As Russia has stepped up its attack in eastern Ukraine, where open terrain favors artillery combat, the United States is pledging more military aid to help Ukrainian troops.
President Joe Biden announced an additional $150 million in aid, including 25,000 155mm artillery shells, counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment and spare parts.
But he said the latest round of aid had “almost exhausted” the amount Congress approved for Ukraine, and called for an additional $33 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid.
“We will continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons that its forces use effectively to defend their country and the freedom of their citizens,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Ukrainian forces brace for a potential increase in Russian attacks over the weekend as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
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►The UN has called for the reopening of the ports of Odessa so that food produced in Ukraine can help meet shortages in countries that depend on grain imports. “Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation,” said World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley.
►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.
►Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister said Friday that 41 other Ukrainians were freed that day in a prisoner swap with Russia. Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram that the 41 people who were fired include 28 military personnel and 13 civilians.
Governor reports new shelling in Kharkiv Oblast
Further shelling hit the region of Kharkiv Oblast, the northeastern part of Ukraine that borders Russia, the region’s governor said.
Oleh Sinegubov said Saturday morning in a Telegram message that there had been three bombings in the past 24 hours, including one that hit the roof of a museum dedicated to the works of Hryhoriy Skovoroda, a Cossack philosopher born there. is 300 years old.
“Occupiers can destroy the museum where Hryhoriy Skovoroda worked the last years of his life and where he was buried,” Sinegubov said. “But they will not destroy our memory and our values!”
The philosopher’s most valuable exhibits had been moved to a safe place ahead of time, but the bombardment injured a 35-year-old man who was guarding the premises, the governor said.
First Lady Jill Biden visits a Romanian school welcoming Ukrainian children
First Lady Jill Biden visited a Romanian school on Saturday morning where Ukrainian children who fled the war with their families are trying to continue their education. Biden is in the region to learn more about the refugee crisis caused by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Romania is the second largest destination for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, and more than 850,000 people have passed through the country, according to the United Nations. Many move to other countries after reaching Romania.
Biden asked how teachers are preparing to handle the trauma children are facing, according to a report from a reporters’ pool traveling with the first lady. School officials said they needed more counselors and provided trauma training to teachers.
“The Romanian people are amazing to welcome all of these refugees into their homes and provide them with food and clothing, shelter and give them their hearts,” Biden told the headteachers.
Biden also met with students, who traced their handprints on images of the Ukrainian and Romanian flags.
Nearly 7,000 civilians killed or injured
Nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the start of the war in Ukraine in February, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The office recorded 6,802 civilian casualties, including 3,309 killed and 3,493 injured as of midnight local time Thursday. The bureau said the actual numbers are “significantly higher” due to late reporting.
“Most of the recorded civilian casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide area of impact, including bombardments from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and air and missile strikes” , the United Nations said in a press release.
Another stranded super yacht, this time in Italy
Italian officials decided on Friday to stop a mega-yacht from leaving a Tuscan port after an investigation found it was linked to “prominent elements of the Russian government”.
Some reports suggest the newly stranded yacht – called Scheherazade – belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Italy to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and officials – and he specifically cited Scheherazade.
It was feared that the 459ft-long yacht, which was in dry dock in the port of Marina di Carrara, was preparing to leave Italian waters soon. Based on the Italian investigation, Minister Daniele Franco issued a “freezing decree” regarding the yacht, which flies the Cayman Islands flag and which had “long been under the attention of the authorities”, the statement said.
One of Russia’s advanced tanks destroyed in battle, UK says
At least one of Russia’s most advanced tanks – the T-90M – was destroyed in the fighting, according to an assessment released Saturday by the UK’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
The British assessment does not specify when or how the tank was destroyed. About 100 of these tanks are in service with the most advanced units in Russia, including those fighting in Ukraine, the May 7 statement from the British Ministry of Defense said.
Russia prepares for Victory Day parade
Russia on Saturday held a dress rehearsal for the military parade commemorating Victory Day on May 9, when the country marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the VE Day holiday to make an announcement about the war in Ukraine, either declaring victory or escalating the conflict.
In Moscow on Saturday, an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile ripped through Red Square as part of the rehearsal, with warplanes and helicopters flying overhead, troops marching in formation and self-propelled artillery vehicles rumbling.
50 more evacuated from steelworks
Another evacuation mission on Friday brought 50 more civilians out of the Azovstal steelworks, the last Ukrainian dam in the otherwise Russian-controlled city of Mariupol. Officials said the effort will continue on Saturday.
Russian troops intensified their shelling of the factory. While Ukrainian troops and potentially hundreds of other civilians remain locked in the factory’s underground bunkers, Russian forces have entered the factory compound in recent days.
The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have so far managed two evacuations, but many other civilians have remained behind. Some who left the factory chose to stay in Mariupol to search for loved ones, while others, including elderly people, were physically unable to leave the bunkers.
Teenager killed trying to evacuate animals from zoo
A 15-year-old boy was reportedly killed while trying to help evacuate animals from a zoo in the besieged city of Kharkiv.
The Feldman Ecopark said in a Facebook post that two other employees were injured in the artillery fire, and said the boy was the sixth employee or volunteer killed since the invasion of Russia.
“He helped his parents feed and evacuate the animals. The hero’s blessed memory will always remain in our hearts,” the zoo said in a statement.
Last month, two employees who had stayed in Ukraine to help feed the animals were found shot dead, the zoo also said.
The zoo has come under heavy shelling, requiring the evacuation of large and rare animals since Russia moved into Kharkiv, according to United Press International. Hundreds of animals were killed.
UN Security Council issues first statement on ‘dispute’ and avoids Russian veto
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted its first statement since Russia began military action on February 24, expressing “strong support” for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
The brief statement adopted at a brief meeting on Friday does not mention a “war”, a “conflict” or an “invasion” as many Council members call Russia’s ongoing military action, or a “military operation special” as Moscow calls it. Russia, which holds the right of veto in the Council, has blocked all previous attempts to adopt a declaration or a resolution.
Instead, the statement “expresses its deep concern for the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine” and “recalls that all Member States are committed under the Charter of the United Nations to the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means”.
Contribute: The Associated Press