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Evacuations in Mariupol fail as peace talks resume

Some progress had been made with Ukraine, but "peace talks inevitably have to continue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

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Fresh efforts to evacuate civilians trapped in an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis in the besieged port city of Mariupol failed Friday after a convoy of humanitarian workers was unable to get through.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it couldn't help civilians escape as local officials blamed a Russian blockade for preventing humanitarian deliveries and the use of an evacuation route from Mariupol to another city in southeastern Ukraine.

Peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives also resumed Friday by video, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that some progress had been made on issues such as Ukraine coming closer to understanding that it wouldn't join NATO, but that "peace talks inevitably have to continue."

Meanwhile, a Russian official blamed a blast Friday at an oil depot in the city of Belgorod on an airstrike by Ukrainian helicopters. The claim marked the first instance of Russia accusing Ukrainian forces of launching an airstrike on Russian soil since the conflict began more than a month ago.

Footage verified by NBC News showed a large fire at the oil and natural gas fuel depot. However, NBC News could not independently verify the claim that Ukrainian forces were responsible, while Ukraine's defense ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the incident during a media briefing.

See full coverage here.

UK: Russian forces reported to have withdrawn from Kyiv-area airport

Russian forces are said to have withdrawn from an airport near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where there has been fighting since the Feb. 24 invasion, the British defense ministry said Saturday.

Russian forces have withdrawn from Hostomel airport, which is northwest of the capital, the United Kingdom said in an intelligence update.

Ukrainian forces have also re-taken some villages and "secured a key route in eastern Kharkhiv after heavy fighting," the U.K. assessment said.

Kharkhiv is in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

Vice President Kamala Harris says regime change not U.S. policy

Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated that regime change in Russia is not the policy of the United States, days after the president remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not remain in power.

"Let me be very clear: We are not into regime change, and that is not our policy. Period," Harris said in an interview with MSNBC host Joy Reid that aired Friday.

The comments from the vice president come after President Joe Biden in a speech in Poland last week said, "For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power," referring to Putin.

A White House official that day said Biden was not calling for Putin to be deposed, and Biden on Monday said that he was not talking about a U.S. policy change.

"I was expressing my outrage. He shouldn’t remain in power, just like bad people shouldn’t continue to do bad things. But it doesn’t mean we have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way," Biden said.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to Biden's comments in Poland by telling Reuters "that's not for Biden to decide," and that "the president of Russia is elected by Russians." 

Harris said that Russia has committed atrocities in Ukraine, and called Russia's invasion and attack "a war that was instigated — unprovoked, unjustified — against a whole population of people."

Efforts underway to protect artwork in Lviv’s National Gallery

Venice is preparing special material to send to Lviv’s National Art Gallery and other museums in the Ukrainian city so artworks can be better protected during the war.

Mariacristina Gribaudi, head of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation, said in a statement Friday that some 65,000 artworks and 2,000 sculptures have been placed in Lviv storerooms as a precaution, but the objects aren’t adequately protected.

The Venice foundation will oversee a shipment of special fabric that can cover paintings and graphic art as well as furniture, costumes and materials made from glass or marble to protect the objects from the majority of solvents and gasses. The fabric also impedes mold and fungus growth while the works are in storage.

Also being sent are polyethylene foam shock-resistant panels.

Venice museums experts also gave advice in a video call with the Lviv gallery’s management about how to best store artworks.

Russian forces leaving mines behind, Zelenskyy says

Minefields have been planted in areas where Russian forces have left or been pushed back, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday.

He said that in northern Ukraine, Russian forces have either left or been pushed back and "complete catastrophe is left after them."

"Firstly, the airstrikes can continue," Zelenskyy said. "Secondly, they lay minefields on those territories, in houses, on equipment, even on dead bodies. There are a lot of trip wires, a lot of other dangers."

He said in reclaimed territory, people need to wait until the land is cleared of explosives.

There has been some reduction in Russian forces arrayed against Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but U.S. military officials said Thursday it had not been a wholesale repositioning. On Friday, the mayor of the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, said it was recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

Defense Department announces another $300M in aid for Ukraine

The U.S. Defense Department on Friday announced it will fulfill a virtual wish list for Ukrainian forces battling Russia's invasion.

The promised goods, worth an estimated $300 million in additional assistance to Ukraine, include laser-guided rocket systems; previously announced armed drones as well as Puma and counter-unmanned drones; armored off-road vehicles; ammunition; machine guns; night-vision devices and more, the department said in a statement.

The hardware will boost the U.S. security commitment to Ukraine to a value of more than $2.3 billion since the beginning of President Joe Biden's administration, the Defense Department said.

