Ukraine latest updates: New Mariupol evacuation mission under way

Ukraine news May 5: UN says third convoy on way to evacuate civilians from ‘hell’ of the besieged Azovstal steel plant.

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.
Civilians were evacuated on Sunday from the bunkers of Mariupol's Azovstal steel works [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says member states are “almost there” in agreeing new sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo.
  • A UN convoy is on its way to Mariupol to evacuate civilians from the port city. Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the Israeli prime minister that Russia is ready to provide safe passage from the Azovstal steel plant.
  • An international donors’ conference in Warsaw for Ukraine has raised $6.5bn to help the war-torn country, according to Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
  • Ukrainian army says “bloody battles” are continuing as Russia tries to destroy the last defence at Azovstal steel plant after breaking into the giant factory.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden have agreed not to recognise any Russian territorial gains in Ukraine.

INTERACTIVE - Russia-Ukraine control - DAY 71 map

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These were the updates on Thursday, May 5:

Ukrainian official says evacuations from Mariupol will take place on Friday

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says civilians will be evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol on Friday at 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT).

Vereshchuk made the announcement in a social media post. She said people would gather at the “Port City” shopping centre but gave no further details.

UN again trying to evacuate civilians from Ukraine’s Mariupol

A third operation is under way to evacuate civilians from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and the besieged Azovstal steel plant, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.

Guterres declined to give details on the new operation “to avoid undermining possible success”.

“I hope that the continued coordination with Moscow and Kyiv will lead to more humanitarian pauses to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting and aid to reach those in critical need,” he told the 15-member Security Council.

“We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes.”

Germany to help eastern EU states without ports access LNG

Germany will show solidarity with European Union countries seeking alternatives to Russian gas and oil, for example helping eastern states without ports in the North or Baltic Seas access liquefied natural gas (LNG), Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

Speaking after a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Scholz said many countries faced an even bigger challenge than Germany in reducing reliance on Russian energy imports.

“We must be prepared to help countries that do not have direct access to the North or Baltic Sea and that must rely on us cooperating with them,” Scholz said, adding that the details had yet to be worked out.

At least 25 civilians wounded in Kramatorsk as eastern assault continues

The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, says at least 25 civilians have been wounded in an overnight Russian strike on the city of Kramatorsk.

The Ukrainian army, meanwhile, said it has retaken control of “several settlements on the border of Mykolaiv and Kherson regions”.

EU chief says seized Russian assets should be sold

The European Union should confiscate and sell Russian assets it seizes and use the proceeds to rebuild Ukraine, EU chief Charles Michel has said, echoing an idea already floated in the United States.

The EU said early last month it had frozen 30 billion euros ($31.5bn) in assets linked to blacklisted Russian and Belarusian individuals.

West slowing, not hindering advance in Ukraine: Kremlin

The Kremlin has accused the West of preventing a “quick” end to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine by supplying weapons and intelligence to the country.

Its spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the West is “incapable of hindering the achievement” of the goals of Russia’s military operation.

“The United States, Britain, NATO as a whole hand over intelligence … to Ukraine’s armed forces on a permanent basis,” Peskov told reporters.

“Coupled with the flow of weapons that these countries are sending to Ukraine, these are all actions that do not contribute to the quick completion of the operation.”

Orban says new EU sanctions against Russia would harm Hungary more

The European Union’s new sanctions package against Russia, including an embargo on crude oil imports, would cause more harm to Hungary than Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said.

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Orban said the EU’s latest sanctions package risked undermining the bloc’s unity and its approval would be an historic failure.

News website cited Orban’s letter as saying the approval of the proposed sanctions would require large-scale investment in alternative supply infrastructure and an overhaul of Hungarian oil refining capacities.

Scholz, Biden agree to not acknowledge Russian territorial gains

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden have agreed in a call that they will not recognise any Russian territorial gains in Ukraine, a German government spokesperson has said in a statement.

“They agreed that Ukraine needed to be further substantially and continuously supported in the practice of its legitimate right to self defence,” the spokesperson said.

