Russia's deadline for Mariupol's surrender
Russia's defense ministry has told the Ukrainian forces still fighting in the besieged southern port of Mariupol to lay down their arms starting at 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday to save their lives.
Russia's earlier claim that its troops had cleared the urban area of Mariupol, the scene of the war's heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe, could not be independently verified. It would be the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion
"Taking into account the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, as well as being guided by purely humane principles, the Russian Armed Forces offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022, to stop any hostilities and lay down their arms," the defense ministry said in a statement.
He added: "We guarantee that the lives of all those who lay down their arms will be spared." Under the terms of the proposed deal, the remaining defenders in the plant would leave between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. Moscow time, without weapons or ammunition.
The start of the surrender would be indicated by raising flags, the ministry said: "From the Russian side - red; from the Ukrainian side - white, around the whole perimeter of Azovstal."
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Saturday of "deliberately trying to destroy everyone" in Mariupol and said his government was in touch with the defenders. But he did not address Moscow's claim that Ukrainian forces were no longer in urban districts.
"I want to be heard correctly right now: there has not been a single day since the beginning of the blockade of Mariupol that we have not been seeking a solution - military or diplomatic," Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
Russian forces have been trying for several weeks to take the port, which is on the Sea of Azov, a body of water to the northeast of the Black Sea.
"The entire urban area of Mariupol has been completely cleared ... remnants of the Ukrainian group are currently completely blockaded on the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant," the ministry said.
"Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender."
There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv to the statement by the Russian ministry, which also said 1,464 Ukrainian servicemen had surrendered so far.
Moscow said the total number of what it called "irretrievable losses" suffered by Ukraine totaled 23,367 people but did not provide any evidence and did not say whether this included only those who had died or who had also been injured.
The same day, a Lviv court arrested pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk without bail, according to Ukrainian media source Pravda. Medvedchuk escaped from house arrest in late February following Russia’s invasion.
Explosions in Ukrainian cities
Explosions were heard early on Saturday in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, in the north and the western city of Lviv, but there was no information on casualties or damages.
Kyiv's mayor said that rescuers and medics were working on the explosion site on the outskirts of Kyiv.
One person was killed and three wounded in shelling in the eastern region of Luhansk, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post.
A gas pipeline was damaged in Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, which were without gas and water, Gaidai said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
"Evacuate, while it is still possible," Gaidai said in a subsequent post, adding that busses were ready for those willing to be evacuated from the region.
One person was killed and 18 wounded when a Russian missile hit one of the central districts of Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region on Saturday, the regional governor said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said that about 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed in seven weeks of war with Russia and about 10,000 have been injured. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that Ukrainian forces have lost more than 4,000 personnel in Mariupol.
There was no count of civilian casualties, he told CNN on Friday.
He said 19,000 to 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in the war, now in its eighth week. Moscow said last month that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded.
Reuters could not independently verify either side's numbers.
Fighting was intense in Mariupol as Ukraine said it was trying to break Russia's siege of the southeastern port city. Home to 400,000 people before Russia's invasion, Mariupol has been reduced to rubble. Thousands of civilians have died and tens of thousands remain trapped.
"The situation in Mariupol is difficult and hard. Fighting is happening right now. The Russian army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city," defense ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a briefing.
He said the Russians have not completely captured it.
Russia said it struck what it described as a factory on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv that made and repaired anti-ship missiles, after the sinking on Thursday of the Moskva, the flagship of Moscow's Black Sea fleet.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused the Moskva to sink, a powerful symbol of its resistance to a better-armed foe. Moscow said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an explosion of ammunition and that more than 500 sailors were evacuated.
The United States believes the Moskva was hit by two Ukrainian missiles and that there were Russian casualties, although numbers were unclear, a senior US official said.
None of the assessments could be independently verified.
Furthermore, Russian-controlled proxies coscripted kids aged 16-17 to fight against Ukraine, according to Ukrainian Social Policy Minister Lyudmyla Denisova on Telegram. Denisova also said that several deaths of teenageers were confirmed.
Head of Russian navy meets crew of sunken missile cruiser
The head of the Russian navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, has met with crew members from the sunken missile cruiser Moskva and said they would continue to serve in the navy, the defense ministry said on Saturday.
Russia said on Thursday the Moskva sank after an ammunition explosion. Ukraine said it hit the vessel, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, with a missile.
The Russian defense ministry released a 26-second video showing Yevmenov and two other officers standing outside in front of around 100 sailors on a parade ground. It showed them speaking to one man.
The ministry did not say when the meeting took place.
Russia has said all of the 500 crew were rescued after the blast late on Wednesday. Ukrainian officials has said some of those on board died but has provided no evidence for the claims.
Zelensky said the military situation in the south and east was "still very difficult," while praising the work of his armed forces.
"The successes of our military on the battlefield are really significant, historically significant. But they are still not enough to clean our land of the occupiers. We will beat them some more," he said in a late-night video address, calling again for allies to send heavier weapons and for an international embargo on Russian oil.
Zelensky has appealed to US President Joe Biden for the United States to designate Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism," joining North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Syria, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with their conversation.
A White House spokesperson responded by saying, "We will continue to consider all options to increase the pressure on Putin."
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and top finance officials will attend International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington next week, sources told Reuters.
It will be the first chance for key Ukrainian officials to meet in person with financial officials from advanced economies since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Holding out in Mariupol
If Moscow captures Mariupol, it would be the first big city to fall.
Russia's defense ministry said it had captured the city's Illich steelworks. The report could not be confirmed. Ukrainian defenders are mainly believed to be holding out in Azovstal, another huge steelworks.
Both plants are owned by Metinvest, the empire of Ukraine's richest businessman and backbone of Ukraine's industrial east - which told Reuters on Friday it would never let its enterprises operate under Russian occupation.
Moscow has used its naval power to blockade Ukrainian ports and threaten a potential amphibious landing along the coast. Without the Moskva, the largest warship sunk during conflict since Argentina's General Belgrano in the 1982 Falklands war, its ability to menace Ukraine from the sea could be crippled.
Russia initially described its aims in Ukraine as "a special military operation" to disarm its neighbor and defeat nationalists there.
After its invasion force was driven from the outskirts of Kyiv this month, Moscow has said its main war aim is to capture the Donbas, the eastern region partly held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Kyiv and its Western allies say those are bogus justifications for an unprovoked war of aggression that has driven a quarter of Ukraine's 44 million people from their homes and led to the deaths of thousands.
A total of 1,449 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, fewer than the 2,864 who escaped on Friday, a senior official said.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, made the announcement in an online post.