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Civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant; Pelosi meets Polish president

The rescue operation in the southeastern port comes after weeks of failed efforts, with Russian forces bombarding the city as they battle to make progress in their new offensive.

Coverage on this live blog has ended. Please click here for the latest updates.

Civilians are finally being evacuated from the bombed-out steel plant where hundreds have been sheltering in the last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, the key city that is otherwise under Russian control after months of siege.

The rescue operation in the southeastern port comes after weeks of failed efforts, with Russian forces bombarding Mariupol as they battle to make progress in their new offensive in the region.

The U.S. and its allies have stepped up their military support for Kyiv, with the surprise weekend trip to the Ukrainian capital by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democratic lawmakers the latest signal of growing Western backing. Pelosi met with Poland's president Monday, while first lady Jill Biden is set to travel to NATO members Romania and Slovakia this week to meet with families who have fled the war.

The Kremlin has left itself with few global allies, and it now seems to have alienated one of the countries to have remained relatively neutral through the war after Israel denounced comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comparing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who Lavrov falsely said also had Jewish roots.

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584d ago / 5:01 AM UTC

U.K.’s Johnson will proclaim Ukraine’s ‘finest hour' in address, announce more military aid

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say Tuesday that “this is Ukraine’s finest hour” in an address to Ukraine’s parliament, according to excerpts released by his office.

Johnson will also announce more than $300 million in military aid for Ukraine as it battles Russian forces, his office said.

“Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free," Johnson will say, according to the excerpts.

Winston Churchill in June 1940 famously used the phrase “their finest hour” in a speech during World War II in the face of what he predicted would be a battle for Britain with the threat of invasion by Nazi Germany.

Johnson on Tuesday will also announce a military aid package worth £300 million (around $375 million U.S.), his office said. It includes air defense vehicles, missiles, a counter-battery radar system and GPS jamming equipment, it said.

584d ago / 3:09 AM UTC

Zelenskyy says boy, 14, killed in Russian attack on Odesa

Ukraine’s president says a Russian attack on the port city of Odesa killed a 14-year-old boy and wounded a 17-year-old girl.

The attack on Odesa on Monday destroyed a dormitory, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. The 17-year-old was wounded by shrapnel, he said.

“What is this? For what? How were these children threatening the Russian state? And the dormitory? This is how they conduct warfare,” Zelenskyy said.

NBC News has not verified the claim. There were at least two missile attacks on Odesa on Monday.

The United Nations’ human rights office has recorded more than 3,000 civilians killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 — of the 3,153 civilians recorded killed, 226 were children, the office says. The real number is believed to be considerably higher, it says.

584d ago / 9:20 PM UTC

Ukraine admits the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ isn’t real, but the myth was potent for a reason

For weeks, an unknown Ukrainian fighter pilot captivated the nation and some of the world with his extraordinary battle feats, becoming a symbol of heroic resistance to Russia’s invasion that came to be emblazoned from T-shirts to non-fungible tokens.

Now, the Ukrainian air force says the so-called Ghost of Kyiv never existed. And although the myth is dead, war watchers said its spread raised questions about how information is processed in a war in which journalists have struggled to access the front lines.

As with most legends, the Ghost of Kyiv’s origin is shrouded in mystery, but it was undoubtedly abetted by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who tweeted an image of a masked fighter pilot who purportedly shot down six Russian jets within hours of Moscow’s invasion. 

Read the full story here.

585d ago / 7:27 PM UTC

E.U. preparing Russian oil embargo as early as this week

The European Union is nearing a deal on a Russian oil embargo, with an announcement expected as early as late this week, an E.U. diplomat and a U.S. diplomat in Europe said.

The agreement would bar imports of Russian oil, but it would not be a full energy embargo and it would not ban gas. Europe relies far more on Russian gas than on oil.

The path was cleared in the last few days when Germany — the biggest buyer in the E.U. — reversed its opposition and backed an oil embargo. Germany now says it could be off Russian crude oil by late summer.

