All but about 2,000 Russian soldiers who were around Mariupol left and headed north, the Pentagon said Thursday, as intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued in the battle for the besieged city’s sprawling steelworks.
Russian airstrikes have shelled Mariupol, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday, but Putin’s forces have made only incremental progress in the eastern Donbass region, where the bulk of the Russian offensive has moved.
Nearly 500 additional civilians were also evacuated from the city’s steelworks in the latest humanitarian operation, said Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
The bombing of the Azovstal steel plant comes amid speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin will want to tout a major victory in Ukraine on May 9, Russia’s Victory Day. Monday will mark the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attack prevented the evacuation of civilians who remained in the plant’s underground bunkers.
“Imagine this hell! And there are children there,” Zelenskyy said Thursday night in his nightly video address. “Over two months of constant shelling, shelling, constant death.”
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►The European Union plans to add Alina Kabaeva, a woman romantically linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to its sanctions list, CNN and the Guardian reported .
►Germany will supply Ukraine with seven powerful self-propelled howitzers as the country steps up aid for heavy armaments, the German Defense Minister announced on Friday.
►Targeting data provided by the United States helped Ukrainian forces sink the Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last month, NBC News reported Thursday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
►A superyacht that US authorities say is owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician previously sanctioned for alleged money laundering, has been seized by law enforcement in Fiji, the Ministry of Justice.
►The Russian military fired 2,014 missiles at Ukraine and 2,682 flights of Russian warplanes were recorded in Ukrainian skies, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Hungarian Prime Minister Orban rejects EU ban on Russian oil
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday denounced the European Union’s proposed ban on Russian oil, comparing the move to dropping an “atomic bomb” on the Hungarian economy.
Orban said his country was ready to negotiate the latest round of economic sanctions against Russia, but an embargo on Russian oil could not be accepted.
Hungary is heavily dependent on Russia for its energy, with around 85% of gas and 60% of oil coming from Russia. Switching to other oil sources would be too burdensome for the Hungarian economy, Orban said.
“We cannot accept a proposal that ignores this circumstance because, in its current form, it amounts to an atomic bomb dropped on the Hungarian economy,” he added.
Former President George W. Bush talks to Zelenskyy
Former President George W. Bush said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, calling him “the Winston Churchill of our time.”
“I thanked the president for his leadership, example and commitment to freedom, and saluted the courage of the people of Ukraine,” Bush said in a Twitter post, which included photos of the two men. speaking via video link.
“President Zelensky assured me that they will not waver in their fight against Putin’s barbarism and brutality. Americans are inspired by their courage and resilience. We will continue to support Ukrainians as they defend their freedom.
Contribute: The Associated Press