The two leaders also denounced “recent comments of the Russian leadership seeking to discredit the democratically legitimised Ukrainian leadership,” the statement added.

EU countries ‘almost’ have agreement on new sanctions, top diplomat says

European Union countries are “almost there” in agreeing the bloc’s proposed new package of sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

“I hope that they will get an agreement. They are almost there. And we need this agreement because we have to push still more our economic and financial pressure on Russia,” Borrell told an event in Italy.

Turkey’s Erdogan, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine in phone call

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the war in Ukraine in a phone call, the Turkish presidency said.

“President Erdogan, who said Turkey was doing its utmost to end the war in Ukraine through diplomacy, stated it is important to support the negotiation process,” Erdogan’s office said in a statement.

“During the call, Erdogan congratulated Emmanuel Macron for being re-elected to the French Presidency,” it added.

Deputy minister says Ukraine has enough grain stocks to feed population

Ukraine has large enough stocks of grain in regions that it still controls to feed the population in those areas, and has enough fuel to meet the daily needs of Ukrainian farmers, the country’s deputy agriculture minister has said.

Ukraine said last month that Russian forces had stolen “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain in the areas of Ukraine they have occupied and this could affect the food security of local populations.

Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy said his government has about  25 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds in stocks, and another 1.3 million tonnes of grain in “temporarily occupied territory”.

“From the point of view of providing food (grains and cereals) for all 40 million Ukrainians, we have sufficient reserves in the controlled territory,” he said.

Putin apologises for foreign minister’s Hitler remarks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has apologised for his foreign minister’s comments claiming that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Bennett said the Russian leader apologised for remarks made by minister Sergey Lavrov, who claimed Adolf Hitler may have had “Jewish blood”. The comments had sparked outrage in the Jewish state.

“The Prime Minister accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying his attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,” Bennett’s office said in a statement.

A Kremlin summary of the Bennett-Putin call made no mention of a Putin apology.

Jill Biden to meet Ukrainian refugees in Romania, Slovakia on Mother’s Day

United States First Lady Jill Biden will leave Washington for a tour of Romania and Slovakia to highlight the US commitment to Ukrainian refugees on Sunday, celebrated as Mother’s Day in the United States.

The wife of President Joe Biden is due to meet US service members and embassy personnel, displaced Ukrainian parents and children, humanitarian aid workers and teachers during the four-day trip, her office said.

EU proposes sanctions on former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva

The EU has proposed sanctioning former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva for her role in Kremlin propaganda and close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a document seen by AFP.

Kabaeva is a late addition to the list of individuals targeted in a sixth package of measures against Russia in response to the war in Ukraine.

UN agency appeals to reopen Ukraine ports to ship food

The United Nations’ food aid agency is appealing for Black Sea ports in Ukraine reopen to permit shipping of wheat and corn exports, which many poor nations depend on.

The Rome-based World Food Programme noted in its appeal that 98 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports had moved through those ports before Russia launched its invasion.

The UN agency says the ports in Ukraine’s south, which have suffered heavy shelling, must resume operations “to protect Ukrainian agricultural production and enable exports that are critical to Ukraine’s economy and global food security”.

UK sanctions Russian steelmaker Evraz

The British government says it has sanctioned steel manufacturing and mining company Evraz in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The steel manufacturing and mining company operates in sectors of strategic significance to the government of Russia,” the government said.

“Today’s asset freeze means no UK citizen or company can do business with them.”

Ukrainian city warns of Russian missile attacks before war anniversary

The mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine has urged residents to avoid public gatherings this weekend, or leave the city if they can, for fear of Russian missile attacks.

“We have certain information, the enemy unfortunately wants to conduct further missile strikes, therefore on the 7th, 8th, and 9th there won’t be any public events, including prayers,” he said. “For your safety, I urge you … on these three days to stay at home … or out of town if you are able,” said Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv.

His announcement followed warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia might step up its offensive in Ukraine before May 9, when Moscow commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Convoy en route in bid to evacuate Azovstal civilians: UN

A new UN convoy is heading to the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, which has seen heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, to try to evacuate civilians, its humanitarian chief said.

