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'Bloody battles' rage inside Azovstal steel plant, last Mariupol holdout

One commander of the remaining Ukrainian troops said late Wednesday that Russian forces had broken into the sprawling site and “heavy, bloody battles” were being fought.

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Heavy fighting has been raging inside the Azovstal steel plant, where Mariupol's last defenders have been holding out for weeks.

The Azov Regiment, an experienced volunteer force with neo-Nazi roots, said in a post on its Telegram channel Thursday that Russian infantry supported by aircraft and artillery had launched an attack on the sprawling site. “Civilians and wounded soldiers still remain in the basement of the plant,” the post said.

Gaining full control of Mariupol, the key port city, would be a significant victory for the Kremlin as its eastern offensive struggles to make progress. In recent days Russian attacks have focused on striking infrastructure across the country, apparently to disrupt the supply of Western weapons.

While stepping up their support for Kyiv, Ukraine's allies are also focused on how to punish Moscow and hinder its war effort. European Union countries will continue to discuss the bloc's proposed ban on Russian oil — a key source of funds for the Kremlin but also of energy for the continent.

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Russian attack on Mariupol plant likely driven by ‘symbolic victory’ aim, U.K. says

Russia’s continued attack on a steel plant in Mariupol is likely driven by a desire for a “symbolic victory” for Russia’s Victory Day celebration, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry said Friday.

Russian ground forces continued to attack the Azovstal steel plant, where the city's last defenders are located, the U.K. said. When Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol two weeks ago, he ordered his troops not to storm it but to seal it off.

“The renewed effort by Russia to secure Azovstal and complete the capture of Mariupol is likely linked to the upcoming 9 May Victory Day commemorations and Putin’s desire to have a symbolic success in Ukraine,” the U.K. said in its daily intelligence update.

Russia's annual Victory Day commemorates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Jill Biden to travel to Ukraine border, spend Mother’s Day meeting refugees

WASHINGTON — First lady Jill Biden’s weekend trip to Eastern Europe will include a Mother’s Day trip to Slovakia’s border with Ukraine, the White House announced Thursday.

Sunday’s stop at a border crossing in Vyšné Nemecké, Slovakia, will be the latest by a prominent U.S. government official to the front lines of the Russia-Ukraine war. There, Biden will survey a checkpoint where Ukrainian refugees get basic assistance from humanitarian and Slovakian government workers before they travel farther west to processing centers and transit hubs, the White House said.

At the stop, which will include a visit to a small Greek Catholic chapel, Biden is expected to learn about the experiences of aid workers and refugees and convey the Biden administration’s gratitude for the work being done there, the White House said. 

Biden on Sunday will also visit a refugee center and school in the larger city of Košice, about 55 miles from the border, where she will participate in Mother’s Day activities with Slovaks and Ukrainian refugees.

Read the full story here.

Ukraine’s plight could be replicated in East Asia, Japan’s prime minister wars

LONDON — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned on Thursday that the invasion of Ukraine could be replicated in East Asia if leading powers do not respond as one, saying peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait must be maintained.

Kishida, speaking in London via a translator after a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said now was the time for the Group of Seven leading nations to solidify its unity.

“Collaboration among countries sharing universal values becomes ever more vital,” he said. “We must collaborate with our allies and like-minded countries, and never tolerate a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by the use of force in the Indo-Pacific, especially in East Asia.”

“Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow.”

Taiwan, a self-ruling island claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, wary of the possibility Beijing might make a similar move on the island, though it has reported no signs this is about to happen.

U.S. intelligence helped Ukraine sink Russian flagship Moskva, officials say

Intelligence shared by the U.S. helped Ukraine sink the Russian cruiser Moskva, U.S. officials told NBC News, confirming a U.S. role in perhaps the most embarrassing blow to Vladimir Putin’s troubled invasion of Ukraine.

The Moskva, a guided missile cruiser carrying a crew of 510, was the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. It sank April 14 after it was struck by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles, U.S. officials said. Moscow said the vessel sank after a fire. The Moskva was the largest Russian warship to have been sunk in combat since World War II. U.S. officials said that there were significant Russian casualties but that they don’t know how many.

The attack happened after Ukrainian forces asked the U.S. about a ship sailing in the Black Sea south of Odesa, U.S. officials said. The U.S. identified it as the Moskva, officials said, and helped confirm its location, after which the Ukrainians targeted it.

Read the full story here.

NATO chief says alliance will increase presence in Baltic Sea if Sweden applies to join

NATO will increase its presence around Sweden’s borders and in the Baltic Sea while a potential application to join the alliance is processed, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

Sweden and neighboring Finland have remained outside the alliance, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine have led the countries to rethink their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly likely.