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Ukraine's president warning to Russian 'conscripts': 'We do not need new dead people here'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a video address Friday accused Russia of trying to recruit residents of Crimea to join its army and urged people there to "sabotage this at any stage."

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, in a move that sparked condemnation. Many countries, including the U.S., do not recognize it as part of the Russian Federation and consider it part of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy also referred to conscription inside Russia, saying in Russian: "Warn every such conscript, their parents, we do not need new dead people here."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree for the annual spring draft, in the amount of 134,500, Russia's defense ministry said. There are two drafts a year in Russia. Last year's spring target was slightly higher, at 134,650. 

Putin had pledged that conscripted soldiers would not be used in Ukraine, which Russia invaded on Feb. 24, but the military later acknowledged that Russian military had used conscripted soldiers there and some had been captured.

Air defense stops missiles from hitting targets in Odesa attack, Ukrainian military says

The Ukrainian military said in a post on Facebook on Friday that due to the “timely and effective response” of air defense forces, a missile attack on the Odesa region did not hit its planned targets. The Ukrainian military said enemy forces had attempted to target “critical infrastructure,” which could have endangered civilians. The situation was under the control of the armed forces of Ukraine, the post said.

Evacuations from Ukrainian cities climb to more than 6,200 people

Despite a humanitarian group's failed effort to help civilians evacuate Friday from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, about 771 people were still able to escape from there and more than 6,200 people nationwide fled through humanitarian corridors, a senior government official said.

Many people left using their own cars, although some 42 buses left the city of Berdyansk carrying Mariupol residents en route farther north to the city of Zaporizhia, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post.

Ten buses also arrived Friday in Zaporizhia carrying about 80 tons of humanitarian aid, she added.

The latest total evacuees adds to the more than 10 million people who have fled their homes since the invasion began, according to Ukraine's defense ministry.

Red Cross says team intending to help people leave Mariupol unable to reach city

GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross says a team intending to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol was unable to reach the port city on Friday.

The Red Cross said in a statement that the team hopes to try again Saturday.

“Arrangements and conditions made it impossible” for the convoy of three vehicles to get safely to Mariupol and they returned to Zaporizhzhia, it said.

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the organization said.

Ukraine denies Russia's accusation that it attacked Russian oil depot

Ukrainian officials denied Russia's accusation that Ukraine was behind a fiery blast at an oil depot Friday in the Russian city of Belgorod, which would mark the first instance of Ukrainian forces launching an airstrike on Russian soil since the invasion of Ukraine began.

"For some reason they say that we did it, but according to our information this does not correspond to reality," Ukraine Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Ukrainian television.

Footage verified by NBC News showed a large fire at the oil and natural gas fuel depot. NBC News, however, could not independently verify the claim that Ukrainian forces were responsible.

Russia's Defense Ministry reiterated its claim that Ukraine was to blame for the blast, which they said occurred at 5 a.m. local time. Two Ukrainian helicopters fired missiles at the storage facility on the outskirts of the city, and led tanks on the site to catch fire, officials said.

"The oil depot has nothing to do with the Russian armed forces," Igor Konashenkov, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said.

Kyiv mayor: Nearby towns still under siege

KYIV, Ukraine – The mayor of Kyiv said the bombardment of satellite towns near the Ukrainian capital was ongoing despite Russian promises of scaling back troops from the region.

Vitali Klitschko told British broadcaster Sky News on Friday he could hear the sounds of explosions “nonstop during the day and night.”

Klitschko said that the cities northwest of Kyiv such as Irpin, Borodyanka and Hostomel were being targeted after Ukrainian fighters moved back Russian troops, and that fighting also persisted in Brovary, east of Kyiv.

For those who may want to return to Kyiv in light of the supposed Russian withdrawal, he urged people to wait a “couple of weeks” to see how the situation develops.

Antigua says it is willing to help U.K. seize Abramovich yachts

Antigua and Barbuda is willing to help Britain seize yachts owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the Caribbean nation said on Friday, adding London must seek such assistance via an international treaty.

The vessels Halo and Garcon, currently moored in Antigua and Barbuda, were owned by Abramovich via a British Virgin Islands company that was on the Britain's sanctions list. The Financial Times first was first reported the story. 

Antigua alone would have no way to seize or detain the vessels because they have not been linked to any crimes committed there, said Ronald Sanders, the country's ambassador to the United States.

Doing so would require a formal request under the two countries' mutual legal assistance treaty, a common mechanism by which nations cooperate with one another to help enforce laws.

"We've said that we're quite happy to cooperate, but under the rule of law," Sanders said in a telephone interview.