“Today as we speak, a convoy is proceeding to get to Azovstal by tomorrow morning hopefully to receive those civilians remaining in that bleak hell… and take them back to safety,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw.

The convoy was a fresh effort after the United Nations and Red Cross said Tuesday 101 civilians were evacuated from the tunnels of the Azovstal plant in the strategic southern port city.

Putin says ready to provide safe passage for civilians in Mariupol’s Azovstal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a phone call that Russia is still ready to provide safe passage for civilians from the besieged Azovstal steel works in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Putin also said that Kyiv should order Ukrainian fighters holed up in Azovstal to put down their weapons.

At least 25 people injured in Kramatorsk shelling: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the residential area where shelling took place earlier in Kramatorsk, said at least 25 people have been injured.

“It’s incredible that no one was killed in these attacks,” Stratford said, standing next to a crater he estimated to be 10 to 15 feet deep.

“There are hundreds of flats that had their windows destroyed… there is a playground here and the trees have been completely shredded. This was an incredibly powerful explosion.”

Residents told Stratford the building hit by shelling was uninhabited as it was still under construction.

Chinese, Russian central banks to discuss use of national payment systems

The Chinese and Russian central banks will discuss the use and promotion of their respective national payment systems in both countries, Beijing’s envoy to Moscow has told the TASS news agency.

“Regarding the promotion and use of the Mir and China UnionPay national payment systems in both countries, this question will be decided by the two sides’ central banks at consultations,” Zhang Hanhui said.

Mir and UnionPay are among the few options left for Russians to make payments abroad since Russian banks were isolated from the global financial system in response to what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

NATO chief says alliance will increase presence in Baltic sea if Sweden applies

NATO will increase its presence around Sweden’s borders and in the Baltic Sea while a potential application to join the alliance is processed, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

“From the potential moment Sweden is applying, and NATO says that they want Sweden to join, there is a very strong obligation from NATO to be able to guarantee Sweden’s security,” Stoltenberg said, adding that it would include increased presence around Sweden and in the Baltic Sea.

Moscow has warned Sweden and Finland of “serious consequences” and that it could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the European exclave of Kaliningrad if Sweden and Finland become NATO members.

Germany begins filling western Europe’s biggest gas storage site

Germany has started filling the huge Rehden gas storage facility abandoned by Russia’s Gazprom, the site’s state-appointed manager has said.

“We are working intensively on solutions to ensure that already soon significantly more gas can flow into the storage facility,” Egbert Laege, the trustee appointed by Germany’s energy regulator to temporarily manage the company, told Reuters.

Gazprom last month ditched its Gazprom Germania business, including western Europe’s biggest gas storage site at Rehden, as diplomatic relations deteriorated. Russian gas is vital to Europe and Germany in particular.

Bulgaria and Greece plan joint gas purchases

Bulgaria and Greece have agreed to seek joint gas deliveries for southeastern Europe and decrease reliance on Russian gas amid the war in Ukraine, Bulgarian energy minister Alexander Nikolov has said.

Bulgaria, which was meeting more than 90 percent of its gas needs with Russian imports, saw its gas deliveries cut on April 27 along with Poland after refusing to pay in roubles.

The Balkan country, backed by the European Union’s executive Commission, is now pushing for regional cooperation that would include better use of gas and electricity infrastructure as well as joint EU gas purchases to cut dependence on Russian imports.

Japan to add 140 individuals to Russian sanction list: PM

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says 140 individuals will be added to a Russian asset freeze list while an export ban will be expanded to Russian military firms.

Kishida, speaking in London via a translator after a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, added that now was the time for the Group of Seven leading nations to solidify its unity.

Zelenskyy invites Scholz and Steinmeier to Kyiv: Germany

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to visit, the German president’s office has said, three weeks after Steinmeier was snubbed by Kyiv.

