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The United Nations confirmed that the evacuation of civilians from the steel plant in Mariupol was underway Sunday just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led a small congressional delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
On Sunday evening, regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko reported in a Telegram post that four civilians were killed and 11 more were injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region. Kyrylenko also said it was impossible to determine the number of victims in Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists.
A U.N. humanitarian spokesperson told The Associated Press on Sunday that the effort to bring people out of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant was being undertaken with the International Committee for the Red Cross in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.
Hours earlier, Pelosi and her delegation met with Zelenskyy. "We are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom," she said in a video Zelenskyy’s office posted on Telegram early Sunday. "Your fight is a fight for everyone, and so our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done."
Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to have met with Zelenskyy since the start of the war in February.
Western weapons are increasingly flowing into Ukraine to aid it defensive fight against Russia's eastern offensive and potentially weaken Moscow for the long term. Russia has responded with threats and escalation, including strikes on the shipments inside Ukraine.
But while Washington and its allies appear emboldened by Ukrainian forces' staunch defense, in places like Mariupol the situation remains dire.
First lady to meet with Ukrainian refugee moms in Slovakia
WASHINGTON — Jill Biden will spend Mother’s Day meeting with Ukrainian mothers and children who fled for their lives after Russian President Vladimir Putin opened war against Ukraine, the White House announced late Sunday.
The May 8 meeting will take place in Slovakia, one of two eastern European countries the first lady plans to visit during a five-day trip that starts Thursday. She also will be stopping in Romania.
Romania and Slovakia share borders with Ukraine, which has spent the past two months fighting off Russia’s military invasion. Romania and Slovakia are NATO members.
Nearly 5.5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Many have resettled in neighboring countries or relocated elsewhere in Europe.
Throughout the trip, the first lady will also meet with U.S. service members, U.S. Embassy personnel, humanitarian aid workers and educators, the White House said.
Zelenskyy says Russian strikes on nonmilitary targets are 'war of extermination'
LVIV, Ukraine — 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.”
4 civilians killed, 11 others injured in Donetsk, governor says
KYIV, Ukraine — Four civilians were reported killed and 11 more were injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region Sunday, the Ukrainian regional governor said Sunday evening.
The deaths and seven of the injuries were in the northern city of Lyman, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram. One person also died in the city of Bakhmut from injuries received in the Luhansk region, he said.
In the same post, Kyrylenko said that it was impossible to determine the number of victims in the bombed-out port city of Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists.
Deputy PM says Mariupol operation will continue until all citizens are evacuated
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshyuk said Sunday that the humanitarian operation will continue in Mariupol and that more than a hundred women, children and the elderly were evacuated from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant during the first two days.
"As you know, hundreds of civilians remain blocked in Azovstal together with the defenders of Mariupol. The situation has become a sign of a real humanitarian catastrophe, because people are running out of water, food and medicine," she said. "No matter what the military situation around Mariupol, we will fight for each of our soldiers and civilians who remain in the city. The Mariupol humanitarian operation will continue until we achieve our goals — saving the lives of our citizens.”
Mariupol prepares for broad evacuation
KYIV, Ukraine — The City Council in the bombed-out southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol said Monday is the scheduled start date for a broad, U.N.-backed evacuation of its civilians, other than those sheltering at a steel plant.
The City Council also confirmed Sunday on Telegram that some civilians were being evacuated Sunday from the Azovstal steelworks, the last Ukrainian defense stronghold in Mariupol. City officials noted the support of the Red Cross and said the wider evacuation of the strategic port city was delayed by security concerns.
As many as 100,000 people are believed to remain in blockaded Mariupol, including up to 1,000 civilians who were hunkered down with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters beneath the Soviet-era steel plant. The plant is the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.
Ukraine says it’s stalling Russian offensive
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian army said a Russian offensive along a broad front in the country’s east has been stalling amid human and material losses inflicted by Kyiv’s forces.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Sunday on Facebook that Russian troops were trying to advance in the Sloboda, Donetsk and Tauride regions but were being held back by Ukrainian forces who continue to fight village by village.
Separately, Ukrainian intelligence officials accused Russian forces of destroying medical infrastructure, taking equipment and denying medical care to residents in several occupied cities and towns.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed that ventilators and other equipment that had been provided since 2014 by international donors and the government of Ukraine were removed from a hospital at Starobilsk in the eastern Luhansk region.
The post alleged that tuberculosis patients were denied medical care in the Kharkiv region at Volchansk while several facilities were used to treat wounded Russian troops.
The claims could not be immediately verified.
Ukrainian officials also said Sunday that internet and cellular communications were cut in a large area in the Russian-occupied Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhia region, and they blamed Russian forces. The London-based internet monitor Netblocks said the Kherson region lost 75 percent of internet connectivity beginning Saturday evening.
German leader calls pacifism ‘outdated’
DÜSSELDORF, Germany — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to continue to support Ukraine with money, aid and weapons, saying a pacifist approach to the war is “outdated.”
Speaking at a May Day rally in Düsseldorf, Scholz said: “I respect all pacifism, I respect all attitudes, but it must seem cynical to a citizen of Ukraine to be told to defend himself against Putin’s aggression without weapons.”
