Angelina Jolie meets orphaned and displaced children in Lviv

A Russian rocket attack destroyed an airport runway in Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and a key Black Sea port, on April 30, as the country’s president said it was difficult to discuss peace amid public anger over alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops, and Russia’s foreign minister claimed Western sanctions and arms shipments were hampering the talks.

The comments from Ukrainian and Russian officials came amid reports that some civilians may be evacuated from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine as Russia continues its offensive in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command said late April 30 that there was no way the Odessa runway could be used following the rocket attack.

The Odessa regional governor said the rocket was fired from Russian-occupied Crimea. Maksym Marchenko said there was no injury report.

Elsewhere, another mass grave was discovered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the scene of suspected mass executions of civilians before it was taken over by Ukrainian forces in early March, the Kyiv regional police chief said April 30.

It came as Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister said invading Russian forces stole “several hundred thousand tons” of grain from the territory they hold.

“Today, confirmed facts indicate that several hundred thousand tons of grain in total were extracted from Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Taras Vysotskiy told Ukrainian television.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his final televised address on April 29 that Kyiv forces were making tactical gains in the region, while a senior US defense official said the same day that strong Ukrainian resistance was slowing the Russian offensive in Donbass.

Zelenskiy’s office had earlier said an operation was planned to smuggle civilians out of the massive Azovstal steel plant, where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are dug in along with about 1,000 civilians. Later in the day, TASS reported that 25 civilians, including six children, had left the territory of the Azovstal steel plant. Later, Ukrainian soldiers inside the besieged factory were quoted by Western news agencies as saying that a group of 20 civilians were about to leave the factory.

“Twenty civilians, women and children (…) have been transferred to an appropriate place and we hope that they will be evacuated to Zaporizhzhya, in territory controlled by Ukraine,” said Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the regiment. ‘Azov.

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, located in the northeast of the country, was reportedly targeted by mortar and artillery fire on April 30. Zelenskiy said in his televised speech the previous night that Ukrainian forces had recaptured a strategically important village near the town and evacuated hundreds of civilians.

The Ukrainian military said in its April 30 daily briefing that the biggest enemy losses took place near Izyum, in the Kharkiv region bordering the territories of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Aleksandr Bogomaz, the governor of Bryansk in Russia, said air defenses prevented a Ukrainian plane from entering the area and as a result shelling hit parts of an oil terminal, state agencies reported. Russian press.

The governor of another Russian region, Kursk, said several shells were fired from the direction of Ukraine on April 30 at a checkpoint near its border. Roman Starovoit said in a video on his Telegram channel that there were no casualties or damage.

Seven Ukrainian soldiers and seven civilians were freed in a prisoner swap with Russia on Saturday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“We are repatriating 14 of our men: seven soldiers and seven civilians”, Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook and Telegram. “For me, this exchange is special: one of the female soldiers is five months pregnant.

Zelenskiy told the nation on April 29 that the constant “brutal” shelling of infrastructure and residential areas “shows that Russia wants to empty [the Donbas region] of all peoples”, and declared that “the defense of our land, the defense of our people, is literally a fight for life”.

He said that if Russian forces, which invaded Ukraine unprovoked in late February and have been accused of committing war crimes against civilians, “are able to carry out their plans, even partially, then they have enough artillery and planes to turn all of Donbass to stone”. .”

Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the major developments on the invasion of Russia, how kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.

Zelenskiy said Mariupol, once one of the most developed cities in the east, was now a “concentration camp among the ruins”.

Earlier in the day, he told Polish reporters that the Ukrainian people were seeking revenge for alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops, and “when this kind of attitude exists, it’s hard to talk about things.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed the need for the United Nations to help secure humanitarian corridors from besieged Ukrainian cities. He also called on the West to stop supplying arms to Ukraine and said “difficult” negotiations with kyiv were continuing.

Speaking to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV on April 29, Lavrov said he appreciated UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s offers to help evacuate Ukrainian civilians from besieged towns, but that ” there is no need for anyone to provide aid to open humanitarian aid”. corridors.”

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed it carried out an airstrike on Kyiv during António Guterres’ visit to the Ukrainian capital on April 28, saying “high-precision, long-range aerial weapons” were used in an attack he claimed to have destroyed a missile production plant in kyiv.

Journalist Vira Hyrych, who worked for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, was among those killed when a missile hit her apartment.

In comments published by China’s official Xinhua news agency on April 30, Lavrov said talks with Kyiv were continuing daily, with Moscow insisting on “recognition of new geopolitical realities, lifting of [Western] sanctions and the status of the Russian language”.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators have not met face to face since late March, with Russian troops accused of committing war crimes and Western nations toughening punitive sanctions against Moscow and increasing military aid to kyiv.

Lavrov told Xinhua that if the United States and the Western NATO military alliance were “really interested in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, then first of all they should wake up and stop supplying the regime with kyiv Arms and Ammunition”.

Russia’s foreign minister also said Russia, which has been hit hard by punitive sanctions for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, could “reshape” its economy to counter “illegal hostilities”.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelenskiy in an April 30 call that his country would step up military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

In Washington, Congress prepares to consider US President Joe Biden’s request for $33 billion to support Ukraine, a massive increase in funding that includes more than $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military aid.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on April 29 that in the month since Moscow announced it would focus its military efforts in Ukraine on eastern of the country, he had made minimal gains.

In the United States’ assessment, the official said, the Russian military was “at least several days behind where it wanted to be” in its attempt to surround Ukrainian troops. The official described Russian troops’ efforts to move from Mariupol to advance on Ukrainian forces from the south as “slow and uneven and certainly not decisive.”

The UK MoD, in its latest assessment, said Russia had “been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from failed advances in northeast Ukraine”. However, British intelligence said many units were “probably suffering from weakened morale” and “a lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support prevented Russia from taking full advantage of its mass.” of fight”.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened unspecified retaliation for Western arms deliveries to Ukraine, while Lavrov said the West should not underestimate the high risks of nuclear conflict.

Russia’s invasion and heightened rhetoric have raised fears that the war in Ukraine could spill over into neighboring Moldova, whose breakaway region of Transnistria is backed by Moscow and hosts Russian forces.

A series of recent explosions in Transnistria have led to accusations that Moscow is seeking to destabilize Moldova.

Asked about the risk of war in Moldova during his April 29 interview with Al-Arabiya, Lavrov said that “Moldova should worry about its own future”, suggesting that the country is “drawn into NATO”.

With reports from AFP, AP, dpa and Reuters

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