- Moscow steps up assault in southern Ukraine and eastern Donbass
- 20 civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant
- Odessa airport, Luhansk and Donetsk hit by missiles
KYIV, May 1 (Reuters) – Ukrainian shelling has killed and injured its own civilians in the southern region of Kherson, Russia said on Sunday, as some civilians managed to leave a steel mill in besieged Mariupol.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become the latest Western official to travel to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine.
“We believe we are visiting you to thank you for your fight for freedom… Your fight is everyone’s fight. Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is over,” said Pelosi in a video shared by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Twitter.
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Pelosi, who was accompanied by several U.S. lawmakers, said Friday she hoped to pass a $33 billion aid package for Ukraine that President Joe Biden has requested “as soon as possible.” Read more
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery in the villages of Kyselivka and Shyroka Balka in the Kherson region, the Russian news agency RIA reported on Sunday. .
The ministry did not provide further details.
There was no immediate response from Ukraine and Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Russian forces captured the city of Kherson, giving them a foothold just 100 km (60 miles) north of Russian annexed Crimea, and mainly occupied Mariupol, a strategic eastern port city on the Sea of Azov.
The Ukrainian army said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to cross the administrative borders of Kherson and prepare the way for attacks on the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih.
In Mariupol, Russia declared victory on April 21 even as hundreds of resisting Ukrainian soldiers and civilians took refuge in the Azovstal steelworks.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian fighter inside said 20 women and children had escaped.
“We pull civilians out of the rubble with ropes – they are old people, women and children,” said the fighter, Sviatoslav Palamar, referring to the rubble in the sprawling factory.
Palamar said Russia and Ukraine were respecting a local ceasefire and he hoped evacuated civilians would be taken to the northwest town of Zaporizhzhia.
Neither Russia nor the United Nations, which has requested an evacuation agreement, has commented on the evacuations.
Moscow focused on southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to capture kyiv in the first weeks of the invasion it launched on February 24. The war has leveled cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million people to flee the country.
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
A Russian missile launched from Crimea on Saturday destroyed the runway at the main airport in the southwestern city of Odessa, regional governor Maksym Marchenko said, but no one was injured. Read more
The Ukrainian military said the airport could no longer be used and President Zelenskiy pledged to rebuild it, saying in a late-night video address that “Odessa will never forget Russia’s behavior at respect”.
Moscow did not comment on the strike.
Russian forces targeted Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city, sporadically during the conflict. Eight people were killed in a strike a week ago, Ukrainian officials said.
To the east, Moscow is pushing for full control of the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Lugansk and Donetsk provinces before the invasion.
Zelenskiy said in his speech that Russia was “gathering additional forces for further attacks against our military in the east of the country” and “trying to increase the pressure in Donbass”.
Despite weeks of peace talks, the two sides seemed more distant than ever on Saturday.
Ukraine accuses Russian troops of carrying out atrocities in areas near kyiv in early April, a claim denied by Moscow. The negotiators last met in person on March 29 and have since spoken via video link.
In the town of Dobropillia in Donetsk, the shock wave from a strike on Saturday blew through the windows of a building and left a large crater in the courtyard.
Standing in his living room, a resident who only gave his first name, Andriy, said his partner had passed out. “Thank goodness the four kids were in the kitchen,” he said.
People searched their belongings to retrieve what they could.
At least one person has died as a result of Russian strikes in Luhansk, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote in a social media post. He said Russia launched 19 attacks on residential areas in its towns and villages on Saturday.
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Reporting by Hamuda Hassan and Jorge Silva in Dobropillia, Ukraine, and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Reuters reporters Writing by Rami Ayyub, Clarence Fernandez and Frances Kerry; Editing by William Mallard, David Goodman and Alex Richardson
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