Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Germany ‘ready’ to ban Russian oil – Al Jazeera English

Ukraine news from May 2: Economy minister says Berlin could back embargo, as EU energy ministers debate fresh sanctions.
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These were the updates on Monday, May 2:

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he hoped the US Senate would take up  Biden’s request for $33bn in emergency aid for Ukraine as soon as next week.
“It is my hope that a bipartisan agreement can be reached very soon and that the Senate can begin processing this aid package on the floor as early as next week,” the Democratic leader said in remarks opening the Senate.

Zelenskyy has said that Lavrov’s suggestion that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins showed that Moscow has forgotten, or never learned, the lessons of World War II.
“I have no words … No one has heard any denial or any justification from Moscow. All we have from there is silence … This means that the Russian leadership has forgotten all the lessons of World War II,” Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, said in his nightly video message.
“Or perhaps they have never learned those lessons.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said that comments by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a contentious interview on Italian television were false and “obscene”.
Draghi told reporters that Italy, unlike Russia, allowed freedom of expression, and had allowed Lavrov to give his views in Sunday’s interview “even when false and aberrant … the part on Hitler was obscene.”
Israel summoned the Russian ambassador after Lavrov said he believed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.

United States President Joe Biden would “love to visit Ukraine,” but there are no current plans for him to do so, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has said, after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a surprise visit to the country over the weekend.
Psaki said the White House would continue to assess the situation, and underscored the Biden administration’s objective to reopen the US embassy and have US diplomats on site.
“And I know the president would love to visit Ukraine, but no plans [are] in the works at this time,” she said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments suggesting that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.
“They are ridiculous and unacceptable,” Trudeau told reporters during a media availability in Windsor, Ontario. “What the Russian foreign minister just said is unbelievable.”

Russia is planning imminently to “annex” the two eastern regions of Ukraine battered by its invasion after failing to overthrow the Kyiv government, a senior US official has said.
“According to the most recent reports, we believe that Russia will try to annex the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ to Russia,” said Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
“The reports state that Russia plans to engineer referenda upon joining sometime in mid-May,” he told reporters in Washington.

A teenage boy has been killed in a Russian strike on Odesa, the city’s council has said on social media.
“As a result of a missile strike in Odesa, a residential building which had five people in it at the time of the attack was damaged. A 15-year-old boy died,” Odesa city council said on Telegram.
A girl was hospitalised, it said, but gave no details on the other three people in the building.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected criticism that he has been too hesitant to support Ukraine since Russia began attacking its neighbour.
“I have always decided quickly, together with everyone else, coordinated with the allies,” Scholz told broadcaster ZDF, adding that his strategy was set, namely that Germany acts “prudently and with a clear mind”.
Scholz emphasised that the financial and military assistance provided by Germany and other states had contributed to the successes of the Ukrainian army, which he said is “now able to hold out for so long against such an overpowering opponent”.

Moscow says Russian forces have shot down Ukrainian drones, after Ukrainian sources said earlier that Russian ships in the Black Sea had been destroyed using drones.
The Russian military said that three Ukrainian Bayraktar drones had been shot down over Snake Island. However, no information was provided by the Russian Defence Ministry concerning its own losses.
Earlier, Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said that two Russian Raptor boats were destroyed at dawn near the island, in a Facebook post, though an accompanying video could not be independently verified. He said that Bayraktar drones had been deployed.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has declined to answer when asked if he would sit at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit that Indonesia is hosting later this year.
“We will decide on that if the matter arises,” he said in an interview with ZDF public television. “It would be unwise to do anything else.”

Physical gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which brings gas from Russia via Poland to Germany, have stopped, data from the Gascade pipeline operator has shown.
Physical exit flows at the Mallnow metering point on the German border were at 13,218,713 kilowatt hours per hour (kWh) before it dropped to 0, the data showed.

