UKRAINE WRAP | Civilians flee Azovstal bunkers in evacuation led by UN

01 May 2022 - 06:16 By TIMESLIVE
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A Ukrainian service member inspects a destroyed Russian Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Zaporizhzhia region on April 30 2022.
A Ukrainian service member inspects a destroyed Russian Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Zaporizhzhia region on April 30 2022.

May 1 2022 - 17:40

Ukraine postpones evacuations from other parts of Mariupol to Monday

A plan to evacuate civilians from areas of the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol outside of the Azovstal steel works has been postponed to 5am GMT on Monday, Mariupol's city council said.


May 1 2022 - 17:34

EU leans towards Russian oil ban by year-end, diplomats say

The European Union is leaning toward a ban on imports of Russian oil by the end of the year, two EU diplomats said, after talks between the European Commission and EU member states this weekend.

The European Union is preparing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion just over two months ago of Ukraine that Moscow calls a special military operation. The package is expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks, as well as more individuals and companies.

The Commission, which is coordinating the EU response, held talks dubbed "confessionals" with small groups of EU countries and will aim to firm up its sanctions plan in time for a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

EU energy ministers are also due to meet in the Belgian capital on Monday to discuss the issue. The EU diplomats said some EU countries were able to end their use of oil before the end of 2022, but others, particularly more southerly members, were concerned about the impact on prices.

Germany, one of the bigger buyers of Russia oil, appeared to be willing to go along with the end-2022 cut-off, the diplomats said, but countries including Austria, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia had reservations. An adviser to Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany backs an EU ban on Russian oil imports but needed a few months to secure alternatives.

"We're asking for a considered wind-down period," the Financial Times quoted Joerg Kukies as saying. "We want to stop buying Russian oil, but we need a bit of time to make sure we can get other sources of oil into our country."

Kukies said Germany wanted to ensure that a refinery in Schwedt, northeastern Germany, operated by Russian state oil company Rosneft could be supplied with non-Russian oil brought by tankers to Rostock on the Baltic Sea. He told the Financial Times that to allow this, the port of Rostock would have to be deepened and work done on the pipeline linking it to Schwedt.

Some EU countries have proposed opting for a cap on the price they are willing to pay for Russian oil. However, it would still leave them forced to pay higher prices for supplies from elsewhere.


May 1 2022 - 17:12

Civilians flee Azovstal bunkers in evacuation led by UN

Civilians were evacuated on Sunday from the bunkers of Mariupol's Azovstal steel works after the United Nations and the International Red Cross led a deal to ease the ordeal of the most destructive siege of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The siege of Mariupol, in which Russian forces have pummelled the port city for nearly two months, has turned into a wasteland with an unknown death toll and thousands trying to survive without water, sanitation or food. The city is under Russian control but some fighters and civilians sheltered underground in the Azovstal works, a vast Soviet-era plant founded under Josef Stalin and designed with a labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels to withstand attack.

After a Reuters photographer on Sunday saw dozens of civilians arriving at a temporary accommodation centre, the United Nations confirmed what it called a safe passage operation to evacuate people from the steel works had been underway from Saturday.

Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol stand with a dog next to a bus guarded by service members of pro-Russian troops near a temporary accommodation centre during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region on May 1 2022.
Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol stand with a dog next to a bus guarded by service members of pro-Russian troops near a temporary accommodation centre during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region on May 1 2022.
Image: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

"UN confirms that a safe passage operation is ongoing in Azovstal steel plant, in coordination with the ICRC and the parties to the conflict," UN spokesperson Saviano Abreu said. "At this point, and as the operations are under way, we will not share further details, as it could jeopardise the safety of the civilians and the convoy."

The Reuters photographer saw civilians arriving in the village of Bezimenne in the Russian-backed Donetsk Region, around 30 km east of Mariupol, where they were receiving refreshments and care after weeks of suffering.

Young children were among those evacuated from the plant, where people cowered underground, huddling together under blankets in the plant's bunkers and tunnels as the shelling tore their city apart.


May 1 2022 - 14:00

Pope says Mariupol 'barbarously bombarded', implicitly criticising Russia

Pope Francis on Sunday described the war in Ukraine as a "macabre regression of humanity" that makes him "suffer and cry", calling for humanitarian corridors to evacuate people trapped in the Mariupol steelworks.

Speaking to thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his noon blessing, Francis again implicitly criticised Russia.

In Roman Catholicism, the month of May is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Francis asked for month-long prayers for peace in Ukraine.

"My thoughts go immediately to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city of Mary, barbarously bombarded and destroyed," he said of the mostly Russian-controlled southeastern port city, which is named after Mary.

"I suffer and cry thinking of the suffering of the Ukrainian population, in particular the weakest, the elderly, the children," he said. 


May 1 2022 - 13:30

WATCH | Civilians reportedly leave steel plant in Mariupol

May 1 2022 - 13:00

Russia should expropriate West's assets over 'theft' of Russian money - lawmaker

Russia should confiscate property owned by Westerners in response to a proposal by U.S. President Joe Biden to transfer the frozen assets of Russia's elite to Ukraine, Russia's most senior lawmaker said on Sunday.

Biden on Thursday stepped up support for Ukraine, asking Congress for $33 billion to help Kyiv, and to allow the U.S. state to seize more assets owned by Russian oligarchs and give the proceeds to Ukraine.

Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said the sumptuous yachts and villas of Russia's oligarchs had not helped Russian development but that the West appeared to be engaged in simple "theft".

"It is right to take mirror measures towards businesses in Russia whose owners come from unfriendly countries where such measures were taken: confiscate these assets," Volodin, who often voices the Kremlin's views, wrote on his Telegram channel.

"The proceeds from the sale should be used for the development of our country," he said. "A dangerous precedent has been created: it should hit the 'States like a boomerang."


May 1 2022 - 12:00

Russia strikes US weapons at airfield near Odesa, defence ministry says

Russia's defence ministry said on Sunday it had struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries and destroyed a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odesa.

The ministry said it used high-precision Onyx missiles to strike the airfield, after Ukraine accused Russia of knocking out a newly-constructed runway at the main airport of Odesa.

Odesa regional governor Maksym Marchenko said Russia had used a Bastion missile, launched from Crimea.Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.

Russia's defence ministry also said its air defence systems had shot down two Ukrainian Su-24m bombers over the Kharkiv region overnight. 


May 1 2022 - 11:00

Russia says 46 civilians left area near Azovstal plant on Saturday

Two groups of civilians left the residential area around the Azovstal steel works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry said a total of 46 civilians had left the area and were provided with food and shelter.

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters and some civilians are believed to be holed up in the vast plant following the Russian siege of the port city.

Many efforts to arrange a ceasefire to allow residents to leave the city have broken down, with Moscow and Kyiv repeatedly blaming each other.


May 1 2022 - 10:30

WATCH | Moldova: Attacks in Transnistria raise fears of Ukraine war spreading

May 1 2022 - 10:00

Scholz defends Germany's caution on sending heavy arms to Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday rejected criticism that Germany was not showing leadership in western efforts to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to repel Russia's invasion, saying that he'd rather be cautious than make hasty decisions.

Scholz is under pressure at home and abroad to supply Ukraine with heavy arms such as tanks and howitzers and support an immediate EU embargo on Russian energy imports to strip President Vladimir Putin of hard currency that helps him finance the war.

"I take my decisions fast and in concert with our partners," Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview. "I find hasty actions and maverick German efforts questionable."

In a U-turn, Germany approved on April 26 the delivery of "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, a step backed by 55% of Germans who in an opinion poll said Europe's biggest economy should supply Ukraine with such arms.

However, the decision did not help reverse public perception of Scholz as being indecisive and lacking leadership. An opinion poll published in Bild am Sonntag showed that 54% were unsatisfied with Scholz's handling of the crisis. His approval rating fell to 32%, the poll showed.

Fearing Russia could broaden the war to countries other than Ukraine, some of Germany's partners in the NATO military alliance had expressed discontent with Scholz's initial hesitancy on arming Ukraine. Others like Poland are unhappy with Germany's opposition to an EU embargo on Russian gas imports.

The Greens and Free Democrats, junior coalition partners to Scholz's Social Democrats, are more keen on providing more military assistance to Ukraine.

Scholz has had to balance their demands with those of left-leaning members of his party who say delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine risks provoking a Russian military response in a third country and sparking a broader conflict.

Moscow calls its actions a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.


May 1 2022 - 09:30

WATCH | 'Russia missile strikes hit residential buildings in Kharkiv'

May 1 2022 - 09:00

Ukraine president says he met United States' Pelosi in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday said he had held a meeting with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv and shared a video of her visit.

"We believe that we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom ... Your fight is a fight for everyone. Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done," Pelosi said in a video shared by Zelenskyy on Twitter.


May 1 2022 - 08:30

Russia should respond symmetrically to asset freezes by 'unfriendly countries' - Duma chairman

Russia should respond symmetrically to the freezing of Russian assets by some "unfriendly countries," Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman on Russia's state Duma, the lower house of parliament, wrote in a social media post on Sunday.

"It is right to take mirror measures towards businesses in Russia whose owners come from unfriendly countries, where such measures were taken: confiscate these assets," Volodin wrote.


May 1 2022 - 08:00

Gas deliveries to Moldova in line with Gazprom's contract -head of Moldovagaz

Deliveries of natural gas to Moldova have continued in line with a contract with Russia's Gazprom , Vadim Ceban, the head of state energy firm Moldovagaz, said in a social media post on Sunday.


May 1 2022 - 07:30

IN PICTURES | Horror upon horror in Ukraine

May 1 2022 - 07:00

Russia says Ukraine shells its own civilians; some evacuations in Mariupol

Ukraine's shelling killed and injured its own civilians in the southern region of Kherson, Russia said on Sunday, after pounding southern and eastern areas with missile strikes, while some civilians got away from a steel plant in besieged Mariupol.

Moscow has turned its focus to Ukraine's south and east after failing to capture the capital Kyiv in a nine-week assault that has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee abroad.

Its forces have captured the town of Kherson, giving them a foothold just 100km (60 miles) north of Russian-annexed Crimea, and have mostly occupied Mariupol, the strategic eastern port city on the Azov Sea.

Russia's defence ministry accused Ukraine's forces of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery in the villages of Kyselivka and Shyroka Balka in the Kherson region, the Russian RIA news agency said on Sunday.

May 1 2022 - 06:40

Britain: Russia targeting SA politicians in disinformation campaign

The British Foreign Office said on Sunday Russia is using a troll factory to spread disinformation about the war in Ukraine on social media and target politicians across a number of countries including Britain and SA.

Britain cited UK-funded expert research, which it did not publish. It said the research exposed how the Kremlin's disinformation campaign was designed to manipulate international public opinion of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, boost support for it and recruit new sympathisers.

Moscow has denied past accusations by Western countries of disinformation campaigns, for example Washington's accusation that Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.

Britain said the research showed the troll factory was using Telegram to recruit and co-ordinate new supporters who then target the social media profiles of Kremlin critics, spamming them with comments in favour of President Vladimir Putin and his war.

Among their targets have been senior British ministers and other world leaders, Britain said, adding that traces of the operation had been detected across eight social media platforms including Telegram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok.

May 1 2022 - 06:00

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

• Russia carried out missile strikes across southern and eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said, and some women and children were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol after sheltering there for over a week.

• Russia accused Ukraine of killing its own civilians in shelling of the Kherson region. There was no immediate response from Ukraine to the report.

• Russia destroyed a new runway at Odesa's main airport. Zelenskyy vowed to rebuild it, saying, "Odesa will never forget Russia's behaviour towards it".

• Ukraine said Russian planes had continued to launch strikes on Mariupol, focussing on the Azovstal steelworks where troops and civilians are sheltering.

• Russian air defences prevented a Ukrainian aircraft from entering the Bryansk region, Russian news outlets reported citing the region's governor, adding that as a result shelling hit parts of an oil terminal and adjacent territory.Reuters could not immediately verify reports of battlefield developments.

• Biden praised journalists covering Ukraine at a time when "a poison is running through our democracy... with disinformation massively on the rise."

• Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the U.N. refugee agency, visited Lviv, meeting people displaced by the war.

• Russia believes the risks of nuclear war should be kept to a minimum and that any armed conflict between nuclear powers should be prevented, the TASS news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.


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