Scholz also warned that the war would have consequences for food supply, potentially leading “to a worldwide hunger crisis.”
Soaring food prices and disruption to supplies coming from Russia and Ukraine have threatened food shortages in countries in the Middle East and Africa and parts of Asia.
Zelenskyy tweets about civilian evacuations from Axovstal
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy tweeted Sunday that about 100 people had been evacuated from Azovstal, and he touched on others being evacuated from the steel plant in Maripol.
Pope Francis renews appeal for help for Mariupol with nod to origins of besieged city's name
Pope Francis has appealed again for a safe evacuation of Ukrainians trapped in the steel plant of Mariupol, saying he weeps thinking of their suffering and how their city has been “barbarously bombed and destroyed.”
Speaking Sunday during his traditional noontime prayer, Francis urged all the faithful to pray the Rosary every day in May for peace. He noted that May 1 begins the month Christians dedicate to Mary, the mother of God, for whom Mariupol is named.
He said: “Even now, even from here, I renew the request that safe humanitarian corridors be arranged for the people trapped in the steelworks of that city. I suffer and cry thinking of the suffering of the Ukrainian population, especially the weakest, the elderly and children.”
He noted the “terrible reports of children being expelled and deported” and the “terrible regression of humanity.”
U.N. confirms evacuations underway at Mariupol steel plant
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — The long-awaited effort to evacuate people from a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was underway Sunday, the United Nations said, while U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she visited Ukraine’s president to show unflinching U.S. support for the country’s defense against Russian aggression.
U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu told The Associated Press that the operation to bring people out of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant was being undertaken with the International Committee for the Red Cross and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.
As many as 100,000 people are believed to remain in blockaded Mariupol, including up to 1,000 civilians who were hunkered down with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters beneath the Soviet-era steel plant — the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.
Meet the Press: Pelosi leads congressional visit to Kyiv as U.S. support for Ukraine grows
Massive planned NATO military exercises begin in Poland
Poland’s armed forces said Sunday that military exercises involving thousands of NATO soldiers have begun. They regular exercises, which are intended to improve the security of the alliance’s eastern flank, come this year as Russia’s war against Ukraine rages nearby.
Because of those circumstances, Poland’s military appealed to the public Sunday not to publish information or photos of the columns of military vehicles expected to move through the country in the coming weeks. It warned that “ill-considered activity” could harm the alliance’s security. “Let’s be aware of the dangers!” the statement said.
The Polish army said in a statement that 18,000 soldiers from over 20 countries were taking part in the Defender Europe 2022 and Swift Response 2022 exercises, which are taking place in Poland and eight other countries.
The exercises are scheduled to run through May 27.
As war continues, a growing number of Ukrainians return
Some Ukrainians are returning to their home country.
The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said Sunday on its Facebook page that it had recently seen an uptick in Ukrainians coming back over the western border.
"Over the past 24hrs, 40,000 people have entered the country, 36,000 of whom are Ukrainians," the service wrote, adding that this was the "maximum flow of people into Ukraine on the western border since the start of the war."
More than 11 million Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded.
'Weapons, weapons and weapons': U.S. lawmakers vow enduring support for Ukraine
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other U.S. lawmakers on the surprise Congressional visit to Ukraine have praised the country's defensive stand and vowed enduring U.S. support for Kyiv's fight against Russia
Speaking to reporters Sunday in Poland, Pelosi said the delegation that met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “were proud to convey to him the message of unity from the Congress of the United States, a message of appreciation from the American people for his leadership and admiration for the people of Ukraine for their courage.” She added that she was “dazzled” by Zelenskyy’s expertise of all the issues at hand and described him at their meeting as “a remarkable masterclass of leadership.”
“This is a time we stand up for democracy or we allow autocracy to rule the day,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado, a veteran and a member of the House intelligence and armed services committee said he came to Ukraine with three areas of focus: “Weapons, weapons and weapons.”
Mariupol civilians will have evacuation window on Sunday
Mariupol's city council said Sunday that there will be a chance to evacuate civilians to the city of Zaporizhzhia, northwest of the besieged port.
The council said in a post to its official Telegram channel that people should gather at 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). A small group of civilians were evacuated on Saturday from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainian soldiers have held off Russian forces that took the rest of the key city.
"If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them in all ways," the council said. "Call, write and say that it is possible to go to Zaporozhia, where it is safe. We pray that everything works!" Previous attempts at humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol have failed, with Ukraine blaming continued Russian shelling.
Russia should expropriate West’s assets over ‘theft’ of Russian money, lawmaker says
Russia should confiscate property owned by Westerners in response to a proposal by President Joe Biden to transfer the frozen assets of Russia’s elite to Ukraine, Russia’s most senior lawmaker said on Sunday.
Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said the sumptuous yachts and villas of Russia’s oligarchs had not helped Russian development but that the West appeared to be engaged in simple “theft.”