The sanctions imposed on Russia will not be lifted until Moscow reaches a peace agreement with Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, adding that it was for Ukraine to decide what peace it wanted.
Interviewed on ZDF public television, Scholz said Putin had miscalculated if he had anticipated that he might be able to gain territory from Ukraine, declare an end to hostilities and see Western countries drop sanctions.
“He didn’t think his entire Ukraine operation through,” Scholz said. “He didn’t think Ukraine would resist like that. He didn’t think we would support them to hold out for so long… We won’t withdraw the sanctions unless he reaches an agreement with Ukraine, and he won’t get that with a dictated peace.”

A Ukrainian fighter holed up in the city of Mariupol has said that up to 200 civilians remain trapped inside bunkers in the Azovstal steelworks after an evacuation operation led by the United Nations to save civilians from the site.
Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, 39, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, told Reuters that his fighters could hear the voices of people trapped in bunkers of the vast industrial complex.
He said that they were women, children and elderly people, but that the Ukrainian forces there did not have the mechanised equipment needed to dislodge the rubble.
“We were planning to tear up the bunkers, the entrance to which is blocked, but all night into Monday naval artillery and barrel artillery were firing. All day today aviation has been working, dropping bombs,” Palamar said by Zoom.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again appealed to Putin to end his war against Ukraine.
“Stop this war, stop the senseless killing, withdraw your troops from Ukraine,” he said after intergovernmental consultations between India and Germany in Berlin.
“We agree that borders must not be moved by force.”

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has disqualified Russia from the Women’s European Championship in July and from qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
UEFA said it has also banned Russia from bidding to host the men’s Euros in 2028 and 2032, while no Russian clubs will be allowed to compete in European competitions next season.
“Russia will have no affiliated clubs participating in UEFA club competitions in the 2022/23 season,” it said in a statement.

A rocket strike has hit the Black Sea port city of Odesa in southwestern Ukraine, causing deaths and injuries, local governor Maksym Marchenko has said on the Telegram messaging app.
Separately, Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the southern military command as saying that the strike had damaged a religious building.

Using Moscow’s proposed scheme for foreign companies to pay for gas by enabling Russia to convert their payments into roubles would breach European Union sanctions, the bloc’s energy policy chief has said.
“Paying roubles through the conversion mechanism managed by the Russian public authorities and a second dedicated account in Gazprombank is a violation of the sanctions and cannot be accepted,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told a news conference after a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.

The US believes that the Russian military’s Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, visited Ukraine’s Donbas region last week but cannot confirm media reports that he was wounded during fighting, a US defence official has said.
“We can confirm he was in the Donbas,” the senior US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Italy’s Ministry for Ecological Transition has denied a media report saying that Italy was open to paying for Russian gas with roubles.
In a report, Politico cited Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani as saying European energy companies should provisionally be allowed to comply with Russian demands to pay for gas in roubles.
In a note, the ministry said the article was “misleading” and did not correspond to the position expressed by Cingolani.
“While waiting for a common EU position on the payments position, the euro/roubles scheme envisaging that companies pay in euros at the moment does not seem to constitute a breach of the sanctions of Feb. 24,” the ministry said.

Sweden will on Wednesday reopen its embassy in Kyiv after it closed temporarily following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister says.
“Sweden will continue to #StandWithUkraine, and is delighted that @SwedeninUA ‘s diplomatic presence will be back where it belongs,” Ann Linde said on Twitter.
On Wednesday, the Swedish Embassy will re-open in #Kyiv. Thank you @TobiasThyberg & team for your hard work, and to 🇵🇱 for temporarily hosting us. Sweden will continue to #StandWithUkraine, and is delighted that @SwedeninUA‘s diplomatic presence will be back where it belongs 🇸🇪🇺🇦
— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) May 2, 2022

Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre has abruptly cancelled a series of shows this week by directors who have spoken out against the war in Ukraine.
The theatre gave no reason for dropping Timofey Kuliabin’s production of the opera Don Pasquale and Kirill Serebrennikov’s ballet Nureyev. Both directors are currently outside Russia.
Kuliabin has used his Instagram account to express solidarity with Ukraine and ridicule Russia’s description of its actions there. In one post, he showed a mocked-up version of the cover of Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, replacing the first word of the title with “Special Operation” – the term used by the Kremlin to describe the invasion.
Serebrennikov told France 24 in an interview last month that “it’s quite obvious that Russia started the war” and called the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) says it has identified nearly 900 Russian troops who committed alleged crimes against civilians in the Kyiv region during Moscow’s offensive.
“The Ukrainian special services have all the information about the occupiers, as well as evidence of their atrocities,” the SBU said in a Telegram post.
The agency said it had interviewed about 7,000 witnesses to the alleged atrocities and also exposed some “100 collaborators who helped the enemy in the Kyiv region”.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of killing hundreds of civilians in areas surrounding the country’s capital before they withdrew from the Kyiv region as Moscow shifted the focus of its attack to Ukraine’s east.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Hungary has moved its embassy in Ukraine back to Kyiv from Lviv as the security situation in the capital keeps improving, the country’s foreign minister has said.
In a Facebook video, Peter Szijjarto said the move was finished over the weekend and the embassy in Kyiv was already operating.

Ukraine’s defence ministry says the country’s troops have regained control of a number of villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
The areas recaptured included Ruska Lozova, from where Russian forces bombarded Ukraine’s second-largest city, the ministry said in a post on Telegram. It did not specify exactly how many villages had been retaken.
Last week, Ukrainian forces seized back several other villages and towns east and north of Kharkiv from Russian troops.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.
Kharkiv map

Germany’s economy and climate action minister has said his country is ready to support a ban on Russian oil but warned any such move must take into account the dependence of other European Union countries on Russian supplies.
“The German position is that we need to prepare the steps well and not lead to an uncontrollable economic situation,” Robert Habeck told reporters before an EU meeting on energy.
“Between consideration for countries’ dependence on Russia and the need to proceed in a united way there is a corridor that we need to discuss,” he added.
“Germany has taken great progress on coal and oil and is on course to do the same for gas. Other countries need a bit more time.”

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, has met Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, two days after becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine.
In a statement following the meeting in the Polish capital on Monday, Pelosi called Duda “a valued partner in supporting the people of Ukraine in the face of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war”.
Read more here.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says more than 3,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February.
Most of the 3,153 victims were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, such as missile strikes and air raids, it added, without attributing responsibility.
OHCHR said that the real toll was likely to be considerably higher, citing access difficulties and ongoing corroboration efforts.

In India, household diets are suffering as earnings fall, dented by inflation rates which have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine.
Read more here.

The United States’s embassy in Ukraine hopes to return to Kyiv by the end of May if conditions permit, its charge d’affaires has said.
“We listen to the security professionals, and when they tell us we can go back we will go back,” Kristina Kvien told a news briefing.
US diplomats departed the Kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before Russia launched its invasion, moving some functions to the western city of Lviv before eventually relocating to neighbouring Poland.
Some Western countries have already moved their embassies back to Kyiv as the main focus of fighting in Ukraine has moved away from the capital to the east and south of the country.
Mini map showing Kyiv's location within Ukraine

Ukrainians have begun voting online to rename five subway stations in Kyiv whose names are related to Russia or the former Soviet Union, an official says.
Among the new names suggested are “Heroes of Mariupol” and “Bucha”, Kyiv subway system head Viktor Braginsky said on Telegram.
A number of proposals not related to the war have also been put forward, including “Master Yoda”, the name of a Jedi guru in the famed Star Wars films franchise, and “Borscht”, after Ukraine’s iconic red-beet soup, Braginsky added.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

A Russian rocket strike has hit a strategically important bridge across the Dniester estuary in the Odesa region of southwest Ukraine, according to local authorities.
The bridge, which has already been hit twice by Russian forces, provides the only road and rail link on Ukrainian territory to a large southern section of the Odesa region.
Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the regional administration, reported the latest strike in a post on Telegram but gave no further details.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from near the town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, says Ukraine’s military believes Russia has shifted 800 soldiers to Popasna as “reinforcements” for its offensive in the Donbas.
“That contested town is east of here and is part of Russia’s campaign to try and surround the urban centres of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk,” he said.
“As for other fighting across the frontline … its towns like Lyman, Izyum and Barvinkove where Russia is trying to mount a big surge, according to the Ukrainian military.”
It was not immediately clear if the Russian troops had been moved from Mariupol, but Ukrainian officials said earlier on Monday that Moscow had shifted a battalion from the port city to Popasna.

