Smoke rises from Russian shelling of the Azovstal steel plant in besieged Mariupol in southern Ukraine (AP)
UPDATE 1803 GMT:
An Associated Press investigation concludes that up to 600 people were killed in the Russian destruction of the Drama Theater in Mariupol in southern Ukraine.
Local authorities had estimated, from witness accounts, that 300 civilians — including many women, children, the infirm, and the elderly — were slain as they used the theater for a shelter.
AP updates the toll based on the accounts of almost two dozen survivors, rescuers, and people familiar with the theater.
Survivors said up to 1,000 people were in the theater when it was levelled. Only 200 were confirmed to have escaped.
The AP investigation dismantled Russian disinformation that the theater was used as a military base or demolished by Ukrainian forces. No witnesses saw Ukrainian soldiers inside the building. All said the theater was destroyed by a Russian air attack with a precision weapon.
UPDATE 1440 GMT:
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko says Russian forces are stepping up the assault to overrun the Azovstal steel plant, even as about 200 civilians — including 30 children — are trapped in an underground shelter.
Today there are heavy battles on the territory of our fortress, on the territory of Azovstal. Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because heavy artillery and tanks are firing all over the fortress; aviation is working, ships have approached and are also firing on the fortress….We must understand that people are still dying….
Unfortunately, today there is no connection with the guys, there is no connection to understand what is happening, whether they are safe or not. Yesterday there was a connection with them; today, no more.
UPDATE 1340 GMT: Representatives of EU countries have had their first discussion about a cutoff of imports of Russian oil.
A source said the meeting ended without agreement on formal support, as Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria raised concerns. However, the source added consensus could be reached at a meeting tomorrow.
Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev, said Sofia will seek an exemption from any halt to imports.
EU officials have already indicated that Hungary and Slovakia could be granted exemptions.
But Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Budapest cannot back the current proposal: “The Brussels package of sanctions would ban oil shipments from Russia to Europe with a rather short notice.”
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said, “We do not see any plans or guarantees on how a transition could be managed based on the current proposals, and how Hungary’s energy security would be guaranteed.”
Slovakian Economy Minister Richard Sulik said Bratislava will support the cutoff but wants a three-year exemption for its transition to other supplies.
UPDATE 1333 GMT:
The UK has banned all service exports to Russia and announced sanctions against 63 individuals and organizations connected to disinformation over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Those sanctioned include employees of State outlet Channel One; All Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting; disinformation outlets InfoRos and SouthFront; the Strategic Culture Foundation, an online journal spreading disinformation; and war correspondents embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine.
Most large UK-based professional services companies have already left Russia, including the “big four” accountants Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC.
UPDATE 0815 GMT:
Russian State news agency RIA says one person died and two were injured in shelling of an oil depot in Makeyevka, in the Russian proxy area of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
The report blamed Ukrainian forces.
— РИА Новости (@rianru) May 4, 2022
UPDATE 0755 GMT:
In a two-hour call on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Vladimir Putin to allow the resumption of evacuations from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Macron said in a statement afterwards, “I have called on Russia to live up to its international responsibility as a UN Security Council member by putting an end to this devastating attack.”
The President asked for assurances that evacuees could choose their destinations, amid claims by Ukrainian officials that tens of thousands of civilians — including several thousand from Mariupol have been forcibly removed to Russia.
Macron restated his call for a ceasefire and his willingness to work on conditions for a negotiated solution to the war, for peace, and for full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
While Putin said he is “open to dialogue”, there was no sign of acceptance of Macron’s requests. Instead, the Russian leader demanded a halt to military support of Ukraine, accused the Zelenskiy Government of not taking talks seriously, and made unsupported claims of war crimes by Ukrainian forces.
UPDATE 0720 GMT:
In its sixth set of sanctions over Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, the European Union has confirmed a phaseout of imports of Russian oil.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set out the package:
First, we are listing high-ranking military officers and other individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol. This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable.
Second, we de-SWIFT SberBank – by far Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks. By that, we hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wage destruction. This will solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system.
Third, we are banning three big Russian state-owned broadcasters from our airwaves. They will not be allowed to distribute their content anymore in the EU, in whatever shape or form be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps. We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces that amplify Putin ́s lies and propaganda aggressively. We should not give them a stage anymore to spread these lies. Moreover, the Kremlin relies on accountants, consultants and spin-doctors from Europe. And this will now stop. We are banning those services from being provided to Russian companies.
My final point on sanctions: when the leaders met in Versailles, they agreed to phase out our dependency on Russian energy. In the last sanction package, we started with coal. Now we are addressing our dependency on Russian oil. Let us be clear: it will not be easy. Some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to work on it.
We now propose a ban on Russian oil. This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined. We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets. This is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
Thus, we maximise pressure on Russia, while at the same time minimising collateral damage to us and our partners around the globe. Because to help Ukraine, our own economy has to remain strong.