Both countries are seeking military protection assurances during an application process, which could take up to a year to be approved by all of NATO’s members.

“I am convinced that we will find solutions for the security needs Sweden will have in a transitional period,” Stoltenberg told SVT.

Former President Bush spends time with Zelenskyy

Russia launches multipronged attack on Azovstal steel plant

Russian infantry supported by aircraft and artillery have launched an attack on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian forces in the besieged port-city said Thursday.

“Russians broke into the industrial zone,” the Azov Regiment, an experienced volunteer force with neo-Nazi roots, said in a post on Telegram.

“Civilians and wounded soldiers still remain in the basement of the plant,” the post, translated by NBC News, added.

Mariupol has been besieged for months, with large parts of the city reduced to rubble while its remaining residents suffered without aid.

U.S. says Fiji seized Russian billionaire’s $300 million superyacht


Image: Amadea
The luxury superyacht Amadea sits moored in the harbor at night ahead of the Monaco Yacht Show in Port Hercules, Monaco, in September 2019. Balint Porneczi / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fijian authorities seized a $300 million yacht alleged to be owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov at the request of the U.S., the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The 348-foot luxury vessel known as the Amadea was seized after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that it was subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of sanctions violations.

The U.S. government had said in court papers that “Kerimov and those acting on his behalf and for his benefit caused U.S. dollar transactions for the AMADEA to be sent through U.S. financial institutions, after a time which Kerimov was designated by the Treasury Department.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the ruling should make it clear that “there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate U.S. laws, and there is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime.”

Read the full story here.

U.S. announces additional humanitarian assistance for Ukraine

The U.S. will provide $387 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, the U.S. Agency for International Development said Thursday. 

“This additional assistance will provide lifesaving food assistance to people in hard-to-reach areas inside Ukraine, as well as cash-based transfers for people in areas with functioning markets,” the aid agency said in a news release.    

It added that the money was a contribution toward the $1 billion President Joe Biden pledged in March for those affected by the war “and its severe impacts around the world, including a marked rise in food insecurity.”

Kremlin says U.S. giving intelligence to Ukraine won't stop Russia from reaching goals

Western attempts to transmit intelligence to Ukrainian armed forces will not prevent Russia from achieving its goals in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

While the U.S., the U.K. and NATO’s transfer of intelligence and weaponry do not “contribute to the rapid completion of the operation,” he said, “they are not able to prevent the achievement of the goals set for the special military operation.”

The New York Times had reported that the U.S. was providing Ukrainian authorities with intelligence data that helped it strike key Russian officers. NBC News has not verified that reporting.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Thursday that the U.S. provides "battlefield intelligence" to the Ukrainians but does not do so with the "intent to kill Russian generals."

Two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said Thursday that current U.S. policy expressly forbids sharing lethal targeting intelligence about Russian civilian and military leaders.

Even when shared intelligence helps Ukraine target command and control centers, it is not explicitly tied to any one leader, the officials said.

NBC News detailed last month how U.S. intelligence had been instrumental in Ukraine’s success, including in helping Ukraine target Russian forces and avoid Russian attacks.

Israel says Putin apologized for foreign minister’s Hitler remarks

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had apologized for his foreign minister’s comments claiming Hitler had Jewish origins.

Bennett, after a call with the Russian leader, said he accepted the apology and thanked Putin for clarifying his position.

Bennett also said he asked Putin to consider allowing the evacuation of the besieged Azovstal steel works in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Bennett said that he made that request following an earlier conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and that Putin promised to set up a corridor for civilian evacuation.

Demining Ukrainian fields

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT-DEMINING
Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP - Getty Images

Members of a Ukrainian demining team take cover during the destruction of an unexploded missile near the village of Hryhorivka in the Zaporizhzhia Region on Thursday.

Airstrike on church complex injures 7, Ukraine prosecutor general's office says

At least seven people were injured by a Russian airstrike on a church complex in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, the office of Ukraine's prosecutor general said Thursday.

The Holy Dormition Svyatogirsk Lavra was being used as a shelter for people fleeing from the Russian invasion, Iryna Venediktova's office said in post on its Telegram channel that was translated by NBC News.

A dormitory building was hit and investigators were working to assess other damage, the post added.

NBC has been unable to independently verify this claim and Russia has repeatedly denied that it is directly targeting civilians.

France to donate an additional $300 million to Ukraine

France will increase its financial aid to Ukraine this year from $1.7 billion to $2 billion, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.

“The humanitarian needs of the population and the economic situation of the country call for a new effort by the international community which meets the needs linked to the destruction of civilian infrastructure,” Macron said in a video address to an international donors conference in the Polish capital Warsaw.

