Ukraine-Russia War: Evacuees from Azovstal plant arrive in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia

"This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said • Six missiles hit coastal city Odesa

Smoke rises above Azovstal steelworks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from a recent drone video posted on social media. (photo credit: MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL/VIA REUTERS)
Smoke rises above Azovstal steelworks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from a recent drone video posted on social media.
(photo credit: MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL/VIA REUTERS)

 A convoy of buses carrying evacuees from southeastern Ukraine, including some 40 civilians who had been holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in besieged Mariupol, arrived on Sunday in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, a UN official said.

Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said eight buses had arrived in the city. About 40 of the 174 evacuees on board had been rescued from the steel plant.

Lubrani said in a statement that the evacuations brought to more than 600 the number of people evacuated from the area in the past 10 days.

"Our work, however, is not yet done," she said in the statement. "The UN is aware that scores of people who wanted to join the evacuation convoys over the last days were unable to do so.

"We will continue our engagement with both parties to the conflict to make sure that those who want to leave have the guarantees to do so safely and in the direction of their choice."

Russian Deputy PM visits ruined Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has visited Mariupol, the country's most senior government official yet to set foot in the Ukrainian southern port city after weeks of Russian bombardment.

Russia, which sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a special military operation, claimed taking control of the city on the Sea of Azov on April 21 after nearly two months of siege.

However, some Ukrainian fighters are still holed up in the city's vast Soviet-era Azovstal steelworks - the last holdout against Russian forces there. The Ukrainian military said on Sunday Russia continued intensive shelling of the plant.

Khusnullin, who in the Russian government is in charge of construction and urban development, said on Telegram he had visited Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha in eastern Ukrainian among other territories "liberated" by Russian forces.

"Restoration of peaceful life begins in the regions. There's a lot of work to be done. We will help, in particular ... with providing humanitarian aid," he wrote in a Telegram post.

Khusnullin visited the commercial port of Mariupol he said should be used to bring in building materials to restore the city, according to Russian defense ministry's TV channel Zvezda.

All women, children evacuated from Azovstal plant

All women, children and elderly civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday, after a week-long effort rescued hundreds of people during an ongoing Russian assault at the plant.

"This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The Soviet-era steel mill, the last holdout in Mariupol for Ukrainian forces, has become a symbol of resistance to the Russian effort to capture swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine in the 10-week-old war.

Under heavy bombardment, fighters and civilians have been trapped for weeks in deep bunkers and tunnels criss-crossing the site, with little food, water or medicine.

Russian forces backed by tanks and artillery tried again on Saturday to storm Azovstal, seeking to dislodge the last Ukrainian defenders in the strategic port city on the Azov Sea, Ukraine's military command said.

A hole is seen at the site where a missile strike hit a residential area, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 7, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA)A hole is seen at the site where a missile strike hit a residential area, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 7, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA)

Weeks of Russian bombardment have left Mariupol in ruins. The steel mill has been largely destroyed. During pauses in fighting, evacuations of civilians began last weekend, brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a late night address that more than 300 civilians had been rescued from the plant. Authorities would now focus on evacuating the wounded and medics, and helping residents elsewhere in Mariupol and surrounding settlements to safety, he said.

Russian-backed separatists have also reported a total of 176 civilians evacuated from the plant. It was not clear if civilian men were still there.

Ukrainian fighters in the plant have vowed not to surrender. It was unclear how many remained, and Ukrainian officials fear Russian forces want to wipe them out by Monday, when Moscow commemorates the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

In Washington, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said Russian President Vladimir Putin is convinced "doubling down" on the conflict will improve the outcome for Russia.

"He's in a frame of mind in which he doesn't believe he can afford to lose," Burns said at a Financial Times event.

 

BATTLE FOR THE EAST

Moscow calls its actions since Feb. 24 a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war.

In Kyiv on Saturday, the World Health Organization said it had documented 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine, the latest allegations of war crimes by Russian forces. Russia has denied attacking civilian targets.