Still, the deal is likely to have multiple conditions to secure unanimous support, potentially including a phased-in embargo, a deal contingent on the E.U.’s meeting certain goalposts in winding down imports and possibly allowing some exceptions for the remaining two holdouts: Slovakia and Hungary

The Russian oil ban is expected to be part of what E.U. diplomats describe as their sixth round of Russia sanctions. The diplomats say the package is also likely to include new sanctions on the Russian banking company Sberbank, which has largely been spared in previous E.U. sanctions packages.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen or another E.U. leader is expected to announce the oil embargo once all E.U. ambassadors have informally signed off on a draft that is being circulated this week.

585d ago / 7:09 PM UTC

UEFA expands soccer sanctions against Russia

European soccer’s governing body said Monday that Russian teams have been barred from participating in the women’s European championship in July and that it had rejected the country's bid to host the men’s European championships in 2028 as ineligible.

UEFA said in a statement Monday that Russia will not participate in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 final tournament scheduled for July and will be replaced by Portugal, which Russia had defeated in the playoffs.

UEFA also said its executive committee had declared Russia’s bid to host UEFA Euro 2028 or UEFA Euro 2032 “as not eligible.”

The announcement continues UEFA’s and FIFA’s suspensions of Russian soccer teams from international competitions since the invasion of Ukraine in February.

585d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

Russia making only minimal progress in eastern region of Donbas

Russia's offensive in Ukraine's Donbas region, where troops were reportedly concentrated for a major ground assault, has been "anemic," a senior U.S. defense official said Monday.

The Russians' progress is minimal, at best, and while troops have been moving into areas to declare victory, they then leave and let the Ukrainians take them back, the U.S. defense official said.

The Donbas is an eastern region of Ukraine that borders Russia.

The defense official also said that a top Russian military leader, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, was in the Donbas last week but that the U.S. military doesn't believe he is still there. The official could not confirm reports that Gerasimov may have been wounded during fighting.

585d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

585d ago / 4:59 PM UTC

Odesa hit with second missile strike on anniversary of deadly clash

ODESA, Ukraine — The explosion of a missile could be heard before the air alarm warning went off here Monday evening.

The entire city is on curfew, meaning the streets were empty, as authorities awaited a large-scale missile attack or saboteurs on the anniversary of a deadly clash between pro-Russian and pro-European activists eight years ago.

Birds could be heard chirping outside before NBC News observed the distant explosion. Military vehicles raced by in the direction of the blast, but it was unclear where the Russian missile may have landed.

Maksym Marchenko, the head of the Odesa Military Administration, confirmed the strike but said only that it had hit "Odesa's infrastructure facilities." He confirmed that people were killed and wounded. The City Council also said a religious building was damaged.

Marchenko promised vengeance on his Telegram channel and called the Russians "scum."

"We have only one way to deal with the terrorists," he said. "We will destroy them until no living occupier remains on Ukrainian soil."

A previous strike Monday hit an essential bridge outside the city. It also comes shortly after a missile hit the Odesa airport runway and another bridge used for transportation, which further hampered Ukrainian movements.

585d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

Odesa locks down over fears of Putin’s saboteurs on painful anniversary

ODESA, Ukraine — Only tense-looking soldiers were allowed to leave their homes in Odesa on Monday, with the silence on the streets almost audible in this city known for its vibrancy. 

The first week of May typically brings tourists, barbecues and blooming flowers to Odesa, an international jewel of culture and commerce on the Black Sea. This year, however, it brought a daylong curfew as authorities feared the potential presence of Russian agents aimed at discord and destruction

Monday marks the anniversary of a deadly clash between pro-Russian and pro-European activists in the city that killed 48 people and injured dozens more in 2014. This year, facing a war as well as the memory of a tragic incident often mentioned by Moscow, many worried they would have to fend off Kremlin-backed saboteurs and Russian rockets — rather than insistent tourists.

Many believed Odesa, a key city in Ukraine’s southwest, would be a target for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. While Russian forces have failed to pose a real threat, city leaders are nonetheless wary. 

Read the full story here.

585d ago / 2:36 PM UTC

Ukraine receives more than $500 million in World Bank grant


Ukraine has received a grant of $521 million from the World Bank, the country’s Finance Ministry said Monday.

