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Russia-Ukraine war: civilians escape from besieged Azovstal steel works; Nancy Pelosi promises US support ‘until fight is done’ – live | Ukraine

Civilians escape from Azovstal steel works in besieged city of Mariupol

The first civilians who have been sheltering underneath a steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol have left for the first time in weeks.

A group of civilians and soldiers have been taking shelter in the Azovstal works since mid-April. Late on Saturday a fighter who was taking cover inside said about 20 women and children had managed to get out.

“We are getting civilians out of the rubble with ropes – it’s the elderly, women and children,” Sviatoslav Palamar told Reuters.

The United Nations had been looking to broker an evacuation deal to free those still trapped. Details on how are still there differ. The number is thought to be about 1,000 but Russian officials have said it could be double that figure. Reports said Russian and Ukrainian forces were respecting a local ceasefire.

In April as Russian forces looked to complete their capture of the port city, its president Vladimir Putin said that his troops to seal off the stronghold “so that not even a fly comes through”.

Summary of events

  • US speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, has made a surprise visit to Ukraine. She met with Ukraine president Zelenskiy in Kyiv, telling him the US was committed to “be here” for Ukraine until the fight was done.
  • Zelenskiy says Ukrainian forces have destroyed about 1,000 Russian tanks, 2,500 armoured vehicles, and almost 200 aircraft.
  • 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 foreign politicians.
  • Moscow has accused Ukraine of shelling civilians in Kherson.
  • Twenty wounded civilians were able to evacuate from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, and are likely on their way to Zaporizhzhia. This comes as satellite images released today showed that nearly all the buildings of the steel plant had been destroyed.
  • Ukraine carried out a prisoner exchange with Russia, with seven soldiers and seven civilians coming home. One of the soldiers was a woman who is five months pregnant.
  • A Russian missile strike on Odesa airport has damaged the runway, rendering it unusable, but there were no casualties from the attack.
  • Currently, Lyman, a city of about 20,000 in the Donetsk region, is on fire from a Russian attack.
  • Angelina Jolie visited Lviv today to meet children and others affected by the war.
  • The Russian military has killed twice as many Mariupol residents in these two months of war as Nazi Germany did in its two years occupying the city during World War II.
  • Boris Johnson has promised to provide additional military aid.

I’ll now hand over this blog to my colleagues in the UK.

Emma Graham-Harrison

Emma Graham-Harrison

The UK ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, who has moved back to Kyiv despite Russian threats against diplomats based there, said it was “overwhelming” to be back in a city that she once feared she might not see again.

“I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to Kyiv, so coming back is an extraordinary thing,” she said in her first interview from the capital since evacuating the embassy in February. “It absolutely feels like the right place to be.”

Simmons drove into the city from western Ukraine late on Friday, a journey along a highway battered by some of the most brutal Russian assaults. The charred remnants of destroyed buildings that line miles of highway are testament to the intensity of the fighting.

“It’s helpful to drive because you get a real sense of what was going on … and it’s truly shocking. But what is equally extraordinary is to see how Ukraine kept Russia out of Kyiv. Every way in which Ukraine has been able to do that is a thing to to celebrate and to treasure.”

Read more of Emma Graham-Harrison’s interview with Simmons here:

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, Reuters has reported.

“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.

There are clear signs Russia intends to “exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term”, the latest briefing from the UK ministry of defence has said.

Since seizing the southern city of Kherson in early March, Russia has sought to legitimise its control of the city and surrounding areas through installing a pro-Russian administration.

Recent statements from this administration include declaring a return to Ukrainian control “impossible” and announcing a four-month currency transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the Russian rouble. The Russian rouble is due to be used in Kherson from today.

These statements are likely indicative of Russian intent to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term.

Enduring control over Kherson and its transport links will increase Russia’s ability to sustain its advance to the north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control over Crimea.

Nancy Pelosi visits Kyiv

US speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, has visited president Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

In video just published by the Ukrainian president, Pelosi arrived with a delegation of US representatives.

