On Friday, Ukrainian officials warned of a potential offensive ahead of Russia’s VE Day on Monday.
The day marks the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Union in World War II, raising concerns about increased Russian military attacks over the weekend.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned in a social media post on Friday that there was a “high probability” of rocket fire across Ukraine in the coming days. There was no curfew plan but street patrols would be stepped up, Klitschko added. The mayor of Zaporizhzhia said there would be a curfew until Tuesday afternoon.
Officials from Ukraine’s National Security Council also warned of the possibility of additional shelling, urging residents not to ignore airstrike sirens in a Facebook post from the Council’s Counter Disinformation Center. national security and defense of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would be open to negotiations with Russia only if its army retreated to its pre-invasion position.
Zelenskyy made the comment during a meeting Friday at London’s Chatham House think tank. Ukrainian and Russian officials previously held peace talks during the war, but negotiations have largely stalled in recent weeks.
If the Russian army returns to its position from February 23, the day before the start of the invasion, “we can start talking normally,” Zelenskyy said.
USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM:Join our Russia-Ukraine War Channel to get updates straight to your phone
►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 .
►First lady Jill Biden will be in Romania on Friday to begin her solo trip to Europe. She plans to meet refugees on Sunday in a small Slovak village on the border with Ukraine.
►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.
►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.
Biden to meet with G7 leaders and Zelensky on further Russian sanctions
President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual meeting Sunday morning with G7 countries to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, including potential new sanctions against Russia, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
The meeting, chaired by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, will also include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It is scheduled a day before Russia’s “Victory Day”, a holiday the United States expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to use to falsely claim victory in his war in Ukraine.
“He expected to march through the streets of kyiv,” Psaki said of Putin. “That’s obviously not going to happen.”
Biden will also sign the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act on Monday, which will allow the United States to loan or lease military equipment to Ukraine.
White House: Reports of US Secret Service role in Russian ship sinking ‘inaccurate’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called recent reports that the United States provided “specific” intelligence to help Ukraine shoot down the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet a “misrepresentation of our role”.
“We have not provided Ukraine with specific information about the targeting of the Moskva,” Psaki said, referring to the vessel struck by Ukrainian forces last month. “We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out. We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine’s intention to target the vessel.
The New York Times, citing unnamed US officials, reported on Thursday that US intelligence services assisted in the sinking of the Moskva “as part of an ongoing classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time intelligence on the battleground in Ukraine”. Other outlets, including NBC News, have reported similar stories.
PSAKI said the United States was providing intelligence to help Ukraine understand the Russian threat in the Black Sea, but Ukraine had a “higher level of intelligence.”
“And so on this specific report, it’s just not an accurate description of how it happened,” Psaki said.
Civilians rescued from Mariupol steel plant
Nearly 500 additional civilians were evacuated Friday from the Azovstal steelworks in the besieged port city of Mariupol, said Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office.
The latest humanitarian operation comes as Russian troops have stepped up shelling in recent days, Ukrainian officials said. Asked about the siege on Friday, Zelenskyy said: “Mariupol will never fall. I’m not talking about heroism or anything… There’s nothing there to crumble. It’s already devastated.”
There are also concerns about Russia’s plans in Mariupol for VE Day on Monday, which marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II. The Kremlin declined to comment to CNN if plans were underway for a parade.
Russian politician in Kherson: Russia will be there “forever”
A senior leader of Russia’s political party affiliated with President Vladimir Putin said during an appearance in Ukraine on Friday: “Russia is here forever.”
Andrei Turchak, secretary of the General Council of United Russia, visited the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, occupied by Russia since March, and met with the chief administrator of the region, Volodymyr Saldo , Russian state news agency TASS reported.
“I want to repeat – Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about it. There will be no going back to the past,” Turchak said, according to TASS.
Russian forces steal grain from Ukraine, says UN official
An official with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Friday that there is “anecdotal evidence” that Russian troops were stealing grain from Ukraine.
The charge comes amid concerns about a growing food crisis due to the war.
About 700,000 tonnes of grain have gone missing in Ukraine, said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO’s Markets and Trade Division, on Friday.
“There is anecdotal evidence that Russian troops have destroyed storage capacity and are looting grain from available storage,” he said. “They also steal agricultural equipment.”
Ukraine repels Russian attacks in Donbass and launches counter-offensive in Kharkiv and Izyum
Ukrainian forces repelled at least 11 attacks in the Donbass region, destroying Russian tanks and vehicles in the process, the Ukrainian army general staff said in a statement on Friday.
Fighting continues in the region and Russian forces aim to take full control of Popasna and resume offensives in Lyman and Siversk, the Ukrainian military said.
However, Ukraine’s defense chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, on Thursday announced a planned counteroffensive to push back the Russians from Kharkiv and Izyum. Ukrainian troops have already pushed Russian forces east of Kharkiv in recent days.
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