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The first civilians fleeing the besieged steel plant that has been Mariupol's last holdout have reached relative safety in a Ukrainian-controlled city.
The successful evacuation follows weeks of failed efforts to help those trapped in the key port city, which is almost entirely under Russian control. It comes as Russian forces launch a renewed attack on the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians have been sheltering for weeks with Mariupol's last Ukrainian defenders.
Even as the Kremlin's invasion struggles to make progress, a senior U.S. official has warned that Moscow will try to annex large parts of eastern Ukraine as soon as this month as it seeks to bring large parts of the country under its control for the long term.
Kyiv's fierce defense has helped rally Western allies to offer growing support, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailing “Ukraine’s finest hour” in an address to Parliament.
Military strikes hit rail infrastructure, Ukrainian officials say
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has struck railroad infrastructure across the country.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the Ukrainian railways, said the Russian strikes Tuesday hit six railway stations in the country’s central and western regions, inflicting heavy damage.
Kamyshin said at least 14 trains were delayed because of the attacks.
Dnipro region Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian missiles struck railway infrastructure in the area, wounding one person and disrupting train movement.
The Ukrainian military also reported strikes on railways in the Kirovohrad region, saying there were unspecified casualties.
Ukraine’s railroads have played an important role in moving people, goods and military supplies during the war as roads and bridges have been damaged.
War worsening problems caused by pandemic, Blinken says
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the war in Ukraine has worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.
Concerns about the war’s decreasing the availability of food and increasing prices have sparked fears of increasing hunger and starvation in other countries. Blinken said at the annual Conference of the Americas luncheon Tuesday that the effects of the war are being felt after the pandemic inflicted “massive economic harm throughout the region.”
Giving the luncheon’s keynote address in Washington, Blinken said: “Now, with the Russian government’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, many of these pre-existing problems, these pre-existing conditions, have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas, from fertilizer to wheat to petroleum, cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets.”
Blinken plans to chair two U.N. meetings this month to spotlight how the war in Ukraine and other conflicts are affecting the availability of food and prices.
156 Ukrainians rescued from Azovstal steel plant
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 156 Ukrainians arrived in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday after being held in bomb shelters at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for more than two months.
"We will continue to do everything possible to get all of our people from Mariupol, from Azovstal," he said on Telegram. "It is difficult. But we need everyone. Everyone who remains there, both civilians and military. There was not a single day where we were not trying to solve this issue.”
He said Russia was "continuing to conduct mass strikes at Azovstal."
"They are trying to storm the compound," he said.
'There's a lot of wounded; there's a lot of dead'
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — A woman rescued with her two sons from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Tuesday said that while she was grateful that most of her family had been evacuated, many other Ukrainians had been left behind.
"Today, almost most of the buses stand empty," said Oksana Maidenyuk, referring to the buses Ukraine supplied to evacuate people who had been sheltering in the plant's basement.
"They do not let us out. Out of 50 buses they allowed only five buses to leave. The rest were empty, said Maidenyuk, 40, the mother of Vova Maidenyuk, 14.
She said that although she and her sons got out, her husband, a soldier, stayed at the plant, as did injured military members.
"There’s a lot of wounded. there’s a lot of dead,” she said.
'It was very scary for me,' says boy rescued from steel plant
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — A 14-year-old boy was among those rescued from a steel plant in Mariupol on Tuesday.
"It was very scary for me," Vova Maidenyuk said of his two months sheltering in the basement with other Ukrainians.
He said that his brother and his mother were evacuated with him but that his father, a soldier, stayed behind to fight.
"The soldiers there need help," he said. "My father tells me they don't have enough food there."
Explosions heard in Lviv, mayor says
Explosion were heard in Lviv on Tuesday, and there were power outages in parts of the city, local Ukrainian officials said on Telegram.
"Everyone stay in shelters," Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said, bookending his post with red exclamation points.
The governor of the region, Maksym Kozytskiy, posted that according to preliminary information, "missile strikes were fired on Lviv region."
Push to arm Ukraine strains U.S. weapons stockpile
WASHINGTON — The planes take off almost daily from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware — hulking C-17s loaded up with Javelins, Stingers, howitzers and other materiel being hustled to Eastern Europe to resupply Ukraine’s military in its fight against Russia.
The game-changing impact of the arms is exactly what President Joe Biden hoped to spotlight Tuesday, when he was to visit a Lockheed Martin plant in Alabama that builds the portable Javelin anti-tank weapons that have played a crucial role in Ukraine.
But Biden’s visit is also drawing attention to a growing concern about whether the U.S. can sustain the cadence of shipping vast amounts of arms to Ukraine while maintaining the healthy stockpile it may need if a new conflict erupts elsewhere.
Attack in eastern Ukraine kills 10, wounds 15
KYIV, Ukraine — The Donetsk regional governor said Russian troops Tuesday shelled a chemical plant in Avdiivka, a city in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 10 people and wounding 15 more.
“The Russians knew exactly where to aim — the workers just finished their shift and were waiting for a bus at a bus stop to take them home,” Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. “Another cynical crime by Russians on our land.”
