Evacuation operations continue from Mariupol with 40 civilians rescued…
War in Ukraine taking ‘heavy toll’ on Russian units, UK MoD says
The conflict in Ukraine is taking a “heavy toll” on some of Russia’s most capable units, the UK’s ministry of defence has said in its latest intelligence report.
At least one T-90M, Russia’s most advanced tank, has been destroyed in fighting, the ministry added. The T-90M was introduced in 2016 and includes improved armour, an upgraded gun and enhanced satellite navigation systems.
Approximately 100 T-90M tanks are currently in service amongst Russia’s best equipped units, including those fighting in Ukraine, British intelligence claimed adding that the system’s upgraded armour, designed to counter anti-tank weaponry, remains vulnerable if unsupported by other force elements.
The report continued:
The conflict in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll on some of Russia’s most capable units and most advanced capabilities.
It will take considerable time and expense for Russia to reconstitute its armed forces following this conflict.
It will be particularly challenging to replace modernised and advanced equipment due to sanctions restricting Russia’s access to critical microelectronic components.
Ukrainian government claims to have destroyed another Russian ship
The Ukrainian government has said that it has destroyed another Russian ship.
The ministry of defence claimed that Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 had hit the landing craft of the Serna project, tweeting: “The traditional parade of the Russian Black Sea fleet on May 9 this year will be held near Snake Island – at the bottom of the sea.”
Pro-Russian separatists in Moldova claim they were hit four times by suspected drones overnight near the Ukrainian border.
The interior ministry of Transdniestria released photos of craters it claimed had been created by the strikes and said nobody had been injured.
It comes after nearly two weeks of similar reported incidents in the Transdniestria breakaway region, raising alarm internationally that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spread.
Russian forces have held a dress rehearsal for a planned military parade to commemorate Victory Day in Moscow on Monday.
An RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile rolled through Red Square as part of the rehearsal, while warplanes and helicopters flew overhead, troops marched in formation and artillery vehicles drove by.
The holiday traditionally marks the defeat of Nazi Germany during the second world war, but this year many Russians will be thinking about their troops in Ukraine, reports the Associated Press.
G7 leaders, including the US president, Joe Biden, plan to hold a video call on Sunday with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, ahead of the holiday in a show of unity, the White House has said.
Jill Biden has praised the Romanian government and aid organisations for their help for Ukrainians during a visit to Bucharest – but warned that it was “just the beginning”.
The US first lady made the stark assessment following a briefing at the US embassy, where she was told that Romania had received nearly 900,000 refugees since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Saturday marked the second day of a four-day trip to Romania and Slovakia intended to show US support for Ukrainian refugees.
“It’s amazing. It’s solidarity here in Romania that you’re all working together,” she said. “I think this is really, unfortunately, just the beginning. Just the beginning.”
During the visit she also asked about mental health services and summer schools for students, the Associated Press reports.
“The Romanian people are amazing, to welcome all these refugees into their homes and offer them food and clothing and shelter and give them their hearts,” she added. “I think the world knows that.”
US president Joe Biden has announced another package of military assistance for Ukraine as dozens of civilians were evacuated from Mariupol’s besieged steelworks, the last pocket of resistance against Russian troops in the pulverised port city.
Worth $150m, the latest US security assistance for the “brave people of Ukraine” would include artillery munitions and radars, Biden said. A senior US official said it included counter-artillery radars used for detecting the source of enemy fire, and electronic jamming equipment.
Friday’s new batch brings the total value of US weaponry sent to Ukraine since the invasion began to $3.8bn (£3bn) – and the president urged Congress to further approve a huge $33bn package including $20bn in military aid, “to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table”.
Biden and leaders of other G7 nations will hold a virtual summit with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on Sunday. They are expected to discuss western support for Kyiv in its struggle against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
It comes as the UN security council issued its first statement on the war in Ukraine, but withheld from using the words “war”, “conflict” or “invasion”.
The statement instead “expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and voiced “strong support” for teh UN secretary general, António Guterres, in seeking a peaceful solution to the “dispute”.
“The security council expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine,” read the statement released on Friday night. Russia, which has a veto in the council, has stymied all prior bids to adopt a statement on Ukraine.
The video was a terrible way for Vadim Yevdokimenko to find out that his father had been murdered. Alexei had been missing for weeks, since he went out in early March to scavenge firewood for cooking in their shattered, Russian-occupied town of Bucha.
Yevdokimenko and his mother, Lilia, clung to a fading hope that he might have been captured and taken across the border, and that he would return in a prisoner exchange – the fate of some Ukrainian men.
But this week the 20-year-old student barber spotted his father’s face in footage of Ukrainians tortured and murdered during the occupation. The only solace the family can reach for now is giving Alexei a decent burial, but they cannot find his body.
So they had come to wait outside a white tent set up in the grounds of Bucha hospital, where French forensic investigators were swabbing a queue of quietly desperate people for their DNA, to see if any of them have relatives lying in the nearby morgue.
