The world should be prepared for possibility Putin will use nuclear weapons, Ukraine’s president has warned.
Speaking to CNN, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Putin would be capable of deploying nuclear weapons because he does not value human life. Asked if he was worried, following warnings from the CIA, Zelenskiy said:
Not only me, I think all of the world, all the countries have to be worried, because you know that it can be not real information but it can be the truth. They could do it … they can … for them, lives of the people are nothing.
Ukraine has evacuated 2,864 people from conflict areas on Friday, its deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said. Reuters reports that the total includes 363 people who used their own modes of transport to escape from Mariupol.
She said on Telegram that the evacuees also included 370 people from Luhansk region in the east and 2,131 people from cities in Zaporizhzhia region.
Russia’s foreign ministry has ordered 18 European Union diplomats to leave the country, Reuters reports.
The news agency says the retaliatory move comes after the EU declared 19 Russian diplomats personae non gratae for “engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status” and ordered them to leave their host nation, Belgium.
Motuzyanyk has added that street battles are continuing in Mariupol, which Russian forces have still not managed to completely capture. He said active fighting is taking place around Mariupol’s Illich steel and ironworks, as well as in the port area.
It’s approaching 4pm in Ukraine. Here’s a summary of the latest developments:
Outgunned, outnumbered and surrounded by Russian forces, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants has become Mariupol’s redoubt.The factory is “an enormous space” in which the Russians “simply can’t find” Ukrainian forces, Oleh Zhdanov – a military analyst based in Kyiv – told Reuters.
The family of a British man allegedly captured by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine have described footage of him in captivity as “propaganda”. Images on Russian television appeared to show Aiden Aslin, 28, originally from Nottinghamshire, being led around in handcuffs with a cut on his forehead.
Sweden and Finland are deliberating Nato membership. Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s minister for European affairs, said: “The people of Finland seem to have already made up their mind”. She added the decision is “highly likely” but “not made yet” pending discussions in parliament.
The Moskva, a Russian flagship cruiser, has sunk after a Ukrainian missile strike. The ship had been leading a substantial Russian naval presence in the Black Sea, and is a significant naval loss that experts say is emblematic of the “shambolic Russian military campaign”.
Nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed for Friday. Those wanting to evacuate the cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk, Tokmak and Energodar to Zaporozhye are able to do by car, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, announced this morning on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia has warned missile strikes on Kyiv ‘will increase’, reports state-owned RIA news. It’s the latest line coming out of the Russian defence ministry, after powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv overnight. The Russians claim they have hit 13 military facilities in different areas and system shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter near Chernigov.
In besieged Mariupol – where Ukrainian forces are outgunned, outnumbered and surrounded by Russian forces – one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants has become the eastern city’s redoubt.
The Azovstal iron and steelworks lies in an industrial area covering more than 11 sq km (4.25 sq miles). It is held by the country’s leading metallurgical group, Metinvest, and controlled by Ukraine’s richest man; the billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.
The factory is “an enormous space” in which the Russians “simply can’t find” Ukrainian forces, Oleh Zhdanov – a military analyst based in Kyiv – told Reuters.
That’s why they [the Russians] started talking about trying a chemical attack, that’s the only way to smoke them out.
Ukraine has said it is checking unverified information that Russia may have used chemical weapons in Mariupol. Russia-backed separatists have denied using them.
British diplomats have been scrambling to work out what has happened to Aiden Aslin after it was claimed the UK national was captured by pro-Russian forces. Images purporting to show him in captivity emerged, which his family is calling “propaganda”.
PA Media reports that Aslin, who is from Newark in Nottinghamshire, has been fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol. Earlier this week, he and his unit were forced to surrender after they ran out of food and ammunition. His grandmother Pamela Hall has told PA Media:
It’s propaganda. He was due to get married this month, and they were talking about setting up a new home together, children — great-grandchildren in my case.
Here’s some more details from my colleague Josh Halliday:
They read like messages from one of the creepier dating apps, or else the sort of unwanted lechery with which many young women on social media are grimly familiar.
