(Zaporiya) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will take part in the video conference meeting of the leaders of the G7 great powers on Sunday to discuss the situation in his country, where the fate of the last besieged in the strategic port of Mariupol is uncertain.
Updated yesterday at 10:19pm.
“May 8 is a historic date that marks the end of World War II in Europe, which wreaked terror, destruction and death in Europe,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokeswoman on Friday. The war in Ukraine strengthened the cohesion of the G7 […] more important than ever”.
Germany is chairing the G7 this year (also Canada, USA, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan).
This third meeting since the beginning of the year will be devoted “particularly to the situation in Ukraine,” she said without giving any further details.
US President Joe Biden had discussed possible additional sanctions against Russia at this meeting a few days earlier.
“We are always open to additional sanctions,” he said on Wednesday, adding that he would discuss “what we do and don’t do” with G7 members.
On the Western sanctions front, too, the 27 member states of the European Union are locked in arduous negotiations to reach an agreement this weekend on a plan to halt Russian oil imports, which Hungary has so far blocked.
The G7 meeting takes place on the eve of the May 9 military parade in Russia marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
The Russian army, in the presence of soldiers who took part in the offensive in Ukraine, held the final rehearsals for the traditional military parade scheduled for Saturday in Moscow’s Red Square.
The Ukrainian authorities have been warning for a few days that Russian attacks will intensify in the run-up to this commemoration.
“The enemy is trying to finish off the Azovstal defenders, they are trying to do this before May 9 as a gift [au président russe] Vladimir Putin,” warned Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president.
The Azovstal Steelworks is home to the last defenders of Mariupol. Hundreds of civilians also found refuge in the extensive underground galleries after the Russian invasion began on February 24th.
All civilians evacuated from Azovstal
After many calls and unsuccessful attempts in the past few weeks, “we have evacuated the civilians from Azovstal,” President Zelenskyy exclaimed in his daily message on Saturday evening, citing the figure of 300 exfiltrated. “We are now preparing for the second phase […] : the wounded and the medical staff”.
And: “Of course we are also working on evacuating our soldiers. All these heroes are defending Mariupol,” he continued, without giving a number. “It’s extremely difficult. But it’s very important.”
“Many soldiers are in serious condition. They are injured and have no medication,” explains Yevguenia Tytarenko, a military nurse whose husband, a medic and member of the Azov regiment, and his colleagues are still at the factory. “There is also a lack of food and water,” she says.
“I will fight to the end,” her husband Mykhaïlo wrote in a text message seen by AFP. They married two days before the Russian invasion.
“The President’s Order [ukrainien] was executed: all women, children and old people were evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the humanitarian mission in Mariupol has been completed,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Saturday.
According to Kyiv, these operations, under the aegis of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have enabled almost 500 people to flee within a week.
Ukraine asked Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Saturday evening to organize a mission to evacuate and treat the soldiers holed up in the steel mill.
Moscow on Wednesday announced a unilateral three-day ceasefire from Thursday morning to allow civilians in Azovstal to leave the country.
But the Ukrainian authorities, especially the Army General Staff, claimed that the Russians had again attacked this factory during this period. The Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that “the enemy has not stopped its offensive”, in particular, is still “blocking” the defenders of the Azovstal district.
Mariupol, a southeastern port city that had a pre-war population of nearly 500,000, was almost entirely wiped off the map by two months of Russian bombardment.
Vladimir Putin, who believes he cannot afford to lose in Ukraine, is “convinced that redoubling his efforts will allow him to make progress,” CIA Director Bill Burns estimated on Saturday.
However, there is no “concrete evidence” that Russia, which put its deterrent forces on high alert shortly after the start of its military intervention, “is preparing for the use or even the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in this conflict,” he emphasized.
In south-west Ukraine, airfields in the regions of Artsyz near Romania, Odessa – a major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea – and Voznesensk north of Mykolaiv were attacked, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday night.
In the Northeast, the Russian Iskander army’s mobile ballistic missile systems destroyed “large quantities of supplied weapons and military equipment [à l’Ukraine] through the United States and other Western countries” in Krasnograd and Karlovka, not far from Kharkiv, he continued.
Strikes were also reported around Donetsk (east) on Saturday, killing four people and injuring nine, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
The Russians have made limited territorial gains over the past 24 hours around Severodonetsk, one of the key locations in Donbass that is still in Ukrainian hands, but this should not result in a full encirclement, noted the American Institute of Study of War ( ISW) fixed.
Russia has only been able to claim complete control of one major city, Kherson.
In Kharkiv, the Ukrainian counter-offensive to push Ukraine’s second-largest city out of enemy artillery range even gained momentum, with the capture of several Russian positions, again according to ISW.
“The Ukrainian armed forces are regaining ground in a wide arc around Kharkiv and are no longer focused on a limited advance, but are demonstrating the ability to launch offensive operations on a larger scale than previously in this war,” the institute said.
So much so that the Russian army had to blow up three road bridges in the region “to slow down the counter-offensive,” according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
Zelenskyi said on Saturday night that the Russians had targeted the museum dedicated to philosopher and poet Grigory Skovoroda in the Kharkiv region, which was badly damaged in a missile attack.
cultural heritage destroyed
“Every day in this war, the Russian army does something that leaves you speechless,” he remarked. “As of May 7, the Russian military has destroyed or damaged nearly 200 cultural heritage sites.”
“Today the invaders launched a missile attack on Odessa, a city where almost every street is memorable and historic,” he lamented.
A hundred kilometers from Odessa, not far from the tiny Snake Island, the Ukrainian Navy is said to have destroyed the Russian landing ship Serna with a combat drone developed in Turkey.
Information not confirmed by Russia, which, on the other hand, claimed to have sunk “the Ukrainian assault boat “Stanislav””.
According to a report by the British Ministry of Defense, the conflict is “damaging the most capable Russian units”.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic on Saturday denounced the “staggering” violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Russian army in Ukraine after a four-day visit to Kyiv and its region.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, complained to the press in Kyiv that there have been “200 attacks on health facilities” since the outbreak of hostilities.