Zelenskyy made the invitation in a telephone call with Steinemeier, during which “past irritations were cleared up” and Steinemeier expressed his “solidarity, respect and support” for Ukraine.

Ukraine received over $12bn in weapons, financial aid since start of war

Ukraine has received over $12bn in weapons and financial aid since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said.

Speaking at a high-level donors’ conference in Warsaw alongside the leaders of Poland, Sweden, and the head of the European Commission, Shmyhal thanked them for their unwavering support of Ukraine throughout the war.

Russia ‘violated’ promised truce at Mariupol plant: Ukrainian commander

Russia has “violated” a promised truce at Mariupol’s steelworks, where Ukrainian forces are making a last stand in the city, a Ukrainian commander has said.

“The Russians violated the promise of a truce and did not allow the evacuation of civilians who continue to hide from shelling in the basement of the plant,” Svyatoslav Palamar, a commander of the Azov regiment, said in a video on Telegram.

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the plant were “dying in agony from inadequate treatment”, he said, urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “take care” of them and to find a way to remove the bodies of soldiers who had died.

He also called on the “world community” to help evacuate civilians from the plant.

Ukraine attracts fighters from Middle East

The war in Ukraine has attracted thousands of foreign fighters battling on both sides from around the world, including the Middle East.

Some call them mercenaries, while others call them volunteers. So why are they joining the fight?

Donors’ conference in Warsaw raises $6.5bn for Ukraine

An international donors’ conference in Warsaw collecting funds for Ukraine has raised $6.5bn to help the war-torn country, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says.

Countries such as Finland, the Czech Republic, Croatia and others pledged millions of euros to support humanitarian and military efforts in Ukraine as part of the conference hosted by Poland and Sweden.

The European Commission also pledged 200 million euros ($211m) in aid for displaced people in Ukraine, it said in a statement.

Fiji seizes $300m yacht of Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov

Authorities in Fiji have seized a $300m yacht of Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov at the request of the United States, according to the US Justice Department.

Kerimov was sanctioned by the US and the EU.

Spain detains pro-Russian Ukrainian blogger accused of treason

Spanish authorities have detained a pro-Russian Ukrainian blogger and aspiring politician on an international arrest warrant for suspected treason, according to a police source quoted by the Reuters news agency.

The source said Anatoliy Shariy, a vocal critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his pro-Western government, had been detained in the coastal city of Tarragona in Catalonia, the source said, without providing further details.

Earlier, Ukraine’s SBU security service said in a statement Shariy was detained on Wednesday in an operation coordinated between Ukrainian authorities and Spanish police on suspicion of committing treason and the crime of “breaching the equal rights of citizens” based on race, nationality or other attributes.

No Ukrainian counteroffensive expected before mid-June: Kyiv

Ukraine is unlikely to launch a counteroffensive in its war with Russia before mid-June, when it hopes to have received more weapons from its allies, an adviser to President Zelenskyy said.

Political adviser Oleksiy Arestovych also said he did not expect Russia’s offensive in Ukraine to produce any “significant results” by May 9, when Russia celebrates victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russia expels seven Danish diplomats in retaliatory move

Russia’s foreign ministry says it has declared seven Danish diplomats “persona non grata” in response to Copenhagen expelling 15 Russian diplomats last month, with Moscow also objecting to Copenhagen’s military assistance to Ukraine.

The ministry said Denmark’s anti-Russian policy was seriously damaging bilateral relations and that Russia reserved the right to take additional steps in response.

Russia ‘trying to destroy’ last Ukrainian units in Azovstal: Kyiv

Ukraine says Russia is “trying to destroy” its remaining soldiers holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, with Kyiv’s last defenders in the battered city saying Moscow forces have broken into the giant factory.

“Russian occupiers are focusing on blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area,” Kyiv’s army said in a statement, adding: “With the support of aircraft, Russia resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant.”

The statement came as a Russian-announced ceasefire was due to begin at the besieged plant, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and some civilians have been trapped for weeks.