The conference is being hosted jointly by Poland and Sweden, and is intended to mobilize humanitarian and financial support for Ukraine. The funds will be directed towards humanitarian, economic and financial aid.

Preparations for Russian Victory Day parade in Mariupol underway

Russian forces are preparing for a parade in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukrainian forces have claimed.

The parade is expected to happen on May 9, or "Victory Day," which is a public holiday in Russia and commemorates the defeat of the Nazis in 1945.

In a statement on Telegram, Ukraine's intelligence service said that Mariupol would be used as "the center of celebrations," adding "the main avenues of the city are [being] urgently cleaned, the debris and the bodies of the dead removed, as well as unexploded ordnance."

Russia wants to bring Azovstal steel plant as a ‘gift’ to Putin, Ukraine official says

Oleksiy Arestovych, Ukraine’s advisor to the president, said Thursady that Russia's occupation of the Azovstal steel plant is an effort to present a "gift" to Vladimir Putin ahead of its May 9 holiday, but the attacks are getting met with heavy resistance by Ukrainian troops. 

“They are preparing to declare victory in Mariupol. I don’t think they will succeed,” Arestovych said during a national telethon.

Arestovych said that Russian soldiers in the steel plant “were knocked out by Ukrainian defenders.” Heavy fighting is raging inside the Azovstal steel plant with many of the last Ukrainian civilians and soldiers inside.

Belarus "doing everything" to stop war in Ukraine, says president

Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said he is doing "everything" to stop the war in Ukraine. Lukashenko is a close ally of Putin's, and Belarus is currently under economic sanctions from the U.S., U.K. and E.U. for its support of the Russian invasion.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Lukashenko said "thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun."

But he also said that he hadn't expected Russia's "operation" in Ukraine to "drag on this way," accusing Ukraine of "provoking Russia" and refusing to negotiate.

Earlier this week, a period of snap drills by the Belarusian military near the border raised alarms in Ukraine. Lukashenko told AP that the drills "didn't threaten anyone."

"No solution" to global food insecurity without Russia and Ukraine, U.N. chief says

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said on Wednesday that the problem of global food insecurity could not be solved without restoring Ukrainian agricultural production and Russian food and fertilizer production, Reuters reported.

During his maiden visit to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, Guterres warned that the war in Ukraine was "setting in motion a three-dimensional crisis that is devastating global food, energy and financial systems for developing countries."

"There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war,” he said, pledging an extra $351 million as part of the overall $1.1 billion humanitarian aid package for Nigeria.

Guterres' most recent warnings come after months of price rises and shortages in countries across the African continent and the Middle East, including Lebanon, Egypt and Somalia.

Thousands of men face torture in Mariupol's filtration camps, local mayor adviser says

Thousands of men have been detained in filtration camps of Mariupol, facing torture and forced labor, Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Mariupol mayor, said on Thursday on Telegram.

Four weeks ago, all men were removed from the Mariupol districts of Guglino, Myrnyi and Volonterivka, he said, with two thousand people being placed in schools and clubs of Bezimyane and Kozatske villages in Novoazovsk district.

These men are forced to sleep on the floors in the corridors with lack of hygiene or access to medical care, he said. According to Andriushchenko, a man died in Kozatske after the Russians refused to call an ambulance. A single sink of cold water is shared by thousands of detainees who receive only porridge as food, he said.

"In the absence of any of the detainees, the occupiers promise to intensify torture and execute other detainees," he said. Each detainee, including those sick and disabled, is involved in "landscaping work" in the villages, he said.

NBC News has not verified these claims.

If there is hell in the world, it is in Azvostal, advisor to Mariupol Mayor says

Shelling of the besieged Azvostal steel plant continued "non-stop" overnight into Thursday, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor. Russian forces breached the perimeter of the plant on Wednesday, according to fighters inside.

“Shelling and assault without a break, even at night with the adjustment of fire from drones. In some areas, hostilities are already beyond the fence of the plant,” Andriushchenko said, warning that "in some areas, hostilities are already beyond the fence of the plant."

On Wednesday night, residential neighborhoods near the plant were again closed to residents, who have been forced to "evacuate urgently on their own without warning."

"The last 11 square kilometers [4 miles] of freedom in Mariupol have been turned into hell," he said.

Zelenskyy announces new fundraiser

The Ukrainian government has launched a public fundraising platform to support the invaded country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video message on Thursday. 

The United24 global initiative will help raise funds “to protect our defenders, to save our civilians and help rebuild Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. 

All donations will be filed to the national bank of Ukraine and other relevant ministries, the president announced. 