One man suggests sharing “a large bed, we could sleep together” and then letting “what we both want happen”. Another is keen to let the recipient know she is “so beautiful”, while a third immediately asks, “Are you single?”
But these aren’t just any old clumsy sexual overtures. These are messages left for women fleeing war-torn Ukraine, on a Facebook group seeking to match refugees with Britons offering sanctuary. The grotesque parody of shelter some men see fit to offer is a chance to flee the threat of rape by Russian soldiers, but only for somewhere you might want to barricade yourself into the spare bedroom at night.
An undercover reporter posing as a refugee found more than half the messages sent to her came from men living alone, some explicit about the strings attached to their offers. What kind of man, you may wonder, sees in a tragedy a sexual opportunity?
Finland’s Europe minister: ‘highly likely’ Finland will join Nato, application process should be ‘quick as possible’
Tytti Tuppurainen is Finland’s minister for European affairs, and she has been interviewed on Sky News in the UK about Finland’s prospect for joining Nato. Speaking from Helsinki, she said there was now a profound change in the relations between Russia and Finland, which saddens her. She told viewers:
The people of Finland seem to have already made up their mind and there is a huge majority for Nato membership of Finland.
Of course, that’s not all. We are a parliamentary democracy so we need to discuss this issue in our parliament. At this point I would say it is highly likely, but a decision is not yet made.
She described Russia’s actions as a “brutal” war in Ukraine and “a wake-up call to us all”. With regard to the hostile rhetoric coming out of Russia at the prospect of Finland and possibly Sweden joining Nato, she said:
Every country has the right to do its own security arrangements. So we have to be very, very careful in order not to limit our own room of manoeuvre because of outside factors. So, whatever Russia is saying, we of course are hearing that, but we are doing our own decisions based on our interests, and on our conditions, our consideration of the overall situation.
Map illustrating Nato membership in Europe over time
Questioned on how quickly Finland could achieve Nato membership, she said “the interim period between the membership application and becoming an actual member can become really nasty. So I think it’s in the best interest of us all that the application process is as quick as possible.”
On the prospect of future Russian expansion westwards, she said:
We’ve seen what Russia is able to do, what Vladimir Putin is able to do. He’s a ruthless dictator, and he wants to peal back the years of the former Soviet Russia, and we cannot allow that to happen. So we have to do what we need to do, as western countries, as defenders of liberal values and liberal democracy, and we have to act united, and we have to isolate Russia.
Our Emma Graham-Harrison points out that the Ukrainian defence minister is trolling Russia over the sinking of its flagship Moskva — boasting of his plans for a scuba diving trip to its wreckage. Oleksii Reznikov tweeted:
A “flagship” Russian warship is a worthy diving site. We have one more diving spot in the Black Sea now. Will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war. BTW, I already have 300 scuba dives.
Russia warns missile strikes on Kyiv ‘will increase’ after powerful explosions heard overnight
There have been some new lines coming out of the Russian defence ministry which are being reported by the state-owned RIA news agency, after powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv overnight.
The ministry has said it will respond to the actions of Ukrainian forces within Russian territory with an increase in attacks on Kyiv. A spokesperson said:
The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any attacks of a terrorist nature or sabotage on Russian territory.
The Russians claim they have hit 13 military facilities in different areas overnight, and that Russia’s S-400 air defence system shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter near Chernigov. According to Russia’s military, it was a helicopter which carried out an attack yesterday on the village of Klimovo, in Russia’s Bryansk region.
The ministry of defence spokesperson Igor Konashenkov also said that “a group of Russian troops and units of the People’s Militia of the Donetsk Republic completely liberated the Illich Iron and Steel Works from Ukrainian nationalists”.
RIA reports that most of Mariupol has already been brought under control, but clashes continue mainly in the area of the Azovstal plant, where a significant part of the Azov nationalist regiment is continuing to show resistance.
The news agency is also reporting that at least two anti-missiles were fired at air targets over the city of Belgorod on Friday morning. The Russian city is to the north-east of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. There has been no official confirmation of the action, which RIA says was witnessed by its correspondent in the region.
The Guardian has not independently verified any of the claims from the Russian defence ministry or the RIA news agency.
Spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Lucile Marbeau has been interviewed on Sky News in the UK. Speaking from Dnipro, she said:
The concerns right now is for ICRC to be the close to the people next to the frontline. Currently we have teams in the east working 24 hours to be able to support those who remain in places where there’s ongoing hostilities.
So if you take the city of Donetsk, colleagues are going there on a daily basis in order to evacuate civilians there. Usually those who stay are the most vulnerable. We see it’s elderly people, it’s people who don’t have any money, who don’t know if they leave where to go.
Of those who have fled, she said the ICRC is supporting them with basics like food, but also financial assistance.
On the prospect of a further offensive by Russia in the east of Ukraine, she told viewers:
This is a huge concern for us, because many civilians have already fled these areas. Those who remain behind are the most vulnerable. They need protection. And they, of course, are protected by international humanitarian law. But we need to be able also to assist them.
There’s war-wounded who need specific treatment, but when you’re frontline the basics come to lack. There’s going to be a lack of things as simple as aspirin, antibiotics, in order really to be able to treat not very serious infections. But when already people are weak because they’ve been staying weeks in a shelter, they’re elderly, they’re not getting proper food, of course, these infections can become really serious.
With regard to security issues faced by the ICRC itself, she said:
Our duty is to stay and operate and be as close as possible to the civilians who need our support. Of course we need security guarantees for our staff, and the security guarantee for our staff is actually the security guarantee for the civilians we are assisting, whether we’re bringing to them directly humanitarian aid, or whether we are facilitating safe passage.
So this is our duty, this is our task, and of course we’re going to stay as long as possible in order to be able to just basically save lives and help people.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has praised his people’s bravery and resolve on the 50th day of war, calling Russia’s invasion “absurd” and “suicidal” in his latest national address. “We have withstood 50 days already. Fifty days of Russian invasion, although the occupiers gave us a maximum of five,” he said.
The Russian flagship cruiser Moskva has sunk in the Black Sea off southern Ukraine, according to Russia’s defence ministry. Ukraine claims it was was hit by Ukrainian weaponry – the Neptune cruise missile, which Ukraine builds itself. Russia maintains that a fire onboard and then “stormy sea conditions” while it was being towed to port were to blame. Russia only has three of this flagship-class of warship, which have crews of almost 500 sailors, and the loss of the Moskva is a big blow. The former CIA director David Petraeus described Russia’s admission as a “rare moment of truth … I’m surprised that they admitted it,” he told the BBC.
Moskva served a “key role as command vessel and air defence node”, theUK’s Ministry of Defence said.
Vladimir Putin may resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in light of military setbacks in the invasion of Ukraine, the CIA director, William Burns, has said. During a speech in Atlanta, Burns said: “Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership … none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.” The Kremlin placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February.
A total of 6,673 alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine are under investigation, Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office has said. 198 children have been confirmed to have been killed, the office added.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia. In a statement, the ministry said Russia had “engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation”.
France is planning to return its embassy to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. It had moved to the western city of Lviv in March as Russia invaded. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has urged allies to resume their normal diplomatic presence in Ukraine.
Zelenskiy further urged European countries to give up Russian oil that provides “blood” money to Moscow, and appealed for more weapons to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion.
Nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed for Friday, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, has announced. A total of 2,557 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, Vereshchuk confirmed, with 289 of those from Mariupol. The head of the UN World Food Programme, meanwhile, said people were being “starved to death” in the besieged city.
Armenia has begun making payments for Russian gas in roubles, minister of economy Vagan Kerobyan told RBC. “We need to move towards national currencies … As far as I know, the last few payments were in roubles, but at the appropriate rate,” RIA cited Kerobyan as saying.
A Russian legislator and two aides pushed a covert propaganda campaign aimed at winning US government support for Russia’s foreign policy agenda, including moves against Ukraine, according to a Justice Department indictment seen by the Associated Press.
French president Emmanuel Macron has pledged to deliver 24 fire trucks and ambulances as well as 50 tons of emergency equipment to Ukraine.
For a more detailed summary, please see our previous update.