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 3, 2022.
Smoke rises above from Azovstal Iron and Steel Works on May 3, 2022 File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Gazprom says it will use Nord Stream 2 capacity for domestic gas supply

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it will use the onshore capacity of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for domestic gas needs.

In February, Germany halted approvals for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project, which is designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany.

Pipes at landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipeline are in Lubmin, northern Germany. Feb. 15, 2022.
Pipes at landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline are in Lubmin, Germany [File: Michael Sohn/AP]

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 71

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 71st day, we take a look at the main developments.

Read more here.

INTERACTIVE - Mariupol map -DAY 71

French minister expects EU consensus on Russian oil ban by end of week

The French environment and energy minister, Barbara Pompili, says she is confident EU member states will reach a consensus on how to end Russian oil imports by the end of this week.

“Some countries are more dependent on Russian oil than others, and so we must try to find solutions so that they can come on board these sanctions,” she told France Info radio. “But I think we should be able to do it.”

France has this week hosted an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers to discuss how to deal with Moscow’s decision to halt gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles.

French Minister Barbara Pompili
Pompili acknowledges some countries are more dependent on Russian oil [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

Russia says it killed over 600 Ukrainian fighters

Russia’s defence ministry says its artillery struck multiple Ukrainian positions and strongholds overnight, killing 600 fighters.

The statement also said its missiles destroyed aviation equipment at the Kanatovo airfield in Ukraine’s central Kirovohrad region and a large ammunition depot in the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Two Russian villages shelled by Ukraine: governor

Two villages in Russia’s Belgorod region bordering Ukraine have been shelled by Ukraine, according to Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who added that there were no civilian casualties.

“There is shelling from the Ukrainian side on Zhuravlyovka and Nekhoteevka,” he said.

Russia ‘stole’ 400,000 tonnes of grain: Ukraine’s defence ministry

Ukraine’s defence ministry says Russia’s occupying forces have “stolen” 400,000 tonnes of grain from the south of the country. The message on the ministry’s Twitter account appeared next to images of burned-out grain fields.

“At least 400,000 tons of grain were stolen by russia [sic] in the occupied south of Ukraine. That’s over 6,000 hoppers. russian thieves are bringing death and famine to the world,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

More than 220 children have died in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Ombudsman

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 221 children have died, and 408 have been injured, Ukraine’s ombudsman for human rights has said.

“It is not possible to establish the actual number of dead and wounded children due to the fact that the occupying forces are actively fighting in Ukrainian cities,” Lyudmyla Denisova wrote on Telegram.

Russia may use Belarus military exercises as decoy: UK

Russia may try to inflate the threat that Belarusian military exercises pose to Ukraine in order to get Ukraine’s forces to move to the north of the country and away from fighting in the Donbas, the UK’s defence ministry says.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said that the sudden exercises of the Belarusian army are “in line with seasonal norms” as Belarus enters the culmination of its winter training cycle.

“Deviation from normal exercise activity that could pose a threat to allies and partners is not currently anticipated,” the ministry added.

Shelling kills five in Luhansk: Governor

Russian shelling killed five civilians in the Luhansk region in the past 24 hours, Governor Serhiy Haidai has said.

Haidai said the shelling focused on Severodonetsk and Popasna, Hirske and Lysychansk.

Japan says difficult to immediately follow Russia oil embargo

Japan would face “difficulty” immediately following a move to cut off Russian oil imports over the invasion of Ukraine, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda has said.

Hagiuda made the remark during a visit to Washington, DC, after the EU proposed a new round of sanctions that included an oil embargo.

US President Joe Biden said he would discuss further sanctions against Russia with other leaders from the G7 this week, which could pressure Japan which is wary of the effect of the oil embargo.

“Given Japan has its limit on resources, we would face some difficulty to keep in step immediately” with other countries, Hagiuda told reporters.

Shelling hits centre of Kramatorsk, wounds six: Mayor

Shelling in residential areas of the centre of Kramatorsk damaged several multi-storey buildings, a school and a kindergarten, the city’s mayor has said.

At least six people were wounded in the attacks, Alexander Goncharenko wrote on Facebook.