Mariupol’s city council says buses seeking to evacuate more civilians have not yet reached an agreed collection point, contradicting an earlier report.
The city council urged the evacuees to remain in place. It was not immediately clear what had caused the delay.
Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol’s mayor, had earlier said the buses had left Mariupol. But he later put out a message that also confirmed the hitch in the planned evacuation.
The civilians awaiting evacuation are not from the Azovstal steelworks, the last stronghold of Ukrainian fighters resisting Russia’s siege. The UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCR) has organised convoys to get people out from the sprawling Soviet-era site.
A first group of evacuees from the site was due to arrive in Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian-held city northwest of Mariupol, on Monday morning after leaving the facility on Sunday.
Andryushchenko, the aide to Mariupol’s mayor, said Russian forces had resumed shelling the steelworks on Sunday as soon as the convoy of evacuees had left the plant.

Poland wants the EU to impose a clear cut-off date at which member states will have to stop importing Russian oil, the country’s climate minister says.
“We want this package (of sanctions) to include a very specific and clear date and requirement for all countries… that it should be a complete package without any gaps,” Anna Moskwa said, adding that she hoped an embargo could come into force before the end of the year.
Warsaw has repeatedly advocated tough measures against Russia, but with many EU countries heavily reliant on Moscow for their energy needs the bloc has appeared split on how sanctions should be enforced.
Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week after they refused to meet its demand to effectively pay in roubles.

Moscow’s offensive is expected to result in a huge decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey this year.
The projected downturn is a major cause of concern for Ankara, which is battling ongoing economic crises.
Read more here.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Turkey of having “double standards” by welcoming Russian tourists while attempting to act as an intermediary between Moscow and Kyiv in order to end the war.
“On the one hand, Turkey acts as an intermediary and supports Ukraine with important steps, but on the other hand, we also see a development of tourist routes, specifically for Russian tourism,” Zelenskyy told Greek television network ERT.
“These are double standards. This is unfair,” he said.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces says that a Russian battalion has been redeployed from Mariupol to the town of Popasna in the country’s eastern Luhansk region.
Popasna has been one of the epicenters of fighting in the east as the Russian military has sought to break through the Ukrainian defences there as part of its refocused offensive in the Donbas.
The Ukrainian General Staff also said that Russian forces were trying to press their attacks from Izyum to Slovyansk and Barvinkove.

Israel has denounced Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for suggesting that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots, and demanded an apology from Moscow.
Israel’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Russian ambassador for “a tough talk” over the comments, which Lavrov made on Sunday in an interview with Italian television.
Asked about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, Lavrov said that Russia’s neighbour could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including Zelenskyy, were Jewish.
“Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean anything,” he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.
Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid said Lavrov’s remarks were “unforgivable”.

A Ukrainian Bayraktar drone destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea on Monday, Ukraine’s military chief has said.
“Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi (Snake) Island,” Chief of General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote in a Telegram post.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow to the claim.

Russia’s defence ministry says that its armed forces have shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet near the city of Slovyansk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
The ministry said in a briefing that Russian troops had hit a total of 38 military targets throughout Ukraine overnight, including ammunition depots and control centres.
There was no immediate comment from Kyiv on the claims.

More than 5.5 million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The majority have left for neighbouring Poland, which has welcomed more than three million people bidding to escape Russia’s offensive.

New Zealand has added 170 Russian politicians to its sanctions list, as well as six defence companies and organisations which had contributed to Moscow’s offensive.
Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that the “full suite” of sanctions has now been placed on more than 400 Russian leaders, oligarchs and their family members.
These sanctions will prohibit those on the list from “carrying out activity in New Zealand, and prevent New Zealand from becoming a financial safe haven for those involved with Russia’s illegal activities in Ukraine”, Mahuta said in a statement.