Volunteers fill sandbags to protect buildings and monuments in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia. 

Erika Angulo / NBC News

Red Cross unable to reach Mariupol to help evacuate civilians

The International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy sent Friday to the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol was unable to get passage to help civilians evacuate, while local officials accused Russia of failing to abide by a promise of a humanitarian corridor.

The Red Cross said it would attempt to send its three vehicles and nine personnel to Mariupol on Saturday, but for the operation to succeed, "it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees."

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said on Ukrainian television that the city remained under a blockade that has not allowed movement.

"Humanitarian deliveries, despite all the agreements and promises of the Russian side, are not being carried out," Kyrylenko said. "The humanitarian corridor ... is essentially not operational."

Both Russia and Ukraine have blamed one another for the repeated failure of humanitarian corridors.

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Mariupol City Council estimates $10 billion in damage to infrastructure

The Mariupol City Council said on Friday that it estimates that it will take a minimum of $10 billion to repair damage to the city's infrastructure.

"Every crime, every murder and destruction committed by the aggressor must be recorded and brought before an international court.  War criminals must be punished.  We are currently working closely with the government and the Donetsk Civil-Military Administration to obtain from Russia not only reparations for the complete reconstruction of our beloved Mariupol, but also large payments to all Mariupol residents for suffering and damage," Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said, according to the City Council. 

The port city has been under siege since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with residents contending with food shortages and a lack of running water or electricity.

U.S. nuclear missile test cancelled to avoid Russian 'misinterpretation'

WASHINGTON ⁠— A U.S. test launch of a missile that can deliver nuclear warheads to Russia has been canceled to avoid “misinterpretation” by the Russians, say Pentagon officials.

The officials said the test launch of the Minuteman III was canceled because of concerns Vladimir Putin could view it as escalatory. Minuteman missiles have formed the core of the U.S. land-based nuclear capability for 60 years. The launch had already been postponed once in March, and then was expected to occur in April.

“The Department of the Air Force recently cancelled the routinely planned test flight of an LGM-30G Minuteman III missile,” Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement to NBC News. “The launch had been previously delayed due to an overabundance of caution to avoid misinterpretation or miscommunication during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

On March 2, in announcing that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had ordered the postponement, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin wanted to show the U.S. was “a responsible nuclear power” with “no intention of engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued.”

The Air Force generally tests four Minuteman III rockets per year from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The tests are planned months and even years in advance and canceling or postponing one because of concerns the launch could be provocative is very rare.

Some progress made in peace talks with Ukraine, Russia says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that some progress had been made during another round of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, but that "peace talks inevitably have to continue."

Lavrov, who spoke publicly at the end of a visit to India, said Ukraine and Russia came closer to an understanding on the impossibility of Ukraine joining NATO and the need for its nuclear neutrality. He added that there was an increased understanding between the status of Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Lavrov's comments on the latest peace talks diverge from earlier remarks this week made by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, who said that Russia had welcomed Kyiv making demands for an end to the fighting but there was no breakthrough between the two sides.

Ukrainian refugees travel 15-hours by train to safety

NBC News Reporter Yuliya Talmazan and photographer Jacobia Dahm traveled with a handful of Ukrainian families after they fled the war and embarked on a 15-hour train journey from the Polish town of Przemyśl to the German capital, Berlin.

Images of Ukrainian refugee families traveling on a train from Poland to Berlin, Germany.
Jacobia Dahm for NBC News

More photos from their journey to safety here.

Ukraine won't confirm or deny involvement in Russia blast

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday declined to confirm or deny allegations that his country was responsible for an air strike on an oil depot in Russia on Friday.

“I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information,” Kuleba said in response to reporters’ questions.

The minister's comments came after the governor of Belgorod, which is near the border with Ukraine, blamed the explosion on an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian helicopters. 

NBC News could not independently verify the claim the Ukrainian armed forces were responsible. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense did not respond to NBC News' requests for comments. 

Russia praises India for neutral stance amid Ukraine war

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised India for remaining neutral on the war in Ukraine during his visit in New Delhi on Friday.

“India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts, and not just in a one-sided way,” Lavrov said in a news conference after a meeting with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

India was Moscow’s ally during the Cold War but has looked to maintain ties with both Russia and Western nations since.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday said the U.S. expects India to use its relations with Russia to help bring an end to the war in Ukraine.

These seamstresses used to sew medical scrubs. Now they make bulletproof vests

Victoria Liaschko sews a military uniform for her son and other soldiers.
Victoria Liaschko sews a military uniform for her son and other soldiers.Erika Angulo / NBC News

VINNYTSIA, Ukraine — A medical scrubs factory in Vinnytsia has become the source of life-saving bulletproof vests and camouflage uniforms for Ukrainian troops.