Debris covers the inside of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Debris covers the inside of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre following a March 16, 2022, bombing in Mariupol, Ukraine, in an area now controlled by Russian forces, Monday, April 4, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP]

Russia lost control over settlements on Mykolaiv and Kherson border: Army

Russian forces lost control over several settlements on the border of the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions due to “successful actions of Ukrainian defenders”, the Ukrainian army has said.

The latest update from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that over the past day, the Russian military continued to shell the city of Kharkiv and the area north of the city of Izium.

The Russian army have also been trying to conduct offensive operations in Lyman, Severodonetsk and Popasna, but have been unsuccessful, the general staff said on Facebook.

“In the Mariupol area, Russian occupiers are focusing their efforts on blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainians’ units in the Azovstal area. With the support of aircraft, the enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant,” the statement added.

EU targets Russian Patriarch Kirill in new proposed sanctions: Diplomat

The European Commission has proposed freezing the assets of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a diplomat has said.

The Patriarch has been added to a draft blacklist that includes hundreds of military officers and business people close to the Kremlin whom the EU accuses of supporting the war in Ukraine, the Reuters news agency reported.

The sanction, which would entail an asset freeze and a travel ban, needs the backing of EU states to be adopted. Members will meet later this week to discuss the EU’s sixth package of sanctions against Russia announced on Wednesday, which includes an oil embargo.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducts a service on October 27, 2019.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducts a service to consecrate the renovated Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother of God in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, October 27, 2019 [Sergey Pivovarov/File Photo/REUTERS]

The Ukrainian refugees who made it to Australia

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, 12-year-old Anastasiia was woken by two cruise missiles over the top of her house.

“They were like fighter jets,” she remembered.

Anastasiia is one of the thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have sought refuge in Australia since Russia invaded their country on February 24.

Al Jazeera spoke to Anastasiia and two other Ukrainian refugees about their perilous journey to a country nearly 15,000km (9,300 miles) away.

Read more here.

Zelenskyy asks for prolonged truce to rescue Azovstal civilians

Zelenskyy has said that “we need to continue the silence” to rescue the others still trapped in the Azovstal steel plant.

“We are negotiating and hope to continue rescuing people from Azovstal, from Mariupol. There are still civilians. Women, children,” he said in his nighttime address.

“To save them, we need to continue the silence. The Ukrainian side is ready to provide it. It takes time to just lift people out of those basements, out of those underground shelters. In the current conditions, we cannot use special equipment to clear the debris. Everything is done manually,” he added.

Ukrainian officials say some 200 civilians as well as Ukrainian fighters are still holed up in the plant’s network of underground bunkers.

US intelligence helped Ukraine kill Russian generals: NYT

The US provided Ukraine with intelligence that allowed its troops to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in the current war, the New York Times has reported, citing senior American officials.

“The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine,” the NYT reported the officials as having said.

The report said that the US provided Ukraine with location and other details about the Russian military’s headquarters, which are frequently relocated, and that Ukraine combined this with its own intelligence, which included intercepted conversations, which helped locate senior Russian officers. Then Ukraine conducted strikes and other attacks on these locations.

Ukrainian officials have said they have killed around 12 generals on the front lines – a very high number, according to many military analysts.

Stanislav Shushkevich, first leader of independent Belarus, dies in Minsk

Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of independent Belarus following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died at 87, after being hospitalised for COVID-19.

Shushkevich was one of three leaders including Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk who in 1991 signed an agreement effectively dissolving the Soviet Union. They formed a Commonwealth of Independent States and Shushkevich, a nuclear physicist before entering politics, led independent Belarus for less than three years before he was overthrown by Lukashenko.

He was well regarded by the US, particularly for his commitment to ridding Belarus of the nuclear weapons from the Soviet era that remained on its soil. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was saddened to learn of Shushkevich’s death. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones and the people of Belarus, who carry on the struggle for a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful #FreeBelarus,” Blinken wrote in a tweet.

Air alert sirens blare across Ukraine

Air alert sirens have been activated throughout every region and most cities of Ukraine overnight.