UPDATE 0648 GMT:
A simulation on Russian State TV has threatened the UK and Ireland with nuclear attack.
Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent pro-Kremlin presenter on Channel One, showed a video of an underwater missile, Poseidon, off the coast of County Donegal in northwest Ireland.
He said Russia could “plunge Britain into the depths of the sea”:
The explosion of this thermonuclear torpedo by Britain’s coastline will cause a gigantic tsunami wave up to 500 meters high. Such a barrage alone also carries extreme doses of radiation. Having passed over the British Isles, it will turn what might be left of them into a radioactive desert.
And another nuclear threat to the UK from Russian state TV's Dmitry Kiselyov:
He says his country's Poseidon nuclear underwater drone could cause a tsunami that would "plunge the British Isles into the depths of the sea" and turn them into a "radioactive desert" (with subs) pic.twitter.com/usElgqHeIG
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) May 1, 2022
Neale Richmond, a legislator with Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael Party, responded by calling for the expulsion of Russian Ambassador Yury Filatov.
With Russian state media broadcasting blatant threats against Ireland supported by a continuing campaign of disinformation, it’s clear we need to expel Russia’s Ambassador from Ireland.
— Neale Richmond (@nealerichmond) May 3, 2022
In late January, Russia stirred Irish anger with the announcement of naval exercises, including the firing of missiles, off the southwest coast in February. Taken aback by the reaction, Moscow cancelled the planned operation days later.
UPDATE 0623 GMT:
Australia has imposed sanctions on another 76 Russians and on 34 Ukrainian officials in the Russian proxy areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Foreign Minister Marisa Payne said, “These individuals have violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through their assertion of governmental authority over areas of Ukraine without the Ukrainian Government’s authorisation.
Australia has now sanctioned 812 individuals and 47 entities over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russian shelling and bombing killed 21 civilians and injured 27 in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko announced the total, the highest daily toll in the region since a Russian missile killed 57 civilians in a railway station in Kramatorsk on April 8.
At least 10 people were killed and 15 wounded by shelling of a coke plant, striking a nearby bus depot, in Avdiivka. Others were slain in Vugledar and Lyman.
The victims in Avdiivka were factory workers waiting to board a bus after their shift.
A Russian offensive is trying to seize territory around Russian-proxy areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The advance is making only incremental progress amid Ukrainian resistance and problems with supply, logistics, and morale.
UK military intelligence said on Wednesday that Russia has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups — compared to a total force of about 125-130 BTGs across Ukraine on Day 1 of the invasion — near Izyum in the Kharkiv region, hoping to advance to the south in the Donbas.
The analysts assessed that the Russians are hoping to seize the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk: “Capturing these locations would consolidate Russian military control of the north-eastern Donbas and provide a staging point for their efforts to cut-off Ukrainian forces in the region.”
Concerned about the escalation of international military aid to Ukraine, Russia also stepped up missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Having struck Odesa in the south earlier this week, the Russians fired on power substations in Lviv in the west on Tuesday, injuring one person.
Some Mariupol Civilians Reach Safety, Russians Attack Others
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed 156 civilians, from besieged Mariupol and the surrounding area in southeast Ukraine, reached safety in Zaporizhzhia, 132 miles to the northwest, on Tuesday.
Today 156 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia. Women and children. They have been in shelters for more than two months. Just imagine! For example, a child is six months old, two of which are underground, fleeing bombs and shelling. Finally, these people are completely safe. They will get help.
The UN confirmed the “successful evacuation” of 101 civilians in a five-day operation. Osnat Lubrani, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, explained that about 100 had come from Mariupol’s besieged and bombarded Azovstal steel plant and 58 from the nearby town of Mangush.
BREAKING: The safe passage operation that left #Mariupol over the weekend has safely arrived in Zaporzhzhia.
— ICRC (@ICRC) May 3, 2022
Over the past days, travelling with the evacuees, I have heard mothers, children and frail grandparents speak about the trauma of living day after day under unrelenting heavy shelling and the fear of death, and with extreme lack of water, food, and sanitation.
They spoke of the hell they have experienced since this war started, seeking refuge in the Azovstal plant, many being separated from family members whose fate they still don’t know.
About 80 other civilians, who were also sheltering in Azovstal, were taken to a Russian-proxy area in Donetsk last weekend.
However, Russian troops have not only blocked further evacuations but intensified shelling from Sunday, even as about 200 civilians — including 30 children — are still trapped under the complex and about 100,000 remain in Mariupol.
The Red Cross said in a statement, “Those trapped in the Azovstal plant have lived through unimaginable horror. We haven’t forgotten those who are still there. We’ll continue working to facilitate safe passage for people.”
Ksenia Chebysheva, 29, whose husband is among defenders still in Azovstal, said, “We’re scared….The guys will be left there. We don’t see any sign of help.”
Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Four humanitarian corridors are planned from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday “if the safety situation allows”.