Seamstresses are now working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily in the factory in west-central Ukraine to produce the protection soldiers need to go to the front lines. 

Olena Chyzhova, 53, used to sew medical scrubs. Now, she is making bulletproof vests. The factory, called Grace-Atelier, has been producing seven bulletproof vests a day.

The seamstresses had been working free over the last month, but now they are getting a small stipend to cover their expenses, thanks to donations.

Olena Chyzhova makes bulletproof vests for Ukrainian soldiers in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on Friday.
Olena Chyzhova makes bulletproof vests for Ukrainian soldiers in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on Friday.Erika Angulo / NBC News

Russia warns it will only trade agricultural products with friendly countries

Russia, a major global wheat exporter, will only export its agricultural products to countries it deems friendly, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday. 

"We will not be trading foods with our non-friends," he said in a post on Telegram. "Not exporting, not importing." 

Medvedev, a senior security official for the Kremlin, added that Russia will only conduct those transactions in rubles or the national currency of the trading country. He also proposed that Russia expand the list of banned imports from Western countries. 

Russia already supplies wheat primarily to Africa and the Middle East and poses a trade rivalry with Ukraine, the world's second-largest exporter of grain. Food is a "quiet but ominous" weapon, Medvedev added.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicted Thursday that the war will increase the vulnerability of food security in the Middle East and Africa. 

IAEA head says he will visit Chernobyl 'as soon as possible'

The Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency has said he will be leading an "assistance and support" mission to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Rafael Grossi said the effort would be launched "as soon as possible." He said it would be the first in a series of such "nuclear safety and security missions to Ukraine."

It comes after Ukrainian officials said Russian troops had withdrawn from the power plant. 

Russian forces looted Chernobyl plant before leaving, Ukraine official says

Russian forces looted appliances from the seized Chernobyl plant before leaving the facility amid “significant” radiation exposure, a Ukrainian official has said.

Prior to withdrawing from the plant, “the Russian military stole computers, kettles, coffee makers, and other property at the nuclear power plant,” said Yevhen Kramarenko, head of the State Agency for Exclusion Zone Management in an interview on Ukrainian TV.

He said they also looted a nearby hotel for kitchen utensils. NBC News was not able to independently verify the claim. 

Ukraine’s state nuclear company confirmed that two columns of Russian troops had left the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site after the radiation exposure, returning control to Ukraine.

China accuses U.S. of instigating the war in Ukraine

China is accusing the United States of instigating the war in Ukraine and says NATO should have been disbanded following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing Friday.

“The number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30, and they have moved eastward more than 600 miles to somewhere near the Russian border, pushing Russia to the wall step by step,” Zhao said.

While China says it is not taking sides in the conflict, it has declared a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refused to condemn the invasion, opposes sanctions on Russia and routinely amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict, including not referring to it as an invasion or a war in keeping with Russian practice.

China says 'no one has the right to split the G-20'

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated China's opposition to ejecting Russia from the G-20 Friday, saying "no one has the right to split the G-20."

The G-20 should "focus on macroeconomic policy coordination and should not be politicized," he said in a meeting Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, according to a statement issued by his office. 

Indonesia holds the rotating presidency of G-20.

President Joe Biden has said Russia should be removed from the G-20 over its invasion of Ukraine, while China has repeatedly expressed opposition to such a move. 

Red Cross blocked from bringing aid during Mariupol evacuation effort

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is being blocked from bringing aid to Mariupol amid an effort to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city. 

The ICRC said it had a team of three cars and nine staff members headed towards Mariupol from Zaporizhzhia to assist with Friday's safe passage operation. 

"This effort has been and remains extremely complex," it said, adding that it was still not clear if the evacuations would be able to move forward Friday. 

The organization said it did not receive agreement to bring aid into Mariupol with the convoy, despite a growing humanitarian crisis in the city, which has faced heavy shelling for more than a month as residents remain blocked from access to basic essentials, including food and water. 

"We’re running out of adjectives to describe the horrors that residents in Mariupol have suffered. The situation is horrendous and deteriorating, and it’s now a humanitarian imperative that people be allowed to leave, and aid supplies be allowed in," the ICRC said.

Russia blames Ukraine for oil depot blast in Belgorod

A Russian official has blamed a blast at an oil depot in its city of Belgorod on Friday on an airstrike by two Ukrainian helicopters. 

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod close to the Ukrainian border, said a fire at the depot was the result of "an air strike from two helicopters of the armed forces of Ukraine, which entered the territory of Russia at a low altitude."

