All women and children evacuated from Mariupol as Russia prepares for VE Day

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MUKACHEVO, Ukraine – All women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in Mariupol, officials said on Saturday, concluding a chapter in a harrowing drama where thousands of civilians had been trapped for weeks in the midst of an intense Russian assault. .

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post that “this part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over.” Ukrainian fighters are still holed up in the sprawling compound, and a regional police chief told the Washington Post that three people were killed during the civilian evacuation on Friday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that diplomatic efforts were underway to try to free the remaining fighters as well as medics and wounded, although he recognized that such a step “is extremely difficult”.

He said 300 women and children had been rescued from the factory and authorities would seek to provide humanitarian corridors for civilians trapped in other sections of Mariupol.

Surrounded by Russians, the commander describes life inside the Mariupol plant

The decimation of Mariupol has come to symbolize the worst of the tragedy inflicted on the Ukrainian people during the Russian occupation which began in February. The Azovstal steel plant, however, has come to represent Ukrainians’ determination to keep their last foothold in the port city on the country’s southern shore along the Sea of ​​Azov.

While most residents had fled, countless families remained sheltered under the complex of several buildings and a maze of tunnels. Previous escapees have described how they lived for more than a month without sunshine as fear took hold and food dwindled.

Ukrainian governor says Mariupol ‘has been wiped off the face of the earth’

Russia still aims to capture the factory – the last piece of Mariupol under Ukrainian forces. Control of Mariupol would allow Russia to establish a land bridge with annexed Crimea.

Fighting continued in the eastern region of Ukraine over the weekend, with Ukrainians accusing Russian forces of blowing up three bridges northeast of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, to prevent counter attacks. In the south, Russian forces launched cruise missiles at the Black Sea port of Odessa, hitting a civilian target, according to the Ukrainian military.

Russian forces also shelled a school in the eastern Luhansk region, trapping dozens of people in the rubble, the region’s governor said. Healthcare facilities in Ukraine have suffered more than 200 attacks since the start of the war, World Health Organization officials have said, calling the assaults a war crime.

As the war in Ukraine rages on, Western leaders continue to offer support to Ukraine as they step up efforts to pressure Russia to withdraw from its positions.

Zelensky is due to take part in a virtual meeting Sunday with President Biden and the leaders of the Group of Seven countries to discuss developments in Ukraine and the possibility of additional sanctions imposed on Russia.

How a Mariupol steel plant became an obstacle to the city’s resistance

First Lady Jill Biden, on a four-day trip to Eastern Europe, was in Romania on Saturday where she met Ukrainian mothers and children who fled their homes, embarking on harrowing journeys to recover. escape safely. Their stories seemed to leave Biden on the verge of tears. She expressed concern that the refugee crisis “keeps going on”.

Biden and Carmen Iohannis, Romania’s first lady, visited a school in Bucharest, the country’s capital, where they met children who were working on art projects. Mila, a 7-year-old child from Kyiv, wrote a post about her project that her teacher translated as “I want to go back to my father.”

A 5-year-old child could not write but was drawing pictures that her teacher said conveyed this message: “I want to go to Odessa as soon as possible. It is my wish.

A mother, who had been a teacher in Ukraine, fled to Romania with her 3-year-old child in March as shelling ravaged their town. She said the Romanians had been “wonderful” in offering assistance to the refugees, a kindness “that you don’t expect from people”.

Russia’s Victory Day is Monday, and officials fear President Vladimir Putin is using the holiday as a reason to increase the pace of bombing and possibly officially declare “war” on Ukraine. The Kremlin has avoided using the term to describe the ongoing conflict, which has so far failed to bring Russia the regional victories that many hoped it would soon achieve.

Victory Day honors the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany. Putin has repeatedly repeated false claims that Ukraine promotes neo-Nazism and that Zelensky, who is Jewish, is a Nazi sympathizer.

What Victory Day Means in Russia

Comparing Ukraine to Nazi Germany has been a feature of Putin’s propaganda campaign in Russia, where criticism of the war is illegal and a crackdown on communications has left Russians with virtually no knowledge of the conflict outside of what is published by the official media.

In Moscow, there was a rehearsal in Red Square for Victory Day on Saturday ahead of a celebration that is expected to be a chance for the Russian military to show off its wartime prowess. The Russian Defense Ministry said 11,000 soldiers and 131 pieces of military equipment will take part in a Victory Day parade on Monday.

Ukrainian officials fear VE Day will mean an escalation in attacks as citizens have been reminded to heed air raid siren warnings and observe local curfews.

A race against time in Ukraine as Russia advances, the West sends weapons

CIA Director William J. Burns, speaking at the Financial Times Weekend Festival in Washington on Saturday, said Putin “is in a state of mind in which he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose; the stakes are therefore quite high in this phase.

“I think he’s confident right now that doubling again will allow him to progress,” Burns added.

Burns also noted that the “bitter” first two to three months of the conflict surprised Communist Chinese officials, who may now be recalculating their approach to Taiwan. The threat of military conflict had long loomed as China sought to control Taiwan, which it considers a separatist province.

In his speech, Burns did not address U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine, but the topic has recently become a sore point for the Biden administration. A missile strike by Ukrainian forces that sank Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea may not have been possible without US assistance, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The Pentagon has acknowledged providing “battlefield intelligence” to help Ukrainians defend their country, but not specific targets.

Russia’s top lawmaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, accused the United States of “directly participating in military actions” against Russia by providing intelligence to Ukraine and added that the United States should be “held accountable.” “Ukrainian actions against Russia.

Russia has shown signs of recovery after what has been an underdog campaign of relentless blows by Ukraine, sending troop reinforcements and rearmaments to the eastern region as Western allies of Ukraine are struggling to send artillery and ammunition to its army.

Experts have said that the Ukrainian army, assisted by able-bodied male citizens and volunteers, has a chance of defeating its invader if it is sufficiently supplied.

Jacobs reported from New York, Bella from Washington and Pager from Bucharest. Adela Suliman and Catherine Belton in London; Andrew Jeong in Seoul; Liz Sly in Riga, Latvia; Louisa Loveluck in Dnipro, Ukraine; and Meryl Kornfeld, Shane Harris, and Maria Iati in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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