Ukrainian refugees at camp in Mexico City await U.S. action
MEXICO CITY — On a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital, about 500 Ukrainian refugees are waiting in large tents under a searing sun for the U.S. government to tell them they can come.
The camp has been open only a week, and 50 to 100 people are arriving every day. Some have already been to the U.S. border in Tijuana, where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancún, anywhere they could find tickets from Europe.
“We are asking the U.S. government to process faster,” said Anastasiya Polo, a co-founder of United with Ukraine, an organization that collaborated with the Mexican government to establish the camp. She said that after a week, none of the refugees there “are even close to the end of the program.”
Griner wrongfully detained, State Department says
WASHINGTON — U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained by the Russian government, a State Department official confirmed to NBC News.
The change in official classification means her case will be handled by the office of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs in coordination with the State Department’s Office of Consular Affairs. The change in classification was first reported by ESPN.
Griner, 31, was arrested in February after Russian officials said they found vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. She has been in Russian custody ever since.
Civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant reach safer city
A group of more than 100 people evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol reached the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday, according to the Red Cross.
The organization said it worked with teams from the United Nations to help the evacuees, some of whom were some wounded, leave the city and surrounding area.
The plant is home to the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in a city that is otherwise under Russian control. It has been under renewed attack from the Russian military, with Ukrainian forces saying a "powerful assault" was underway.
Russian forces bombard Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in ‘powerful assault’
“As of this moment a powerful assault on the territory of the Azovstal plant is underway, with the support of armored vehicles, tanks, attempts to land by boat and a large number of infantry,” the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, Svyatoslav Palamar, said in the video.
He called for the evacuation of the civilians taking refuge in the plant. The Azov Battalion is a volunteer force with neo-Nazi roots that is widely considered one of the country’s most capable units.
More than 300 Russian 'saboteurs' arrested in Kyiv since invasion began, Ukraine says
Ukrainian forces say they have arrested more than 300 members of Russian "sabotage" groups since the start of the invasion.
“Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, the security forces have detained 319 members of Russian sabotage groups in Kyiv,” said Maj. Gen. Mykola Zhirnov, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration.
"We remind you that the enemy still exists," he said, urging citizens to be cautious and not talk to strangers. Ukraine has warned of Russian groups, some posing as Ukrainian soldiers, trying to disrupt military efforts since the conflict began.
World Health Organization sends nearly 400 tonnes of medical supplies to Ukraine
Almost 400 tonnes of life-saving supplies have been sent to Ukraine by World Health Organization, the body said in a statement Tuesday.
Dr. Dorit Nitzan, WHO Ukraine incident manager, said 76 percent of the supplies has reached recipients as intended.
Those being treated at a reception center in Zaporzhnia include evacuees from the besieged city of Mariupol.
WHO said its supplies have allowed more than 207,000 surgeries to take place, alongside the delivery of medicines and healthcare equipment to serve 7.45 million people.
Russian forces continue to attack Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
The Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in a city that is otherwise controlled by Russia’s military, faced renewed attack by Russian forces on Tuesday.
Vadim Astafyev, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said Ukrainian fighters holed in at the plant “came out of the basements, took up firing positions on the territory and in the buildings of the plant,” according to The Associated Press. Astafyev said Russian forces alongside rebel forces from Donetsk were using “artillery and aircraft ... to destroy these firing positions.”
The city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, confirmed the attacks on the plant Tuesday in a news briefing, saying that “every day there is sad news, every day there is some shelling.”
The attacks followed a U.N.-brokered cease-fire at the plant that allowed some groups of civilians to escape.
According to Boichenko, there are around 100,000 residents still waiting to be evacuated from the city, which has been under siege by Russian forces since the first weeks of the war.
Ukrainian prosecutor general says rape victims 'are not ready to speak'
Ukraine's prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said she expected that there would be a “huge number” of rape cases related to the invasion.
When asked at a news conference Tuesday how many cases of rape her office has recorded since the start of the war, Venediktova declined to provide a number.
She said that while she has evidence that Ukrainian men, women and children were raped by Russian soldiers, it will take time to collect firsthand statements.
“Some of our victims are still on the occupied territories, some of them are now in Western parts of Ukraine and some are abroad in Europe countries,” she said.
“Victims are not ready to speak. They are still scared that Russians will come back and kill them.”
Over a million Ukrainians, including 200,000 children, deported to Russia
Almost 1.1 million people, including nearly 200,000 children have been deported from Ukraine to Russian territory, the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to a report Tuesday from the Interfax news agency.
NBC has not been able to verify the report.
Russian Col.-Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said these people came from Ukraine, including the Donetsk and Lugansk regions occupied by Russia-backed separatists.
According to Mizintsev, another 11,500 people were deported in the last 24 hours, including 1,847 children.
Aid workers prep stretchers, toys for Mariupol evacuees
ZAPORIZHZHIA — Aid workers prepared hot food, wheelchairs and toys Tuesday for civilians slowly making their way to relative safety from the pulverized remnants of a steel plant in the city of Mariupol, besieged for months by Russian forces.
The plant is the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in a city that is otherwise controlled by Moscow’s forces and key to their campaign in Ukraine’s east. A senior U.S. official warned that Russia is planning to annex much of the country’s east later this month.