Nobody was killed or injured in the attack, he added in a statement on his official Telegram channel.  

While footage verified by NBC News showed a large fire and plumes of black smoke at the oil and natural gas fuel depot in Belgorod on Friday, NBC News could not independently verify the claim the Ukrainian armed forces were responsible. Ukraine's Ministry of Defense did not respond to NBC News' request for comment on the allegations.  

The claim, which marks the first time Russia has accused Ukrainian forces of launching an airstrike on Russian soil, follows warnings from Western powers that Moscow may stage "false flag" attacks to justify launching or escalating the conflict. 

Australia to send armored vehicles to Ukraine after Zelenskyy request

Australia's prime minister has said his country will send armored vehicles to Ukraine following a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

"We're not just sending our prayers, we're sending our guns, we're sending our munitions, we're sending our humanitarian aid, we're sending all of this and body armor and all of these things," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference Friday. 

Zelenskyy had specifically made a request for armored vehicles during a video address to Australia's Parliament Thursday. 

Morrison said he could not yet say how many armored vehicles would be sent to Ukraine or share details on when the transfer would be made. He said the details would be confirmed soon.

Russia continues to 'partially' withdraw troops from Kyiv region, Ukrainian officials say

Russia is continuing to withdraw some of its troops from the northern Kyiv region, the Ukrainian region's military administration has said. 

The administration said in a Telegram post Friday that troops appeared to be "partially" withdrawing in the direction of Ukraine's border with Belarus.

It said the movement of columns of equipment had been noted, with convoys also including "civilian vehicles," that it said had been stolen "during the temporary occupation of the territories." 

NBC News was not able to independently verify the reported movements. 

Red Cross 'on its way' to facilitate Mariupol evacuations

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine has said it is "on its way" to start facilitating the safe passage of civilians out of Mariupol, the besieged port city where tens of thousands of people have been trapped in dire humanitarian conditions. 

"We are currently on the move from Zaporizhzhia to go to Mariupol in order to ensure safe passage for the civilians who desperately want to flee the city," an ICRC representative says in a video posted on Twitter Friday. 

It comes after Ukrainian officials said evacuation buses were being blocked from entering Mariupol on Thursday, with aid also said to be blocked from reaching the city this week. 

Mariupol has faced heavy shelling for more than a month now, with residents trapped in the city without access to basic necessities, including food and water.

Five humanitarian corridors to open in Luhansk region on Friday, governor says

Five humanitarian corridors are scheduled to open in Luhansk region on Friday, the governor of the region said on Telegram.

Evacuation is organized from six towns and villages, according to Serhiy Haidai, regional governor of Luhansk. 

He said the Ukrainian side was still waiting for a ceasefire from Russians to open the corridors, however. “The shelling on their part continues,” Haidai said.

The governor said that 52 people had already been evacuated from Kreminna and were moving to trains in Slovyansk in the Donetsk region.

A wounded Ukrainian soldier waits for treatment in a room of the military hospital in Zaporizhzhia on Thursday.

A wounded Ukrainian soldier waits for treatment in a room of the military hospital in Zaporizhzhya, on Thursday.
Emre Caylak / AFP - Getty Images

Mariupol aid efforts blocked amid fresh evacuation push, Ukrainian officials say

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of blocking aid from reaching the besieged port city of Mariupol, where fresh evacuation efforts are expected to get underway today.

Petro Andryushchenko, aide to the mayor of Mariupol, said Friday morning that Russian forces were blocking the delivery of aid into Mariupol. “The city remains closed to entry and very dangerous to exit with its own transport,” he further warned on Telegram.

Russia had earlier agreed to a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine at the ready to facilitate evacuations.

On Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a convoy of 45 buses had also been blocked by Russian forces. "The occupiers did not allow 45 buses, which we sent for evacuation, to Berdyansk," she said. 

Andryushchenko said officials had yet to see "a real desire of the Russians ... to allow Mariupol residents to evacuate to the territory controlled by Ukraine." 

Ukrainian forces retake villages south of Chernihiv as strikes continue, U.K. says

Ukrainian forces have retaken two villages south of Chernihiv that are located along one of the main supply routes between the northern city and Kyiv, Britain's defense ministry said Friday

Both Sloboda and Lukashivka were retaken, it said.

The defense ministry said Ukraine has meanwhile continued to make "successful but limited" counter attacks against Russian forces to the east and north of Kyiv.

Both Chernihiv and Kyiv have been subjected to "continued air and missile strikes," the statement added, despite Russia's claims of reducing activities around both cities.