Civilians evacuated from Mariupol in Ukraine; US President Pelosi visits Kyiv
- UN confirms ongoing ‘safe passage’ operation from Mariupol
- Pelosi says US stands with Ukraine after meeting Zelenskiy
- Russia claims to have destroyed weapons supplied by Western countries
- Moscow steps up assault in southern Ukraine and eastern Donbass
- Residents of Kharkiv were warned to stay in bomb shelters on Sunday
KYIV/BEZIMENNE, Ukraine, May 1 (Reuters) – About 50 Ukrainian civilians reached the relative safety of a temporary camp in Russian-held territory on Sunday after being evacuated from a crumbling steel mill in Mariupol, where United Nations said an “operation safe passage” was underway.
As fighting spreads across a broad front in southern and eastern Ukraine, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi pledged continued U.S. support for the Ukraine when she met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during an unannounced visit to Kyiv.
Russia said it destroyed a stockpile of Western-supplied weapons at an airfield near Odessa in southern Ukraine.
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Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, endured the war’s most destructive siege, with Pope Francis in implicit criticism of Russia telling thousands in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that she had been “barbarically bombarded”. Read more
Moscow has focused on southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to capture kyiv in the first weeks of a war that has destroyed cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million people to flee the country.
In Mariupol, Russia declared victory on April 21 even as hundreds of resisting Ukrainian soldiers and civilians took refuge in the city’s Azovstal steelworks, a sprawling Soviet-era complex with a network of bunkers and tunnels, where they were trapped with little food, water or medicine.
Negotiations to evacuate civilians had repeatedly failed in recent weeks, with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other.
But on Sunday more than 50 civilians arrived at a temporary accommodation center after escaping from Mariupol, a Reuters photographer said. Read more
The civilians arrived by bus at the village of Bezimenne, about 30 km (18 miles) east of Mariupol, where a row of light blue tents had been set up, in a convoy with UN and Russian military vehicles .
A spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a “safe passage operation” began on Saturday and was being coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Russia and Ukraine. Read more
He said no further details could be released so as not to compromise the safety of the evacuees and the convoy.
Footage posted by Zelenskiy to Twitter on Sunday showed him, flanked by an armed escort and dressed in military fatigues, greeting a U.S. congressional delegation led by Pelosi outside his presidential office the day before.
“Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unequivocal and resounding message to the world: America stands firmly with Ukraine,” said Pelosi, the most senior US official to visit Ukraine. since the Russian invasion on February 24, in a press release.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Western countries have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia and shipped increasing amounts of weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday it carried out a missile strike on a military airfield near the port city of Odessa, destroying a runway and a hangar containing weapons and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by the United States. and European countries. Read more
On Saturday, Ukraine said Russian missiles destroyed a newly constructed runway at Odessa’s main airport.
It was unclear whether they were referring to the same incident and Reuters could not immediately verify the information.
To the east, Moscow is pushing for full control of the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Lugansk and Donetsk provinces before the invasion.
On Sunday, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synehubov warned residents in northern and eastern Kharkiv city to stay in their shelters due to heavy Russian shelling. Reuters could not immediately verify reports of shelling in the area.
Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, in a social media post urged people to evacuate while still possible.
Zelenskiy said in a video address on Saturday evening that Russia was “gathering additional forces for further attacks against our military in the east of the country.”
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of bombing a school, kindergarten and cemetery in villages in the occupied Kherson region, Russian news agency RIA reported on Sunday.
The ministry said civilians were killed and injured, but gave no further details. There was no immediate response from Ukraine and Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Russian forces captured the city of Kherson, 100 km (60 miles) north of Russian-annexed Crimea, in March.
Ukraine’s military said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to push north from Kherson towards the towns of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih.
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Reporting by Hamuda Hassan and Jorge Silva in Dobropillia, Ukraine, and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Reuters reporters Writing by Rami Ayyub, Clarence Fernandez, Frances Kerry and Alex Richardson; Editing by David Goodman and Alexandra Hudson and Angus MacSwan
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