Mariupol, which lies between the Crimean Peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014 and parts of eastern Ukraine taken by Russia-backed separatists that year, is key to linking the two Russian-held territories and blocking Ukrainian exports.

Ukraine's general staff said Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine aimed to establish full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and maintain the land corridor between these territories and Crimea.

Ukrainian armed forces fighting in the two eastern regions controlled by Russian-speaking separatists said in a Facebook post they fought off nine enemy attacks on Saturday, destroying 19 tanks and 24 other armored vehicles as well as downing a helicopter.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russia dropped a bomb on a school in the village of Bilohorivka, where about 90 people were sheltering. Around 30 have been rescued so far, he said on Facebook.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the alleged bombing.

Zelensky in his address expressed outrage over Russian shelling overnight that destroyed a museum dedicated to the 18th century philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda in the village of Skovorodynivka near Kharkiv.

Other Russian attacks near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, blew up three road bridges to slow counter-offensive actions, the Ukrainian military's general staff said.

Russia's defense ministry said it destroyed a large stockpile of military equipment from the United States and European countries near the Bohodukhiv railway station in the Kharkiv region.

Russian forces hit 18 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, including three ammunition depots in Dachne, near the southern port city of Odesa, the ministry said.

Reuters could not independently verify either side's statements about battlefield events.

DRONE STRIKES IN MOLDOVA

Russia's lower house of parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused Washington of coordinating military operations in Ukraine, which he said amounted to direct US involvement in military action against Russia.

US officials have said the United States has provided intelligence to Ukraine to help counter the Russian assault, but have denied this intelligence includes precise targeting data.

Since the start of the invasion, Washington and European members of the transatlantic NATO alliance have supplied Kyiv with heavy weapons to help it resist Russia, but say they will not take part in the fighting.

A senior Russian commander said last month Russia planned to take full control of southern Ukraine and this would improve Russian access to Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova.

Pro-Russian separatists in Moldova said Transdniestria was hit four times by suspected drones overnight near the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine has repeatedly denied any blame for the incidents, saying it believes Russia is staging the attacks to provoke war. Moscow, too, has denied blame.

Six missiles hit Odesa

Six missiles hit the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Saturday, the spokeswoman for Ukraine's southern military command told the country's public broadcaster.

Spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk said four rockets hit a furniture factory in a residential area, while the other two struck an already damaged runway strip. She added that information on casualties was being clarified.

Odesa regional administration spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk earlier said four missiles had hit Odesa region on Saturday, without causing any casualties.

Reuters was not able to immediately confirm the details of the report.

Two Russian missiles hit border villages

Air-launched Russian missiles hit two locations near the Russian border in Ukraine's northern Sumy region on Saturday, local governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said.

A border guard was wounded by the strikes on the Myropilske and Khotin municipalities, Zhyvytskyi wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Reuters was not able to immediately confirm the details of the report.

Russian forces fully withdrew from Sumy region in early April after advancing into parts of the region at the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Shelling destroys museum

Russian shelling hit a museum dedicated to the philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda in the Ukrainian village of Skovorodynivka, causing a fire that destroyed the building, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said on Saturday.

The overnight shelling hit the roof of the Hryhoriy Skovoroda Literary Memorial Museum, injuring a 35-year-old custodian, but the most valuable items had been moved earlier to a safer place, Sinegubov said in a post on social media.

"The premises were practically all destroyed," he said.

Skovoroda, a famous 18th-century philosopher and poet of Ukraine Cossack origin, spent the last years of his life on an estate of the local landowners in the village of Ivanovka, which was later renamed in his honor - Skovorodynivka.

"This year marks the 300th anniversary of the great philosopher's birth," Sinegubov said. "The occupiers can destroy the museum where Hryhoriy Skovoroda worked for the last years of his life and where he was buried. But they will not destroy our memory and our values."