The U.S. was the main donor in the grant, with smaller contributions from Sweden and Austria. The funds are part of the “second loan program for development policy in support of the economic recovery of Ukraine,” the ministry said.

The World Bank has estimated that Ukraine’s economy could contract by 45 percent this year if the war continues. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the country will need hundreds of billions to rebuild and recover.

585d ago / 1:40 PM UTC

Speaker Pelosi meets Polish president after unannounced visit to Kyiv

585d ago / 1:38 PM UTC

Danish minister of foreign affairs visit Kyiv

585d ago / 1:36 PM UTC

U.S. hopes to reopen embassy in Kyiv by the end of the month

U.S. diplomats in Ukraine would like to return to the embassy in Kyiv by the end of the month, Kristina Kvien, a top U.S. diplomat, said Monday.

“We expect to continue to do day trips for the next week or two, and then we very much hope that the conditions will permit us to go back into Kyiv by the end of the month,” she said at a news briefing.

U.S. diplomats left the capital in mid-February before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. It moved first to the western city of Lviv and then to Poland.  

“We listen to the security professionals, and when they tell us we can go back we will go back,” Kvien said. 

585d ago / 1:31 PM UTC

Want to contact CIA from Russia? Agency points to darknet

The CIA says Russians disaffected by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may be trying to get in touch with U.S. intelligence — and it wants them to go to the darknet.

The agency on Monday began a new push to promote its presence on a part of the internet accessible only through specialized tools that provide more anonymity. The CIA has a darknet site that has the same features as its regular homepage but accessible only through the Tor internet browser, which has encryption features not available on most regular browsers.

Instructions in English and Russian on how to access the darknet site appeared Monday on the CIA’s social media channels. The agency hopes Russians living abroad can share the instructions with contacts inside the country.

585d ago / 12:49 PM UTC

Ukraine outline for economic recovery includes energy independence and E.U. membership


Ukraine’s government and parliament presented a nine-step outline on Monday for the country’s economic recovery after the Russian invasion.

“Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction will be one of the largest projects since the well-known Marshall Plan,” Yulia Svyrydenko, first deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, said in an article posted on the Ukrainian Parliament's website.

“Its implementation will be a matter for the whole civilized world, because today we are fighting not only for ourselves but also for global security.”

The plan includes Ukraine’s membership of the European Union, new logistics routes to the West, the establishment of new industry and factories to process raw materials, and new gas and nuclear energy production so it can be energy independent. 

585d ago / 12:30 PM UTC

More than 1,200 civilian dead found in Kyiv region, police chief says


More than 1,200 civilian dead have been found in the Kyiv region since Russian forces left, Kyiv Region Police Chief Andriy Nebytov said Monday on Ukrainian TV.

The bodies have been examined by investigators and transferred to “forensic institutions” to determine the cause of death. Of the bodies found, 280 have not yet been identified. NBC News has not been able to verify the claims.

Nebytov also urged Ukrainians to report missing people to a hotline to help more easily identify the dead.

Reports over the last month or so have highlighted how officials, locals and reporters found hundreds of bodies, some buried in mass graves, while others were executed or killed in attacks in the suburbs around Kyiv where Russian troops invaded.

585d ago / 11:28 AM UTC

Tears for a mother and daughter from Mariupol

Mother and daughter Dina and Natasha from Mariupol are overcome with emotion as they arrive at an area for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 2, 2022.Ed Jones / AFP via Getty Images
585d ago / 11:28 AM UTC

More than 100 evacuees from Mariupol steel plant arrive in Zaporizhia


More than 100 civilians evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhia on Monday, Ukraine’s military police said in a Facebook post.

Those evacuated were made up mostly of women, children and the elderly, the police said. Zaporizhia is located around 140 miles northwest of Mariupol. The evacuees there will have access to medical care, food, medicine and psychological assistance, police said.

The steel plant has become a last stand for fighters in the besieged southeastern port city.