“Everyone is in hiding: an air alert has been declared throughout Ukraine,” the country’s Channel 24 wrote on Twitter.

“Note that in the Luhansk region the alarm has been going on continuously since April 4. Currently, sirens are not heard only in the Kherson region,” Channel 24 said in an article.

Russia may hope to capture Azovstal by May 9: Think-tank

Russian forces reportedly entered the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, rather than its outskirts, for the first time on Wednesday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“The extent of this Russian advance remains unclear, and Russian forces likely face further costly fighting if they intend to clear the entire facility,” the ISW wrote in its latest assessment on Russia’s offensive.

It added that the “Kremlin likely hopes” to capture Azovstal to “cement the Kremlin’s growing effort to claim complete control of Mariupol by May 9”, which is the date Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany.

Russia boycotts Security Council meeting due to ‘Russophobic policy’

Russia refused to participate in Wednesday’s informal meeting of the UN Security Council with the EU because of the bloc’s “hostile and Russophobic policy”, Russia’s representative to the UN has said.

Dmitry Polyansky wrote on Telegram that the EU policy was “actively trying to extinguish the fire of the Ukrainian crisis by pouring gasoline on it”, adding that there was no other explanation for the “open warmongering” by the EU leadership.

The Security Council’s annual meeting with the EU’s Political and Security Committee on Wednesday is the first since 2019 due to the pandemic.

UK sending Ukraine £45 million for humanitarian aid, more medical supplies

Britain’s foreign secretary has announced £45 million ($56 million) in funding for agencies and charities doing humanitarian work on the ground in Ukraine and its borders.

“Of the £45 million, £15 million will go to the UN Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, to provide immediate life-saving assistance and help tackle sexual and gender-based violence through targeted services, legal support and crisis accommodation,” a statement from Liz Truss’s office said.

A further £15m will go to UNICEF to fund services like nutrition for pregnant women and mental health support for children.

Truss also announced further deliveries of medical supplies, including wound care packs to treat more than 220,000 patients and about 380,000 packs of medicine.

Children from Ukraine sleep on luggage at a railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland
Children from Ukraine sleep on luggage at a railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 [Sergei Grits/AP]

Zelenskyy pays tribute to killed Ukrainian journalist

Zelenskyy started his latest nighttime address by remembering Ukrainian journalist and TV reporter, Oleksandr Makhov, who he said died on Wednesday in the Kharkiv region, “in the battles near Izium”.

“He was always among the bravest, among the first. He always worked in the hottest spots. Tried to bring true material. From the first day of the full-scale war, he was on the front line,” Zelenskyy said

“He was 36 years old. My sincere condolences to relatives and friends. Let his son Vladyslav know: Russia will bear responsibility for this death,” he said, adding that Ukraine will win and make Oleksandr’s dream come true.

UK’s Johnson to host Japanese PM for Ukraine talks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will host his Japanese counterpart for talks to focus on Ukraine and countries affected by Russia’s invasion.

Meetings between Johnson and Fumio Kishida tomorrow are expected to focus on “how international alliances can continue to exert maximum pressure on President Putin’s regime while supporting Ukraine and other European countries affected,” a government statement said.

They will also agree to closer collaboration to help countries in Asia develop renewables, “supporting their transition to green energy and helping to provide alternative supplies to Russian oil and gas”.

The statement added the two will agree in principle to a reciprocal access agreement to allow Japanese and British forces to “work, exercise and operate together”.

Further sanctions likely if Russia continues war, says US treasury secretary

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the US is in constant discussions with its partners about further sanctions and could impose “additional actions” to pressure Moscow.

At a Wall Street Journal conference, Yellen would not preview any specific actions under consideration but stressed that further measures were likely “if Russia continues this war against Ukraine”.

Yellen said she believed Western sanctions so far had taken an enormous toll on the Russian economy, curtailing foreign investment and preventing it from accessing goods it needs to compete in the global economy over the long term.