Ukrainian prisoners of war taken to Russia were tortured with freezing temperatures, beaten and forced to sing “patriotic” Russian songs, Ukraine’s ombudswoman for human rights has said.
Lyudmila Denisova said on Telegram that some of the 14 Ukrainian POWs swapped on Friday had their limbs amputated because Russians forced them to wear water-filled boots for days in freezing temperatures.
She said the prisoners were thrown in jail in the western city of Kursk, where they were interrogated two or three times a day, beaten severely and denied medical help. She added that apart from the amputated limbs, some had severe wounds and sepsis on returning to Ukraine.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the claims, while Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

Shelling in Kharkiv has damaged 24 boiler houses and 36 heating stations, some of which will have to be rebuilt, the region’s press service has said.
“This year, preparations for the new heating season will be large-scale as, due to significant damage, a number will have to be rebuilt anew,” the press service said in a statement.

Intensive Russian shelling has killed three civilians in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, its governor has said.
The deaths occurred in the towns of Lysychansk, Popasna and Zolote, Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.
Haidai also said the Ukrainian-controlled part of Luhansk had witnessed 18 incidents of shelling on May 1 that “ruined” 28 buildings.

Two people have been killed and four injured as a result of shelling in the town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region, the regional military administration has said.
“The occupiers hit high-rise buildings … four people were taken to hospital, two more men died from shrapnel wounds,” the statement said.
The report also said Russian troops carried out assault operations in the area of ​​Huliaipole, while in the area of Polohy, Russian forces set up an ammunition depot in a local hospital and forbade staff to provide medical services to residents.

A grain warehouse has been destroyed by a missile attack in the Sinelnikovsky district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, the head of the regional military administration has said.
“No one was injured,” Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

At least 219 children have been killed in Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive and 405 others wounded, according to the office of the country’s prosecutor general.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

More than one quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups Russia committed at the start of the war in Ukraine are likely now ineffective for combat, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.
The ministry’s latest intelligence briefing said Russia’s initial commitment represented about 65 percent of its entire ground combat strength.
It added that the units to have suffered the highest level of attrition are some of Russia’s most elite and “will probably take years … to reconstitute”.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 02 May 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response:
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 2, 2022

United States’ First Lady Jill Biden will visit Romania and Slovakia from May 5 to 9 to meet US service members and embassy personnel, displaced Ukrainians, humanitarian aid workers and teachers, her office has said.
Biden’s visit is the latest show of support by top US representatives for Ukraine and neighbouring countries that are helping Ukrainian refugees.

Mariupol City Council has said the UN and Red Cross secured two extra areas from where civilians will be evacuated on Monday – the village of Manhush and Lunacharske Circle near Berdyansk.
The evacuation from Mariupol will now begin from 7am (04:00 GMT), the city council said in a Telegram post. Previously, the start was planned for 8am.

Three people have died and eight have been injured in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, its governor has said. Air raid sirens were activated several times overnight in the region.
“Stay as long as possible in shelters. Don’t go out on the streets without necessity,” Oleh Synyehubov wrote on Telegram.

Brussels Mayor Philippe Close has visited evacuated Ukrainians receiving hospital care in Lviv, according to the city’s mayor, Interfax reports.
Andriy Sadovyi said the hospital’s needs were recorded in the visit.
“We agreed on the necessary equipment and rehabilitation abroad. A short but important visit,” Sadovyi wrote on his Telegram channel.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have criticised Wimbledon’s decision to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from taking part in this year’s tournament.
“I think it’s very unfair of my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues … it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” Nadal said in Spain where he and Djokovic are preparing to play in the Madrid Open.
“I still stand by my position that I don’t support the [Wimbledon] decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right, but it is what it is,” Djokovic said.

Russian forces are gathering in the south of Ukraine to attack cities and communities in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Zelenskyy has said.
In his night-time address, he spoke of Russia’s attacks on Sunday, saying the war for Moscow’s troops was one of “extermination”.
“They targeted the warehouses of agricultural enterprises. The grain warehouse was destroyed. The warehouse with fertilizers was also shelled. They continued shelling of residential neighbourhoods in the Kharkiv region, Donbas, etc,” he said.