Before the weekend evacuation, about 1,000 civilians were believed to be in the sprawling, Soviet-era steel plant, along with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, according to the Associated Press. As many as 100,000 people may still be in Mariupol overall.

585d ago / 10:42 AM UTC

Finland ends deal for Russian nuclear plant

A Finnish nuclear energy company said Monday it has decided to terminate with immediate effect a contract with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom for the delivery of a nuclear power plant, in part due to the war in Ukraine “which has worsened the risks for the project.”

The company, Fennovoima, also cited “significant delays and inability to deliver the project” for terminating the deal to build the northern Finland Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant. It was proposed to house a Russian-designed pressurized water reactor, with a capacity of 1200 MW and the nuclear power plant was to generate approximately 10 percent of Finland’s electricity needs, the company said.

Finland, which borders Russia, is being closely watched amid reports that it could seek to join NATO as soon as this month.

585d ago / 10:42 AM UTC

Azovstal evacuee tells of Russian bombardment of Mariupol steel plant

585d ago / 10:42 AM UTC

Russian governor reassures residents after sound of two explosions overnight

The sound of two explosions rang out early Monday in the Belgorod region of Russia, near the border with Ukraine, but there was no damage and no security threat, the region’s governor said in a post on Telegram.

“I wanted to dispel the fears of the residents of the region that someone or something flew to us from the territory of Ukraine. That’s not so,” Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote. “Combat missions were carried out by our military aviation as part of a special military operation.”

There was no threat to residents’ safety in the area, he said.

His reassurance came after several fires and explosions in recent weeks at ammunition stores and fuel depots in Belgorod and other southern regions near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

585d ago / 10:30 AM UTC

Displaced Ukrainians arrive in Zaporizhzhia

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Ukrainians fleeing the front lines of Russia's efforts to make advances in the east have started to arrive in Zaporizhzhia, a city on the Dnieper river that bisects the country.

In buses and private cars, people are arriving at a reception center set up in a parking lot, with aid agencies offering assistance.

One man, Alexander, 24, who asked for his last name not be published out of security concerns, recounted his escape from the city of Vasilyvka.

"There was no shelling," he said. "We gave alcohol and money to the soldiers at the checkpoints so we could flee."

People arrive at a displaced persons center in Zaporizhia, Ukraine on Monday having traveled from areas on the front lines of the conflict.
People arrive at a displaced persons center in Zaporizhia, Ukraine on Monday having traveled from areas on the front lines of the conflict.Mo Abbas / NBC News
585d ago / 10:06 AM UTC

White flags in Mariupol

A long-awaited effort to evacuate civilians from the steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was underway Sunday, as Red Cross officials were seen waving white flags near the scene.
A long-awaited effort to evacuate civilians from the steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was underway Sunday, as Red Cross officials were seen waving white flags near the scene.Red Cross / via AP
585d ago / 10:06 AM UTC

Russian forces strike key bridge near Odesa


The Russian military launched a missile strike Monday on a bridge that runs across the Dniester Estuary, according to a post on Telegram by Odesa’s regional administration. It is the third time Russian forces have attacked the bridge, the administration said.

The bridge, located southwest of Odesa, is the only one to cross the estuary, making it a vital piece of infrastructure.

Odesa is a key strategic port on the Black Sea that serves as the main base for Ukraine’s navy. If Russian forces were to gain control of the area, they could cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and potentially build a land corridor all the way to the border with Moldova.

585d ago / 9:45 AM UTC

Ukrainian foreign minister criticizes 'heinous' comments by Russian counterpart on Zelenskyy, Hitler

585d ago / 9:22 AM UTC

Pelosi meets Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other U.S. lawmakers met Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Monday. Standing against a backdrop of U.S. and Polish flags, Pelosi and Duda shook hands and chatted as they posed for photos.

“I’m very grateful that we can sit here and talk about our relations, about Euro-Atlantic ties and especially about the situation in Ukraine," Duda said at the meeting. “How to help them, what kind of support they need. This is very important, and I can say this is crucial moment in politics for us.”

The visit comes after Pelosi and U.S. lawmakers made a surprise trip over the weekend to the Ukrainian capital where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine during the war. 

