Putin agrees 'in principle' to help evacuate civilians - UN

Putin may allow evacuation of Mariupol • Russia tells world not to underestimate the considerable risks of nuclear war • US promises military aid to Ukraine

 A view shows a torn flag of Ukraine hung on a wire in front an apartment building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
A view shows a torn flag of Ukraine hung on a wire in front an apartment building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Putin agrees with UN, ICRC "in principle"

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed "in principle" to U.N. and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Ukraine's Mariupol, the United Nations said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement after Putin met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow.

Russia warns of nuclear threat

Russia told the world not to underestimate the considerable risks of nuclear war that it said it wanted to reduce and warned that conventional Western weapons were legitimate targets in Ukraine, where battles raged in the east.

"The risks now are considerable," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's state television according to a transcript of an interview on the ministry's website.

"I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it."

Lavrov had been asked about the importance of avoiding World War Three and whether the current situation was comparable to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a low point in US-Soviet relations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov laugh as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021 (credit: SAUL LOEB/POOL VIA REUTERS)US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov laugh as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021 (credit: SAUL LOEB/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Russia had lost its "last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter after Lavrov's interview. "This only means Moscow senses defeat."

Promises of military aid for Ukraine

During a visit to Kyiv on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised more military aid for Ukraine.

The US State Department on Monday used an emergency declaration to approve the potential sale of $165 million worth of ammunition to Ukraine. The Pentagon said the package could include artillery ammunition for howitzers, tanks and grenade launchers.

The United States is due to host an expected gathering of more than 40 countries this week for Ukraine-related defense talks that will focus on arming Kyiv, US officials said.

Moscow's ambassador to Washington told the United States to halt shipments, warning Western weapons were inflaming the conflict.

"NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war," Lavrov said.

Britain said all tariffs on goods coming into the country from Ukraine under an existing free trade deal will be axed and it would send new ambulances, fire engines, medical supplies and funding for health experts to help the emergency services.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation has launched a hotline to consult on benefits for internally displaced and unemployed persons, according to the Ukrainian media source Ukrinform. 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine 

Russia's two-month-old invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced over 5 million people to flee abroad.

Moscow calls its actions a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West says this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression by President Vladimir Putin.

War rages on in south, east

Russia has yet to capture any of the biggest cities. Its forces were forced to pull back from the outskirts of Kyiv in the face of stiff resistance.

"It is obvious that every day - and especially today when the third month of our resistance has begun - that everyone in Ukraine is concerned with peace, about when it will all be over," President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Monday.

"There is no simple answer to that at this time."

Having failed to take the capital Kyiv, Moscow last week launched a massive assault in an attempt to capture eastern provinces known as the Donbas, which if successful would link territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014.

Humanitarian corridors remain closed on Tuesday

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said no humanitarian corridors were operating on Tuesday as there had been no break in the fighting in Ukraine. 

Casualties

Russia's defense ministry said its missiles destroyed six facilities powering the railways that were used to deliver foreign weapons to Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region. Reuters could not verify the report.

The head of Ukraine's state rail company said that one railway worker had been killed and four injured by Russian missile strikes on five Ukrainian railway stations on Monday.

Ukrainian forces have repelled five Russian attacks and killed just over 200 Russian servicemen, said the Ukrainian military command in the southern and eastern sectors.

 Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 25, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters) Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 25, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Five tanks were also destroyed, along with eight armored vehicles, it said in a statement.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the reports.

Russian forces were continuing on Monday to bomb and shell the vast Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where fighters are hunkered down in a city ravaged by a siege and bombardment, Ukrainian presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych said.

Moscow said it was opening a humanitarian corridor to let civilians out of the plant but Kyiv said no agreement had been reached.