South Korea’s ambassador to Ukraine, Kim Hyung-tae, and other embassy staff have returned to Kyiv to restart operations, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korean embassy officials had evacuated from the capital and worked at a temporary office in the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi since March.
The ministry said it is considering the phased return of the remaining staff.

Dozens of civilians evacuated from the bunkers of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks arrived at a temporary accommodation centre in Donetsk on Sunday, the Reuters news agency has reported.
A Reuters photographer saw civilians arriving in the village of Bezimenne in an area of Donetsk under the control of Russia-backed separatists about 30km east of Mariupol.
They were reportedly receiving refreshments and care.
The operation to evacuate people from the steelworks had been under way since Friday led by the UN, and in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Energy ministers from European Union countries will hold emergency talks on Monday, as the bloc strives for a united response to Moscow’s demands. Moscow has said foreign gas buyers must deposit euros or dollars into an account at the privately-owned Russian bank Gazprombank, which would convert them into roubles.
The European Commission has told countries that complying with Russia’s scheme could breach EU sanctions, while also suggesting countries could make sanctions-compliant payments if they declare the payment complete once it has been made in euros and before its conversion into roubles.
Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week after they refused to pay through the scheme.

Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow will not base its actions in Ukraine on the deadline of Victory Day celebrated on May 9.
“Our troops won’t artificially base their activities on a specific date, including Victory Day,” Sergey Lavrov said in an interview on Italy’s Mediaset television channel, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
“We will solemnly celebrate May 9 the way we always do,” he added.
Some analysis, including from the UK’s defence ministry, has suggested Russia may escalate attacks in the lead up to its national May 9 celebrations to showcase successes in Ukraine.

Two explosions took place in the early hours of Monday in Belgorod, the southern Russian region bordering Ukraine, according to its governor.
“There were no casualties or damage,” Vyacheslav Gladkov said after several residents posted videos on social media in which blasts could be heard.
He added he wanted to “dispel apprehensions among inhabitants of the region that someone or something flew in from the territory of Ukraine”.
“That is not the case. Our military aviation was performing combat tasks as part of the special military operation,” Gladkov said, using the official term by which Russia refers to the war in Ukraine.

The standoff at the Azovstal steel plant saved many lives, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment has said.
“Because if we hadn’t done this, the front line would be much bigger. The front line would be in another area,” Sviastoslav Palamar told The Associated Press news agency.
Palamar also said while he hoped everyone would be evacuated from the plant, it had been difficult to reach some of the wounded.
“There’s rubble. We have no special equipment. It’s hard for soldiers to pick up slabs weighing tonnes only with their arms,” he said.

An explosive device damaged a railway bridge on Sunday in the Kursk region of Russia, which borders Ukraine, the region’s government reported in a Telegram post.
The explosion caused a partial collapse of the bridge near the village of Konopelka, on the Sudzha-Sosnovy Bor railway, the report from Kursk said.
“It was a sabotage, a criminal case has been opened,” said the region’s governor, Roman Starovoit, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. He said there were no casualties and no effect on the movement of trains.

Ukraine’s president says his government is planning to evacuate more civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol on Monday morning.
“I hope that tomorrow all the necessary conditions will be met to continue the evacuation of people from Mariupol. We plan to start at 8am,” he said in his night-time address.
“For the first time there were two days of real ceasefire on this territory. More than 100 civilians have already been evacuated – women and children first of all,” he said of those who left the Azovstal steel plant on the weekend.
“Given all the complexities of the process, the first evacuees will arrive in Zaporizhzhia tomorrow morning. Hopefully, this doesn’t fail. Our team will meet them there,” Zelenskyy added.

Ukrainian National Guard brigade commander Denys Shlega has said in a televised interview that shelling resumed at the Azovstal steel plant as soon as rescue crews ceased evacuating civilians.
Shlega said at least one more round of evacuations is needed to clear civilians from the plant.
Dozens of children remain in bunkers below the industrial facilities, as well as several hundred civilians, nearly 500 wounded soldiers and numerous dead bodies, he said.
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