585d ago / 8:42 AM UTC

Azovstal evacuees taken to Donetsk

DPR LPR Russia Ukraine Military Operation
A woman evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, looks out from a bus at an aid post in Bezymennoe village, Donetsk People's Republic on Sunday. Alexey Kudenko / Sputnik via AP
585d ago / 8:42 AM UTC

More than 5.5 million people have now fled the war in Ukraine

The number of people who have fled Russia's war in Ukraine has now surpassed 5.5 million, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The number stood at 5,563,959 as of Sunday, according to a daily tracker on the U.N. website.

The exodus of refugees leaving the country for neighbors like Poland and Hungary has also been joined by millions more Ukrainians who have been internally displaced by the fighting.

585d ago / 8:41 AM UTC

Israel calls Russian foreign minister’s Nazi comments 'unforgiveable'


Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has called remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “unforgiveable and outrageous,” as the foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to Israel for a “clarification meeting.” according to Lapid’s office.

In an interview on an Italian TV, Lavrov on Sunday defended Russia’s goal of Ukraine’s “denazification,” and said that he believed Hitler had Jewish heritage. “The wise Jewish people say that the worst anti-Semites are Jews,” he said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has Jewish heritage.

Lapid called Lavrov’s comments historically inaccurate. “Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” he wrote on Twitter. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”

585d ago / 8:34 AM UTC

Russian attacks on Ukraine grain network a move to cut competition, German minister says

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure look like attempts to reduce the competition in Russia’s export markets, German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir was reported as saying on Monday.

Ukraine could lose tens of millions of tonnes of grain due to Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports, triggering a food crisis that will hit Europe, Asia and Africa, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday.

“We are repeatedly receiving reports about targeted Russian attacks on grain silos, fertilizer stores, farming areas and infrastructure,” Oezdemir was quoted as telling the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, a cooperation network of German regional newspapers.

Russia denies targeting civilian areas.

The suspicion is growing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking “in the long term to remove Ukraine as a competitor,” Oezdemir was quoted as saying.

585d ago / 8:09 AM UTC

One quarter of Russia's ground combat units sent to Ukraine now 'combat ineffective,' U.K. military says

A quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups sent by Russia to Ukraine are now "combat ineffective," according to Britain’s Defense Ministry.

These groups made up around 65 percent of Russia’s entire ground combat strength, the ministray said iits daily intelligence assessment.

The assessment also said that Russia’s most elite units have had the highest levels of attrition and that “it will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces.”

From the first days of the invasion, Russia’s military struggled as it met fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces. Supply lines inside Ukraine were stretched, tanks got stuck and moral dipped.

585d ago / 8:08 AM UTC

Russian control in Zaporizhzhia

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, Sunday, May 1, 2022.AP
585d ago / 7:09 AM UTC

First lady to travel to Romania, Slovakia and meet with Ukrainian refugee families

Jill Biden will become the latest U.S. political figure to visit eastern Europe amid the war in Ukraine this week.

The first lady will travel to Romania and Slovakia, two NATO members that share a border with Ukraine, during the five-day trip that starts Thursday.

She will meet with U.S. service members, embassy staff, humanitarian aid workers and educators in Romania before heading to Slovakia, where she will spend Mother's Day — Sunday May 8 — meeting with Ukrainian moms and their children who fled Russia's war.

585d ago / 7:09 AM UTC

Zelenskyy says Russian strikes on nonmilitary targets are ‘war of extermination’

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of waging “a war of extermination,” citing strikes against nonmilitary targets Sunday.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that Russian shelling had hit food, grain and fertilizer warehouses and residential neighborhoods in the Kharkiv, Donbas and other regions.

“The targets they choose prove once again that the war against Ukraine is a war of extermination for the Russian army,” he said.

He said Russia will gain nothing from the damage but will further isolate itself from the rest of the world.

“What could be Russia’s strategic success in this war?” Zelenskyy said. “Honestly, I do not know.”

585d ago / 7:09 AM UTC

Video appears to show civilians being evacuated from steel plant in Mariupol