In the short video Pelosi tells him: “We believe we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom…Your fight is a fight for everyone. So our commitment is to be here for you until the fight is done.”

Alongside the video, Zelenskiy posted: Meeting with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv. The United States is a leader in Ukraine’s strong support in the fight against Russian aggression. Thank you for helping to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state!

Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy has just published video of Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv.
“We believe we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom,” she said. “Your fight is a fight for everyone. Our commitment is to bet here for you until the fight is done.”

— Helen Davidson (@heldavidson) May 1, 2022

Nancy Pelosi and Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy meet in Kyiv.
Nancy Pelosi and Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy meet in Kyiv. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Yesterday Chinese state media published two interviews, with the foreign ministers of both Russia and Ukraine. It’s an interesting decision, and one they didn’t really push out on social media like they might usually with stories. China’s role in the conflict as a key “no limits” friend of Russia has been the subject of heated debate and discussion. It has put itself forward as a peacemaker but simultaneously refused to label Russia’s act as an invasion, and instead blamed the US and Nato for creating and escalating tensions.

Kuleba asked China to provide security guarantees for Kyiv, as well as from other permanent members of the UN Security Council, Xinhua reported.

“We propose that China becomes one of the guarantors of Ukraine’s security, this is a sign of our respect and trust in the People’s Republic of China.”

China in 2013 pledged to provide Ukraine with “security guarantees” if it is ever invaded or threatened with nuclear attack, but appeared evasive on the same issue in the wake of Russia’s attack, according to AFP’s report which also noted:

In response to a question about the guarantee last month, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman suggested that such “security assurances have clear limitations on the content and are triggered under specific conditions”, in reference to a similar United Nations security resolution on non-nuclear states.

Since the invasion Chinese state media has amplified Russian propaganda, refused to condemn the attack or call it an invasion, and avoided attributed Ukrainian civilian casualties to Russian forces. It’s interesting then, that in publishing the interview it did not censor strong criticisms by Kuleba.

“European countries panic because they cannot guarantee Russia will not invade them tomorrow,” he said according to a translation by Politico reporter, Stuart Lau. “If Russia is not stopped now, it will lead to more crises a few years later.”

Very interesting written interview with Ukraine’s FM Kuleba on China’s state news agency Xinhua.

Surely Xinhua asked questions in line with government wordings, but to publish Kuleba’s words verbatim — with lots of criticism of Russia — is fascinating.

Thread: pic.twitter.com/5Y0VdWiF59

— Stuart Lau (@StuartKLau) April 30, 2022

AFP notes Kuleba also accused Russia of having “compromised” Beijing’s signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, warning that the consequences of the global food security crisis would threaten China’s economy.

“We also believe that this war is not in China’s interests,” he was quoted as saying.

“The situation is not escalating because of Ukraine, we are exercising our right to defend ourselves,” he said, in an apparent rebuff of Chinese warnings against other states providing arms to Kyiv.

Summary of recent developments

  • Ukraine president Zelenskiy says Ukrainian forces have destroyed about 1,000 Russian tanks, 2,500 armoured vehicles, and almost 200 aircraft.
  • 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 foreign politicians.
  • Moscow has accused Ukraine of shelling civilians in Kherson.
  • Twenty wounded civilians were able to evacuate from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, and are likely on their way to Zaporizhzhia. This comes as satellite images released today showed that nearly all the buildings of the steel plant had been destroyed.
  • Ukraine carried out a prisoner exchange with Russia, with seven soldiers and seven civilians coming home. One of the soldiers was a woman who is five months pregnant.
  • A Russian missile strike on Odesa airport has damaged the runway, rendering it unusable, but there were no casualties from the attack.
  • Currently, Lyman, a city of about 20,000 in the Donetsk region, is on fire from a Russian attack.
  • Angelina Jolie visited Lviv today to meet children and others affected by the war.
  • The Russian military has killed twice as many Mariupol residents in these two months of war as Nazi Germany did in its two years occupying the city during World War II.
  • Boris Johnson has promised to provide additional military aid.

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