After weeks of exhumations, the morgue holds more than 200 bodies that have not been identified. Some were buried without documents and are waiting to be claimed, but many are too disfigured by their deaths, or their treatment after death, to be identified by sight.
“This is the first time we have done this. At first we didn’t know how many people would come,” said Andrei Turbar, the deputy prosecutor for Bucha district, as dozens of relatives filled in forms and waited for their tests. The crowd underlined how many people are missing in just one small suburban town outside Kyiv.
Ukrainians who saw their loved ones killed or have collected their bodies for burial are grappling with terrible grief. But thousands more are dealing with a loss compounded by the agony of uncertainty.
Some are searching for children or parents, a spouse or siblings who went missing when the Russians were slaughtering civilians. Others got bad news from a friend or an image online, but have not been able to find the remains of the person they loved.
A Ukrainian drone strike reportedly hit Russian positions on Snake Island, 186 miles (300km) west of Crimea, on Friday.
Associated Press said it had analysed satellite photos showing the aftermath of the strike, without giving further details.
Some 50 people were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the territorial defence headquarters of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, the so-called separatist region backed and recognised by Russia.
Around 50 civilians had been evacuated yesterday to a reception centre in the village of Bezimenne in an area of Donetsk under the control of Russia-backed separatists about 30km east of Mariupol.
Nearly four million Russians left the country in the first three months of 2022, official statistics published by Russia’s federal security service (FSB) show.
A total of 3,880,679 Russians travelled between January and March, according to the figures. It is unclear how many have since returned to their home country.
Arrivals to former Soviet countries saw a significant spike after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Russians who left the country out of opposition to the war were joined by those escaping rumoured border closures, martial law and mass mobilisation that have so far not materialised, the Moscow Times reports.
Georgia took in 38,281 Russians in the first quarter of 2022, the FSB said, a nearly fivefold increase from the 8,504 Russians accepted over the same time last year.
Tajikistan also saw a nearly fivefold increase in Russian arrivals, from 8,857 in January-March 2021 to 40,054 in the same time period this year.
Estonia saw a fourfold increase (125,426) compared with last year (29,364). Fellow Baltic states Latvia (25,568 compared with 13,521) and Lithuania (48,197 compared with 41,838) saw slight increases.
Armenia saw a threefold jump of 134,129 from 44,586 over the same time last year. Uzbekistan saw a similar threefold at 53,084 this year compared with 15,206 in 2021.
The number of Russians arriving in Kazakhstan doubled to 204,947 in January-March 2022 from 122,330.
There was a slight increase in the number of Russians travelling to Ukraine – 328,435, up from 316,286 in January-March 2021.
Russia’s defence ministry said its troops destroyed a large stockpile of military equipment from the US and European countries near the Bohodukhiv railway station in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.
The ministry said it had hit 18 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, including three ammunition depots in Dachne, near the port city of Odesa.
US intelligence told to keep quiet over role in Ukraine military triumphs
Former US intelligence officers are advising their successors currently in office to shut up and stop boasting about their role in Ukraine’s military successes.
Two stories surfaced in as many days in the American press this week, citing unnamed officials as saying that US intelligence was instrumental in the targeting of Russian generals on the battlefield and in the sinking of the Moskva flagship cruiser on the Black Sea.
The initial report in the New York Times on Wednesday about the generals was partially denied by the White House, which said that while the US shares intelligence with Ukrainian forces, it was not specifically shared with the intent to kill Russian general officers.
The next day, NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post all quoted officials as saying that US intelligence had helped Ukraine hit the Moskva with anti-ship missiles last month, making it the biggest Russian ship to be sunk since the second world war.
As a general rule, espionage is carried out in secret, though western intelligence agencies have turned that rule on its head over the past few months by going public with what they knew about Russian preparations for invasion, and then with daily reports on the battlefield and from behind Russian lines.
The new disclosures are different however, as they concern what the US espionage agencies themselves have been doing, rather than commenting on the state of the war.
In both cases, the US was claiming a hand in historic humiliations for Moscow and for Vladimir Putin, triggering warnings of unintended consequences.
Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official, said: “My personal view is it’s unwise. I am surprised at the extent of official confirmation of the role of US intelligence in the sinking into Moscow, and even more so the killing of the generals.
“The big concern is that this sort of public confirmation of this extensive US role in the setbacks dealt to the Russians may provoke Putin into escalation in a way that he might not otherwise feel it necessary to escalate.”
Russian forces have blown up three bridges to slow a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the north-east, according to Ukraine’s military.
In its operation update this morning, Ukraine’s armed forces said in the area of Tsyrkuny and Rusky Tyshky, near Kharkiv:
The occupiers blew up three road bridges in order to slow down the counter-offensive actions of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.
“They were tears of happiness at first,” says 23-year-old Oksana Balandina of her first dance with her new husband, captured on video by a nurse and now shared across the world.