“It is right to take mirror measures towards businesses in Russia whose owners come from unfriendly countries where such measures were taken: confiscate these assets,” Volodin, who often voices the Kremlin’s views, wrote on his Telegram channel. “The proceeds from the sale should be used for the development of our country,” he said. “A dangerous precedent has been created: it should hit the ‘States like a boomerang.”
Satellite images show damage to oil depots in Russia
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show damage to oil depots just across the Ukrainian border in Russia after suspected Ukrainian attacks.
The photos from Saturday show damage at two sites in Bryansk. The blasts damaged multiple tanks, leaving the surrounding grounds charred.
The explosions happened last Monday. One hit an oil depot owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of a Russian state-controlled company that operates a western-bound pipeline carrying crude oil to Europe.The second facility is a short distance from the other.
Bryansk is located about 60 miles north of the border with Ukraine.
German leader defends caution on sending heavy arms to Ukraine
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected criticism that Germany was not showing leadership in western efforts to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to repel Russia’s invasion, saying that he’d rather be cautious than make hasty decisions.
“I take my decisions fast and in concert with our partners,” Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview released Sunday. “I find hasty actions and maverick German efforts questionable.”
In a U-turn, Germany approved on April 26 the delivery of “Gepard” anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, a step backed by 55 percent of Germans who in an opinion poll said Europe’s biggest economy should supply Ukraine with such arms. However, the decision did not help reverse public perception of Scholz as being indecisive and lacking leadership. An opinion poll published in Bild am Sonntag showed that 54 percent were unsatisfied with Scholz’s handling of the crisis. His approval rating fell to 32 percent, the poll showed.
Pelosi leads Congressional delegation to meet with Zelenskyy on surprise Kyiv trip
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has led a Congressional delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Pelosi is now the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit Ukraine during the war, with the surprise visit adding to growing momentum behind the West’s support for the country’s fight against Russia.
The delegation will now keep traveling in Poland to meet with President Andrzej Duda.
Russia says it destroyed American and E.U. munitions in strike on Odesa
Russia's defense ministry has said that it destroyed a hangar housing arms and ammunition sent to Ukraine by the United States and European Union
The ministry said in a Telegram post on its official account that the strike on a military airfield near Odesa was one of seven military assets it attacked.
The Ukrainian army said Saturday that a Russian rocket attack had destroyed an airport runway in Odesa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and a key Black Sea port.
'A new category in Ukrainian waste management'
Ukraine says Russia continues to strike Donetsk and Kharkiv
Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces struck the cities of Donetsk and Kharkiv last night, as the Russian offensive in the east continues.
Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a Telegram post on Sunday that Dontesk and many other cities were hit by artillery, rockets and aircraft-launched munitions. It said the attacks killed civilians, though it did not specify how many. NBC News has not verified the claims.
Oleh Synegubov, head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, also said Sunday that Kharkiv had been hit by Russian shells and rockets.
Russia installing government administrations in Kherson as it seeks long-term influence, U.K. says
Russia has worked to establish its own local government in Ukraine's Kherson as it seeks a long-term influence occupied southeastern city, the U.K. defense ministry said Sunday.
The ministry added that the new government has announced a transition from Ukraine's hryvnia currency to the Russian ruble. The new administration also made statements that a return to Ukrainian rule is "impossible."
"These statements are likely indicative of Russian intent to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term," the ministry wrote. "Enduring control over Kherson and its transport links will increase Russia’s ability to sustain its advance to the north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control over Crimea."
Ukraine warns Russia plans to stoke unrest in Moldova
Ukraine's defense ministry has warned that Russia is working to stoke unrest in nearby Moldova.
Ukraine's defense intelligence agency said in a Telegram post on its official account that it had got hold of a newspaper printed with a Monday date that contained Russian propaganda and called for Russian armed forces to intervene in Transnistria, a breakaway republic in Moldova where Kyiv is concerned Moscow may be preparing an escalation that could broaden the war.
"To this end, 'mobilization points' are being set up on the territory of the Russian Federation itself to recruit volunteers to fight in the Transnistrian army," Ukraine's intelligence ministry said.
The ministry said it is preparing for Russian efforts to cause unrest around the May holidays, including Victory Day on May 9, which celebrates Russia's victory in World War II.
Pelosi says Kyiv visit sent 'resounding message' of U.S. support, delegation will keep traveling in Poland
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office has confirmed she led a Congressional delegation to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The visit was "to send an unmistakable and resounding message to the entire world: America stands firmly with Ukraine," Pelosi's office said in a statement early Sunday. It is the first official Congressional delegation to have visited Ukraine since Russia invaded.
"Our delegation will now continue our travels in Poland, where we will meet with President Andrzej Duda and senior officials," the statement said.
Pelosi visits Kyiv, meets with Zelenskyy
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a small Congressional delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, according to video posted by Zelenskyy’s office on Sunday.
“We are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom,” Pelosi says in the video, which was posted to the Telegram messaging app early Sunday. “Your fight is a fight for everyone, and so our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done.”
Zelenskyy said he was "very grateful for this powerful signal of support."
Those with Pelosi on the trip, which was not previously announced, included Reps. Jason Crow, Jim McGovern and Adam Schiff.