Mariupol evacuations will continue, Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says

May 5, 202201:09

Azovstal battle rages on

Image:
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 4, 2022.Alexei Alexandrov / AP

Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and blogger detained in Spain

Pro-Russian blogger and politician Anatoly Shariy was detained in Spain on May 4, according to Ukraine’s security services.

Shariy is suspected of high treason by the Ukrainian authorities.

“He carried out illegal activities to the detriment of Ukraine’s national security in the information sphere. There is reason to believe that Anatoly Shariy acted on behalf of foreign structures,” the Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement on Facebook.

Shariy was a former journalist who fled Ukraine in 2012.

More than 300 people from Mariupol arrive in Zaporizhzhia

Mariupol's city council said 344 evacuees arrived in the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia late Wednesday as part of an international humanitarian effort to get as many civilians out of the war-ravaged port city as possible.

The council shared several short videos in a Telegram poston Thursday of what appear to be evacuees arriving in buses in darkness.

"Most of them are women, children and the elderly from Mariupol," the post said. "The evacuation was supported by a United Nations mission and the International Committee of the Red Cross."

Mariupol is almost completely controlled by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steelworks plant remaining the only holdout of Ukrainian resistance, where Ukrainian officials have said civilians still remain in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers alongside Ukrainian fighters.

Missiles strike Russian controlled oil depot in eastern Ukraine

Image:
Missiles struck an oil facility in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka, 10 miles east of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 4, 2022.AP

Japan says difficult to immediately follow Russia oil embargo

It would be difficult for Japan to immediately follow a move to cut off Russian oil imports over the invasion of Ukraine, a government official said Wednesday.

Koichi Hagiuda, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, made the remark during a visit to Washington, after the European Union’s executive proposed the toughest package of sanctions yet against Moscow, including the embargo on crude oil.

“Given Japan has its limit on resources, we would face some difficulty to keep in step immediately” with other countries, Hagiuda told reporters.

Also on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he could not accept Moscow’s decision to ban him and 62 other Japanese citizens from entry into Russia, and that Russia bore full responsibility for driving bilateral ties to where they are now.

Russia’s foreign ministry earlier announced sanctions against 63 Japanese officials, journalists and professors for engaging in “unacceptable rhetoric” against Moscow.

The decision came after Japan imposed sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other political and business leaders.

Belarus deploys ground forces for seasonal exercises, U.K. says

Belarusian ground forcers were observed deploying for seasonal exercises, with Russia expected to use them as a distraction for Ukrainian forces, according to the British defense ministry.

"Russia will likely seek to inflate the threat posed to Ukraine by these exercises in order to fix Ukrainian forces in the North, preventing them from being committed to the battle for the Donbas," the ministry said in an intelligence update published Thursday.

The ministry said that deviation from these exercises, which may pose a threat, is not currently anticipated. The current deployment is line with seasonal norms as Belarus enters its winter training cycle culminating in May, it said.

At least 5 dead and 25 injured in shelling across Donetsk and Luhansk, local officials say

Dozens of people were injured with five dead after Russian rockets and artillery struck regions across Donetsk and Luhansk, local officials said on Thursday.

"As a result of the night shelling of Kramatorsk - at least 25 civilians were injured. Six of them need medical care in the hospital," Kramatorsk Mayor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post. "The rockets damaged 9 houses, a school and numerous civilian infrastructure."

Eighteen rounds of artillery shelling occurred in Luhansk on Wednesday, including the cities of Severodonetsk, Popasna and Lysychansk, said regional administration head Serhii Haidai in a Telegram post. Bodies of five shelling victims were also found, he said.

NBC News has not verified the claims.

Check points in Mariupol

A separatist soldier from the Donetsk People's Republic stands at a check point in Mariupol on May 4, 2022.
A separatist soldier from the Donetsk People's Republic stands at a check point in Mariupol on May 4, 2022. Alexei Alexandrov / AP

Ukraine asks U.S. for anti-ship missiles, drones, rocket launchers

Ukraine is asking the Biden administration for anti-ship missiles to secure ports that have been blocked by Russia’s navy, as well as more capable drones and multiple rocket launcher systems that can strike Russian forces at a longer distance, according to Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conveyed the request to Crow and other lawmakers who visited Kyiv over the weekend, who then relayed the wish list to President Joe Biden directly, Crow told NBC News. 

Ukraine said it needed U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles or similar weapons to free up the use of the Black Sea port of Odesa and other ports for the export of millions of tons of grain and food. The ports are under a de facto naval blockade by Russian forces off the coast, Crow said.

Real the full story here.

Former U.S. Marine creates team of special operations vets to train Ukrainian soldiers

May 5, 202204:14