More than 300 civilians evacuated from southern Ukraine: UN

More than 300 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine as part of a joint UN-Red Cross operation that concluded on Wednesday, UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Osnat Lubrani has said.

“While this second evacuation of civilians from areas in Mariupol and beyond is significant, much more must be done to make sure all civilians caught up in fighting can leave, in the direction they wish,” Lubrani said.

Women board a bus during an evacuation of civilians on a road near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine
Women board a bus during an evacuation of civilians on a road near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022
[Andriy Andriyenko/AP]

Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘missile terrorism’

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has accused Russia of “missile terrorism” as authorities said Russian forces bombarded cities across Ukraine.

Attacks were reported near Kyiv; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine, and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. In Dnipro, authorities said a rail facility was hit.

Zelenskyy says he spoke to Israeli PM about ‘scandalous’ Russian remarks

Zelenskyy has said he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and discussed the “scandalous and completely unacceptable remarks” by Russia’s foreign minister about Adolf Hitler.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy said the comments by Sergey Lavrov had outraged the entire world.

In an interview on Sunday, Lavrov said the Nazi dictator had had Jewish origins, a comment that Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid called an “unforgivable” falsehood.

Russia ‘already lost the war’, White House says

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that Russia “already lost the war in Ukraine”.

Pressed by a reporter to define what victory looked like for Ukraine, Psaki instead said Russian President Vladimir Putin had failed in his own objectives by invading the neighbouring country.

“He wanted this to be a moment to divide NATO, to divide the west,” Psaki said. “Clearly that is not what is happening.”

Sweden says it received US assurances should it seek to join NATO

Sweden has received assurances from the US that it would get support during the processing period for its potential application to join NATO, foreign minister Ann Linde has said.

Sweden and its neighbour Finland stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine have led the countries to rethink their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly likely.

“Naturally, I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel very sure that now we have an American assurance,” Linde told Swedish TV from Washington after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Russian strikes in western Ukraine aimed at critical infrastructure: Pentagon

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said recent Russian strikes in western Ukraine were aimed at critical infrastructure sites.

“They are attempting to hit what we assess to be critical infrastructure targets out towards the west – electrical power, transportation hubs, that kind of thing. We think this is an effort to try to disrupt the Ukrainians’ ability to replenish and reinforce themselves,” Kirby told reporters.

“Particularly these most recent strikes, we are still assessing the degree to which they hit what they were targeting. They are not good at precision strikes. They are not discriminant with how they target.”

Far-right Azov regiment says Ukrainians fighting ‘bloody battles’ in Mariupol

Ukrainian forces inside Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant are fighting “difficult bloody battles” against Russian troops for a second day, after they broke into the territory of the plant, the commander of the far-right Azov regiment has said.

“I am proud of my soldiers who are making superhuman efforts to contain the pressure of the enemy … The situation is extremely difficult,” commander Denis Prokopenko said in a brief video message released on Telegram.

Russia meeting ‘stiff’ resistance in eastern Ukraine, US says

The Russian military has not been able to advance as far into the Donbas region of Ukraine as planned due to Ukrainian resistance, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said.

“Russians have not made the kind of progress in the Donbas and in the south that we believe they wanted to make. And we do believe it’s been slow. And at every turn they have met a stiff Ukrainian resistance,” Kirby told a media briefing at the Pentagon.

“What we’re focused on is making sure that resistance remains as stiff as possible.”

Russia says it will halt fighting at Mariupol plant for civilian evacuation

Russia has said its forces would halt hostilities at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and open a humanitarian corridor for civilians for three days beginning on Thursday.

“The Russian armed forces will from 8am to 6pm [Moscow time] on May 5, 6 and 7 open a humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians,” the defence ministry said.

Zelenskyy asks UN chief for help to save people in Azovstal steel plant

Zelenskyy has asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for help saving people trapped in the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, his office said in a statement.

“The lives of the people who remain there are in danger. Everyone is important to us. We ask for your help in saving them,” the statement quoted Zelenskyy as saying.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read the updates from Wednesday, May 4.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies