women and children evacuated from Azovstal, fighting continues

Women, children and the elderly have all been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of resistance in the devastated city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian authorities fear that the Russian offensive may resume with renewed vigor as the celebrations in Moscow approach. Germany on May 9th.

Russian head of state Vladimir Putin, who thinks he cannot “afford to lose” in Ukraine, is “convinced that redoubling his efforts will allow him to progress,” estimated Bill Burns, director of the CIA’s US intelligence agency on Saturday.

There is, however, no “hard evidence” that Russia, which alerted its deterrent forces shortly after the start of its military intervention on February 24, is “preparing for the deployment or even the potential use of weapons. nuclear tactics “in this conflict, he stressed.

“The order of the president (Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky) has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal. This part of the humanitarian mission in Mariupol has been completed”, announced the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister. Iryna Vereschuk.

These operations, which have been taking place for a week under the aegis of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have allowed, according to Kiev, the escape of almost 500 people.

“We evacuated civilians from Azovstal,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his daily message on Saturday evening, citing the number of 300 exfiltrated people. “We are now preparing for the second phase (…): the injured and the medical staff”.

And, “of course, we are also working to evacuate our soldiers. All these heroes defending Mariupol,” he continued, without giving a figure. “It’s extremely difficult. But it’s very important.”

On Saturday, Ukraine asked Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to organize a mission to evacuate and treat soldiers holed up in steel mills.

Moscow announced on Wednesday a unilateral ceasefire for three days from Thursday morning to allow civilians who took refuge in the factory’s underground tunnels for several weeks to leave the steel site besieged and hammered by Russian forces.

But the Ukrainian authorities, especially the army general staff, claimed that the Russians had again attacked this factory during these three days. The defense ministry said Saturday that “the enemy was not stopping its offensive”, in particular by continuing to “block” the defenders of the Azovstal district.

Mariupol, a port city in the southeast that had nearly 500,000 inhabitants before the war, has been almost completely wiped off the map by two months of Russian bombing.

– Widespread bombing –

In southwestern Ukraine, airports in the Artsyz regions near Romania, Odessa – a major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea – and Voznessensk, north of Mykolaiv, have been targeted, the ministry of Russian defense.

In the north-east, the Russian army’s Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems “destroyed large quantities of weapons and military equipment delivered (to Ukraine) by the United States and other Western countries” to Krasnograd and Karlovka, not far from Kharkiv, ” has continued.

According to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, strikes were also reported on Saturday around Donetsk (east), where four people were killed and nine injured.

The Russians have achieved limited territorial gains in the past 24 hours around Severodonetsk, a major Ukrainian-held locality in Donbass, but this should not lead to complete encirclement, the American Institute of War Studies (ISW) noted.

So far Russia has been able to claim complete control of one of the main cities, Kherson.

In Kharkiv, the Ukrainian counter-offensive to put Ukraine’s second city out of reach of enemy artillery gained momentum, with the capture of several Russian positions, according to ISW.

“Ukrainian forces are regaining ground along a large arc around Kharkiv and are no longer focusing on a limited thrust, demonstrating an ability to launch offensive operations on a larger scale than has been done so far in this war,” explained this institute. .

So much so that the Russian army had to blow up three road bridges “to slow the counter-offensive” in this region, according to the Ukrainian defense ministry.

Mr. Zelensky indicated Saturday evening that the Russians had tried to destroy the museum dedicated to the philosopher and poet Grigori Skovoroda in the Kharkiv region with a missile.

– Cultural heritage destroyed –

“Every day in this war, the Russian army does something that leaves you speechless,” he said. “As of May 7, the Russian army has destroyed or damaged nearly 200 cultural heritage sites.”

“The invaders launched a missile attack on Odessa today, a city where almost every street is memorable, historic,” he lamented.

The Ukrainian navy claimed to have destroyed a hundred kilometers off the coast of Odessa precisely, not far from the tiny Snake Island, a Russian landing ship by means of a combat drone developed in Turkey.

Information not confirmed by Russia, which instead stated that it had sunk “the Ukrainian assault ship + Stanislav +”.

According to a report by the British Ministry of Defense, the conflict is causing “damage to the most combat-capable Russian units”.

Ukrainian authorities expect Russian attacks to intensify as 9 May approaches.

“The enemy is trying to finish off the Azovstal defenders, they are trying to do it before May 9 to make a gift to Vladimir Putin,” warned Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to the Ukrainian president.

On Saturday 9 May the Russian army carried out the last rehearsals for the traditional military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, in the presence of the soldiers who took part in the offensive in Ukraine.

On the sidelines of this war, authorities in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transdniestria in Moldova announced on Saturday that four explosions had occurred the night before in a village on the border with Ukraine, causing no casualties.

Fears that the conflict in Ukraine could extend into Transnistria have grown in recent weeks after a Russian general revealed that one of Russia’s goals was to establish a land corridor to the small territory.

– “Dizzying” violations –

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic on Saturday denounced the “dizzying” violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Russian army in Ukraine after a four-day visit to Kiev and its region .

There have been a total of “200 attacks on health facilities” since the outbreak of hostilities, lamented to the press in Kiev Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization.

On the western sanctions front, difficult negotiations are underway between the 27 member states of the European Union to reach an agreement this weekend on a project to stop imports of Russian oil, which Hungary has so far blocked.

Germany has announced that on Sunday the leaders of the great powers of the G7 will hold a virtual meeting dedicated to the war in Ukraine in which Zelensky will take part.

The conflict is also affecting Africa, which is facing an “unprecedented” crisis caused in particular by soaring food and fuel prices, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

And China is following the conflict “carefully” to likely learn from it in order to adjust its plans to take over Taiwan, the CIA director said.

burx-bds / elm / ob

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