women and children all evacuated from Azovstal, the fighting continues

On Friday, 50 people, again the most vulnerable civilians, were able to leave the huge steel complex, the last pocket of resistance for Ukrainian forces in this southeastern port city destroyed by Russian bombing. These operations, which have taken place over a week under the auspices of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have, according to Kiev, allowed nearly 500 civilians to flee.

Small Russian advance in Donbass

However, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in its morning report on Saturday that “the enemy did not stop its offensive”, in particular, still “blocked” the defenders of the district of Azovstal. The staff of the Ukrainian army assured that the Russian forces had still attacked this factory the day before, despite the ceasefire which they unilaterally decreed on Thursday for three days.

Mariupol, which had almost 500,000 inhabitants before the war, was almost completely wiped off the map by two months of Russian siege and bombing.

Further west, two rocket attacks reached Odessa, the great Ukrainian port on the Black Sea, on Friday night without causing any casualties. The city of Mykolaiv was also targeted.

Missile attacks were also reported on Friday and Saturday in the Kharkiv region (northeast) and around Donetsk (east).

The Russians have gained limited territorial gains in the last 24 hours around Severodonetsk, one of the largest cities in the Donbass that is still in Ukrainian hands, but this should not lead to a complete encirclement, noted the American Institute of Study of War (ISW). ).

Ukrainian military successes

Conversely, in Kharkiv, the Ukrainian counter-offensive to put Ukraine’s second city outside the enemy’s artillery range gained momentum, with the conquest of several Russian positions to the north and east. . So much so that the Russian army had to blow up three road bridges “to slow down the counter-offensive” in this region, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

The Ukrainian navy, for its part, assured that it had destroyed a Russian landing ship about a hundred kilometers from Odessa, not far from the small Serpents’ Island, using a Bayraktar TB2 combat drone, developed in Turkey, information that Russia has not confirmed.

Expected resuscitation as May 9 approaches

As May 9 approaches, the Ukrainian authorities expect an intensification of Russian attacks.

“Please do not ignore air alarms and go to shelters immediately, the risk of bombings is very likely in all regions of Ukraine,” warned Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko on Friday, adding that no commemoration of the victory in 1945 would take place in the Ukrainian capital city. .

“The enemy is trying to finish Azovstal’s defenders, he is trying to do this before May 9 to give Vladimir Putin a gift,” warned Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Saturday in Moscow, the Russian army conducted the final exercises in Red Square ahead of the traditional military parade on May 9, in the presence of soldiers participating in the offensive in Ukraine.

Fear of an extension of the conflict

On the sidelines of this war, authorities in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova announced on Saturday that four explosions had taken place the previous evening in a village bordering Ukraine, without, however, causing any casualties.

Fears that the conflict in Ukraine could spread to Transnistria have grown in recent weeks after a Russian general revealed that one of Russia’s goals was to establish a corridor to the small area.

The United States, meanwhile, announced on Friday a new $ 150 million military aid to Kiev – a level well below the previous ones – while warning that the funds allocated to these arms supplies were now “practically depleted”.

“Dizzying” human rights violations

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic on Saturday condemned the Russian army’s “dizzying” violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Ukraine after a four-day visit to Kiev and its region.

The day before, in its first demonstration of unity since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the UN Security Council – in which Russia, one of its five permanent members, has a veto – had given its “firm support” to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “in search of a peaceful solution”.

Sanctions against Russian oil

On the Western sanctions front, difficult negotiations were underway between the 27 EU member states to reach agreement over the weekend on a plan to stop Russian oil imports, which Hungary has so far blocked. .

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