Six weeks ago, Oksana stood on a mine as she was returning home with her then partner, Viktor Vasyliv, also 23, after venturing out to collect some supplies for elderly neighbours on their street in Lysychansk, an east Ukrainian town on the frontline of the war with Russia.
Oksana, a paediatric nurse, and mother of Diana, 5, and Illia, 7, was, according to medics, fortunate to survive the blast, but she lost both her legs and four fingers on her left hand. Since then she has had moments of utter despair, screaming out that she wants to die, says Viktor, a carpenter, as he crouches by her wheelchair.
Today, however, drinking a takeaway coffee and taking in the sun outside Lviv’s municipal hospital, Oksana – quick to smile – says she feels stronger and grateful, as she dusts some tree blossom off her husband’s cheek.
In part, she says, that is due to an outpouring of support from strangers around the world touched by that moment two weeks ago in the hospital ward when her husband gently lifted his bride, dressed in white, and held her tight as she buried her face in his shoulder and they swayed to tinny music playing on a laptop.
Oksana posted the video on the social media site TikTok and she has since put up other short pieces of film of her trying to keep fit to music since the incident. They have been viewed many thousands of times, provoking the vital comments of support that Viktor says his wife has so treasured during these hard weeks.
“The dance was a complete surprise,” she says. “We had come back to the hospital from the registry office and Natalia and Olesia [hospital volunteers] had brought a dress and a laptop for music. Natalia said, ‘What kind of wedding is that without a dance?’”
“It was pure joy and happiness,” she adds of her response to Viktor picking her up. “But then the realisation came. It’s not how I wanted my first dance to be.”
Read the full article here: How hospital wedding dance restored Ukraine bombing victim’s will to live
Summary so far
Before I hand you over to my colleague in London, Léonie Chao-Fong, here are some of the key developments from overnight.
- The conflict in Ukraine is taking a “heavy toll” on some of Russia’s most capable units, the UK’s ministry of defence said in its latest intelligence report. At least one T-90M, Russia’s most advanced tank, has been destroyed in fighting, the ministry added. “It will take considerable time and expense for Russia to reconstitute its armed forces following this conflict,” the report said.
- The UN security council has issued its first statement on the war in Ukraine, but withheld from using the words “war”, “conflict” or “invasion”. The statement instead “expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and voiced “strong support” for the secretary general, António Guterres, in seeking a peaceful solution to the “dispute”.
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the southern port city of Mariupol is “an example of torture and starvation used as a weapon of war”. In an address to Chatham House, he said he was “elected as president of Ukraine and not a mini-Ukraine”, and that Russia must first fall back to the territory it held before its invasion on 23 February if peace talks are to succeed. He also accused Russia of “outright nuclear blackmail” during the speech.
- The latest US military aid package to Ukraine, announced by president Joe Biden on Friday, is worth $150m, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, confirmed. The latest tranche of assistance includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, as well as counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment and spare parts. It brings Washington’s military assistance to Kyiv since the Russian invasion began to around $3.8bn, Blinken said.
- Evacuation operations are continuing from the besieged southern city of Mariupol with 40 civilians rescued on Friday, Zelenskiy confirmed in his latest national address.
- Three evacuation buses left the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Friday, according to Russian media reports. Buses carrying 25 civilians including children were brought out from the plant to a camp in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne. An estimated 200 civilians, along with Ukrainian resistance fighters, remained trapped in underground refuges at the huge industrial complex.
- 41 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians captured by Russia, among them 11 women and a cleric, have been freed in a new prisoner exchange, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on Telegram Friday.
- The Group of Seven (G7) leaders including the US president, Joe Biden, will hold a video call on Sunday with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a show of unity the day before Russia marks its Victory Day holiday, the White House said.
- Germany will also send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, on top of five artillery systems the Dutch government has already pledged, the German defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, said. The PzH 2000 is one of the most powerful artillery weapons in the Bundeswehr inventories and can hit targets at a distance of 40km (25 miles).
- The UK government has said it will give Ukraine 287 mobile generators in addition to 569 generators it had donated earlier.
- US officials have said they shared information about the location of the Russian warship Moskva with Ukraine prior to its sinking last month, a fresh demonstration of the close intelligence support Kyiv is receiving from Washington. However, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby deflected questions about whether the US provided information to Ukraine that helped military leaders target Russian generals, instead saying Ukraine “makes the decisions” when it comes to how they use US intel.
- Amnesty International said there was compelling evidence that Russian troops had committed war crimes in the Kyiv area in February and March as Ukrainians line up to take DNA tests to identify dead bodies in Bucha. A total of 10,257 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces are currently under investigation, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor generals office.
- Italian officials have seized a yacht with ties to the Russian government and believed to belong to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, according to a release from the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Friday.
You can also read our earlier summary here.
More than 10,000 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces are currently under investigation, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor generals office.
A total of 10,257 cases have been logged and 223 children have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February, the office said in an update early this morning.
Another 633 children have reportedly been injured.