Russia-Ukraine conflict: Dozens leave Mariupol plant as Pelosi backs ‘fight for freedom’

Dozens of civilians have fled a besieged steel plant in the city of Mariupol as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backs Ukraine’s “fight for freedom.”

Dozens of civilians fled a besieged steel plant in the city of Mariupol, Russia said on Sunday, as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced support for Ukraine’s “fight for freedom” during a visit. to Kyiv.

The Russian Defense Ministry said a total of 46 civilians left in two groups on Saturday from the area around the Azovstal plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the city.

The development raised hopes of a larger, long-awaited evacuation from the battered plant, where local fighters say they and hundreds of civilians are still sheltering.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video Saturday night that kyiv was “doing everything possible to ensure that the Mariupol evacuation mission is carried out.”

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said on Telegram on Sunday that there would be “radio silence on the evacuation situation.”

Thousands have been killed and millions displaced since Russia began its invasion on February 24.

Western powers rushed to send military aid to Ukraine and imposed heavy sanctions on Russia.

“We visit you to thank you for your fight for freedom… Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is over,” Pelosi said in a meeting with Zelensky.

Pelosi also said in a statement that “additional American support is on the way” following President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a $33 billion arms and support package.

Russian ruble introduced

The conflict is now concentrated in eastern and southern Ukraine, although there have been Russian missile strikes across the country, mainly targeting infrastructure and supply lines.

On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities said a Russian missile attack had destroyed the runway at Odessa airport in the country’s southwest.

Near Bucha, the town near kyiv that has become synonymous with Russian war crimes accusations, police reported finding three bodies with gunshots to the head and their hands tied.

The victims were found in a well and had been “brutally murdered” by Russian soldiers, police said in a statement.

“The victims’ hands were tied, cloths covered their eyes and some were gagged. There are traces of torture on the corpses,” the statement said.

Ukrainian prosecutors say they have identified more than 8,000 war crimes committed by Moscow’s troops and are investigating 10 Russian soldiers for alleged atrocities in Bucha.

Russia has denied any involvement in the civilian deaths in Bucha. Russia, meanwhile, has moved to consolidate its control over areas it controls and from Sunday introduced the Russian ruble into the Kherson region, initially to be used alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

“From May 1, we will move to the ruble zone,” Kirill Stremousov, the civil and military administrator of Kherson, was quoted earlier by Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

He said there would be a four-month period when the hryvnia could be used, but then “we will completely switch to ruble settlements.”

‘Terrible and relentless fear’

On the front line in the east, Russian troops have advanced slowly but steadily in some areas, aided by massive use of artillery, but Ukrainian forces have also recaptured some territory in recent days, particularly around the city. from Kharkiv.

One of the areas regained from Russian control was the village of Ruska Lozova, which evacuees said had been occupied for two months.

“It was two months of terrible fear. Nothing more, a terrible and unrelenting fear,” Natalia, a 28-year-old evacuee from Ruska Lozova, told AFP after arriving in Kharkiv.

“We were in the cellars without food for two months, we ate what we had,” said Svyatoslav, 40, who declined to give his full name, his eyes reddened from exhaustion.

kyiv admitted that Russian forces captured a number of villages in the Donbas region and called on Western powers to hand over more heavy weapons to bolster their defenses there.

Zelensky said he spoke Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “about support for Ukraine’s defense and other efforts needed to end the war.”

“I informed Boris about the current situation on the battlefield in the areas of active fighting and in detail about the situation in our east, in Mariupol, in the south of the country,” he said.

“All the leaders of the free world know what Russia has done to Mariupol. And Russia will not go unpunished for this.” Russia has warned Western countries not to send more military aid. On Sunday, Russia also suggested it could seize Russia-based assets from countries it deems hostile in retaliation for a US proposal to sell the assets of Russian oligarchs and pay the proceeds to Ukraine.

“As regards companies based on Russian territory whose owners are citizens of hostile countries and where a decision has been made” to seize Russian assets, “it is fair to take reciprocal action and confiscate assets,” said the president of the Lower House of Russia. parliament house, Vyacheslav Volodin.

“And the proceeds from the sale of these assets will be used for the development of our country,” he said in his Telegram.

AFP

Originally posted as Dozens leave Mariupol plant as Ukrainian President meets in person with Nancy Pelosi

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