently as Tuesday he tweeted that he had been warned that Ukrainian intelligence was trying to track him down. He is the founder of a political party that many Ukrainians consider pro-Russian.

Ukrainian media reported that one of the members of the party said in February, just before the start of the war, that Shariy had asylum in the European Union.

(AP)

13:17

12:55

Mariupol theatre death toll feared to be double the initial estimate

The number of civilians who are feared to have been killed in the shelling of a theatre in Mariupol in March is higher than originally predicted, according to an investigation by Associated Press. 

It says around 600 people died inside and outside the building, which is double the estimated number of causalities.

AP journalists drew on interviews with 23 survivors, rescuers and people intimately familiar with the shelter operating at the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre, as well as two sets of floor plans of the theatre, photos and video taken inside before, during and after that day and feedback from experts.

Read the full story.

12:54

For a summary of Wednesday’s events in the war in Ukraine, click here.

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