Russia-Ukraine war: what we know on day 68 of the invasion
Some of the first evacuees from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are due to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday morning, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. On Sunday around 100 civilians were evacuated from plant, the last redoubt for Ukrainian forces in the city. Zelenskiy said he hoped that “all the necessary conditions” would be met to allow the evacuation to continue on Monday.
US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has become the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since the outbreak of war, where she met president Zelenskiy. In a press conference afterwards, Pelosi said that the US would not be bullied. “If they are making threats, you cannot back down,” she said. Pelosi was presented with the order of Princess of Olga medal by Zelenskiy.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied that Russia is demanding the “surrender” of Zelenskiy as a condition for peace, or that Russia would attempt to claim victory in Ukraine by 9 May. “The pace of the operation in Ukraine depends, first of all, on the need to minimise any risks for the civilian population and Russian military personnel,” he told Italian broadcaster Mediaset.
Russia’s latest strikes, including on grain warehouses and residential neighbourhoods, “prove once again that the war against Ukraine is a war of extermination for the Russian army,” Zelenskiy has said in his nightly address on Sunday, asking, “What could be Russia’s strategic success in this war?” The “ruined lives of people and the burned or stolen property will give nothing to Russia.”
German chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to continue supporting Ukraine with money, aid and weapons, saying a pacifist approach to the war is “outdated.” His remarks to a May Day rally in Dusseldorf were an implicit rebuke to a group of intellectuals, lawyers and creatives who condemned Russia’s war of aggression in an open letter, but urged Scholz not to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz is reportedly set to travel to Kyiv on Monday.
Pope Francis described the war in Ukraine as a “macabre regression of humanity” that makes him “suffer and cry”, in a Sunday noon address in St Peter’s Square. “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 south-eastern port city, which is named after the Virgin Mary.
The governor of the north eastern city of Kharkiv urged people not to leave shelters on Sunday due to intense shelling. Posting on Telegram, Oleh Synyehubov said: “In connection with the intense shelling, we urge residents of the northern and eastern districts of Kharkiv, in particular Saltivka, not to leave the shelter during the day without urgency.”
Russia’s defence ministry has confirmed an attack on an airfield near Odesa on Saturday. It said its forces had destroyed a runway and hangar at an airfield, which contained weapons supplied by the US and EU.
A fire broke out on Sunday at a Russian defence ministry site in Belgorod, close to the border with Ukraine, the region’s governor said, injuring one person. “On the the borders of three municipalities – Borisov, Belgorod and the urban district of Yakovlevsky – a fire broke out at one of the defence ministry’s facilities,” the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on Telegram.
The European Union could phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year, under the latest set of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s war machine being discussed in Brussels. The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has said for weeks that the EU is working on sanctions targeting Russian oil, but the key question is how and when the commodity is phased out.
Russia’s online trolling operation is becoming increasingly decentralised and is gaining “incredible traction” on TikTok with disinformation aimed at sowing doubt over events in Ukraine, a US social media researcher has warned. Darren Linvill, professor at Clemson University, South Carolina, who has been studying the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA) troll farm operation since 2017, said it was succeeding in creating more authentic-seeming posts.