At a reception center, stretchers and wheelchairs were lined up, tiny children’s shoes dangled from a shopping cart and a pile of toys waited for the first convoy of civilians whose evacuation is being overseen by the United Nations and Red Cross.
Their arrival would represent a rare glimmer of good news in the nearly 10-week war sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has killed thousands, forced millions to flee the country, laid waste to towns and cities, and shifted the post-Cold War balance of power in eastern Europe.
More than 100 people — including elderly women and mothers with small children — left Mariupol’s rubble-strewn Azovstal steelworks over the weekend and set out in buses and ambulances
Putin orders retaliatory sanctions on U.S. and its allies
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued retaliatory economic sanctions in response to the “unfriendly actions of certain foreign states and international organizations,” Moscow announced Tuesday.
The announcement didn’t spell out the individuals or organizations that would be affected and said that the government will approve the list of those under sanctions in the next 10 days.
The new law would prohibit financial transactions and also ban the export of products and raw materials to those sanctioned. In the next 10 days the government will also need to define “additional criteria” for classifying transactions that could be subject to restrictions.
Last week, Russia sanctioned 287 British lawmakers and banned them from entering the country.
Escape from the east
Russia doubles down on Nazi rhetoric, says Israel supports a 'neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv'
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Tel Aviv of supporting the “neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv” a day after Israel slammed remarks by Russia’s foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism, including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish.
“For some reason, the Western press (and some of our liberals) are still arguing about whether there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on Telegram. “The Jewish origin of Volodymyr Zelenskyy is cited as one of the ‘reinforced concrete’ arguments. The argument is not only untenable, but also crafty.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said in an interview with an Italian news channel that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish, and said that “Hitler also had Jewish origins.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”
The fresh comments highlight a growing row between two countries at a time when Israel has sought to remain somewhat neutral in the conflict and due to its own security concerns in the Middle East..
Russia unleashes rockets in Mariupol, E.U. readies oil sanctions
KYIV/LVIV — Russian forces fired rockets at the encircled steel works in Ukraine’s Mariupol and smoke darkened the sky above the plant, where officials say 200 civilians are still trapped despite evacuations, while the European Union prepared to sanction Russian oil.
Reuters images showed volleys of rockets fired from a Russian truck-mounted launcher on the outskirts of the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol.
The attack followed a U.N.-brokered ceasefire around the Soviet-era steel complex that allowed several groups of civilians to escape the last holdout of Ukrainian fighters in the southern port in recent days.
More civilians were trapped in bunkers and tunnels under the complex and some 100,000 remained in the rest of the city, mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Tuesday.
Life goes on amid devastation in Mariupol
Russian forces 'significantly weaker' after losses in Ukraine, U.K. says
The war in Ukraine has considerably weakened Russia’s military and recovery won’t be easy, the British government said Tuesday.
“Russia’s military is now significantly weaker, both materially and conceptually, as a result of its invasion of Ukraine,” the Ministry of Defence said in its daily briefing.
It comes after Moscow invested heavily in the military between 2005 and 2018, but “failures both in strategic planning and operational execution” hindered the Russian military’s advantage.
On Monday, Britain warned that it would take years for Russia to build back from its military losses in Ukraine.
At least 220 children have died since the war began, Ukraine's prosecutor general says
At least 220 children were killed and 406 injured during the the Russian invasion, Ukraine's prosecutor general's office said on Tuesday.
“These figures are not final, “ the office said in an online statement. The statement said a 14-year-old boy was killed by a Russian missile strike on the city of Odessa on Monday.
More than 1,500 schools, colleges and kindergartens have been damaged, 118 of them were completely destroyed, the statement added.
Watching from space, satellites collect evidence of war crimes
Few developments in Ukraine have escaped the all-seeing eyes of satellites.
From their orbital perches, Earth-watching satellites have followed the movement of troops around the country, zeroing in on strikes in contested areas and witnessing the aftermath of attacks.
Now, these “eyes in the sky” are gathering images in greater quantities and at higher resolutions than ever before, collecting what could end up as crucial pieces of evidence in investigations into potential war crimes committed by Russia since its military assault began on Feb. 24.
Pope Francis says he asked to meet with Putin, but hasn't heard back yet
“We have not yet received an answer and we are still insisting, even if I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting right now. But so much brutality how can you not stop it?” he told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper.
In the interview he suggested that the war was trigged by “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door.”
“An anger that I don’t know if it was provoked,” he said, “but perhaps facilitated, yes.”
The pope, who has regularly appealed for peace in Ukraine since the war began, also told the newspaper that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had told him Russia planned to end the war on May 9, when Russia marks the anniversary of the country's victory over Germany in 1945.
Families leave eastern Ukraine by bulletproof bus
U.K. PM Johnson will proclaim Ukraine’s ‘finest hour’ in address, announce more military aid
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will declare “this is Ukraine’s finest hour” in an address to Kyiv's parliament on Tuesday, 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. It includes air defense vehicles, missiles, a counter-battery radar system and GPS jamming equipment, it 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.