Russia-Ukraine war: Mariupol being ‘tortured to death’, says Zelenskiy

Zelenskiy: Mariupol is being ‘tortured to death’

Addressing Chatham House, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, says the devastated southern port city of Mariupol is “an example of torture and starvation used as a weapon of war”, adding that no international organisations can enter the city.

Zelenskiy says:

This inhumanity and cruelty is how the Russian military treats people.

Death is not caused by war. This is not a military event. This is torturing to death. This is terrorism and hatred.

Mariupol has been devastated, he says.

The entire city has been destroyed.

Ukraine needs weapons and equipment to break the blockade at the city’s Azovstal steelworks, Zelenskiy says. “Russia will keep attacking Ukraine until we stop them.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Joe Biden will sign the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 on Monday.

The bill, which passed both chambers of the US Congress last month, will ease restrictions on the aid that the Biden administration provides to Ukraine amid its war against Russia.

The Democratic speaker of the US House, Nancy Pelosi, celebrated the bill’s strong bipartisan support in a floor speech last week:

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Roosevelt explained that democracy itself, democracy itself was under direct – was under dire threat, not only in Europe, but around the world. And he called on Congress to lend a hand to our allies overseas: bolstering their defenses so they can defeat the evils of fascism. It was this initiative that would be enacted just two months later – then undeniably turned the tide of the Second World War. And the Lend-Lease program would help propel the Allies to a victory that preserved the promise of democracy for generations to come.

Today, we see an echo of that [chapter] in history, as a murderous tyrant seeks to conquer its neighbor and dismantle its democracy. At this moment – and this moment demands we summon a commitment response – a commitment to respond.

The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 revives this pivotal program, waiving time-consuming requirements on the president’s authority to send critical defensive resources to Ukraine. It’s important to note that it’s about time. Time is very important when lives are at stake.

The exiled journalists of the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta have launched a new outlet in Latvia, AFP reports. The first issue of Novaya Gazeta.Europe hit news stands in Riga today.

The development comes weeks after the paper was forced to suspend its operations, as the Kremlin cracked down on opposition journalists following the invasion of Ukraine.

The newspaper’s publisher, the Rigas Vilni publishing house, said Novaya Gazeta.Europe “is a publication created by free Russian journalists who were forced to migrate”.

The publishing house added:

It is their independent point of view on the events of the war in Ukraine and developments in Russia.

Kirill Martynov, who is leading the paper, said on Latvian public radio:

When Russian propaganda makes May 9 (marking the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945) its day, Novaya Gazeta will be on news stands as a symbol of the fact they didn’t succeed in shutting us down.

Martynov also said he hopes copies of the newspaper would find their way to Russia, “even illegally”.

Patrick Wintour

Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, has more details on the Kremlin summoning the British ambassador to Russia to discuss sanctions on Russian media:

The British ambassador to Moscow, Deborah Bronnert, has been summoned to the Russian foreign ministry to be warned over new UK sanctions imposed on Russian media outlets, in a move seen as likely to presage reprisals on British press operations in Russia.

In a statement late on Friday, the ministry said Russia would continue react “harshly and decisively” to all sanctions imposed by London.

The UK earlier this week announced sanctions against the state-owned television station Channel One, accusing it of “spreading disinformation in Russia, justifying Putin’s illegal invasion as a ‘special military operation’”.

Britain also imposed sanctions on a group of Russian journalists embedded with the Russian army in Ukraine, including Evgeny Poddubny, a war correspondent for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Alexander Kots, a war correspondent for the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, and Dmitry Steshin, a special correspondent for the same outlet.

John Kirby, the US defense department spokesperson, said today that 220 Ukrainian soldiers have already been trained on the howitzer artillery systems. Another 150 are currently being trained.

The last two US military aid packages to Ukraine included 90 howitzer systems, but the Pentagon acknowledged that Ukrainian troops would need to be trained before operating them on their own.

That training has been happening at a location in Eastern Europe that is outside of Ukraine, per CNBC.

The US defense department’s spokesperson, John Kirby, was also asked about reports that Ukrainian missiles have struck the Russian frigate Admiral Makarov.

Kirby told reporters at his briefing this afternoon:

We’ve been looking at this all day, and we have no information to corroborate those reports.

If true, the attack on the Makarov would mark the latest of Russia’s significant naval losses in its war against Ukraine, after the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva last month.

US officials confirmed yesterday that they provided Ukrainian leaders with information on the location of the Moskva before the missile strike on the ship, although it’s unclear how crucial that intelligence was in carrying out the attack.

US deflects questions about intelligence-sharing with Ukraine

The US defense department’s spokesperson, John Kirby, held a press conference this afternoon, and he was unsurprisingly asked about reports that the Pentagon has provided information with Ukrainian leaders to help them target and kill Russian generals.

Kirby would not corroborate the reports, emphasizing the importance of being careful when discussing intelligence-sharing with other countries.

Kirby told reporters:

We provide [Ukrainians] what we believe to be relevant and timely information about Russian units that could allow them to adjust and execute their self- defense to the best of their ability. …

The Pentagon spokesperson also emphasized that other countries have provided Ukraine with information on Russian troop movements:

We are not the only sole source of intelligence and information to the Ukrainians. They get intelligence from other nations as well. And they have a pretty robust intelligence collection capability of their own. …

And if they do decide to do something with that intelligence, then they make the decisions about acting on it.

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Léonie Chao-Fong.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, spoke to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier today to congratulate him on his recent reelection and discuss the latest developments in Ukraine.

Johnson’s office said in a readout of the call:

On Ukraine, the Prime Minister and President Macron were united in their condemnation of Putin’s deadly folly and agreed to coordinate more closely on longer-term security and economic support for Ukraine, as well as measures to isolate Russia.

The Prime Minister updated on his visit to Kyiv last month and shared his conviction that Ukraine would win, supported with the right level of defensive military assistance. He urged against any negotiations with Russian on terms that gave credence to the Kremlin’s false narrative for the invasion, but stressed that this was a decision for the Ukrainian government.

Reading between the lines of the readout, it seems like Johnson sent a sharp message about the need to hold a firm line regarding peace terms in Ukraine, as noted by the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour:

Macron and Johnson speak for first time since Macron was re-elected President. Johnson seems to have delivered a lecture that there must no surrender on peace terms in Ukraine. No explicit mention of bilateral defence cooperation. But NI protocol flagged as a problem.

— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) May 6, 2022


It is 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Three evacuation buses left the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Friday, according to Russian media reports. Buses carrying 25 civilians including children were brought out from the plant to a camp in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne. An estimated 200 civilians, along with Ukrainian resistance fighters, remained trapped in underground refuges at the huge industrial complex.
  • Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Deborah Bronnert, adding that it strongly protested in relation to new UK sanctions on Russian media. Russia would continue to react “harshly and decisively” to all sanctions imposed by the UK, the ministry said in a statement.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the southern port city of Mariupol is “an example of torture and starvation used as a weapon of war”. In an address to Chatham House, he said he was “elected as president of Ukraine and not a mini-Ukraine”, and that Russia must first fall back to the territory it held before its invasion on 23 February if peace talks are to succeed.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today as I hand the blog over to my US colleagues. Thank you for reading.

A third bus, carrying 23 civilian evacuees, left the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported.

According to Tass, there are plans for a fourth bus to depart the plant before the humanitarian corridor is closed at 9pm local (1800 GMT).

Buses carrying civilians out of the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have arrived in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne.

The coaches were seen arriving at the camp and evacuees were accompanied to the reception centre by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN, which have been helping to organise the evacuations, Reuters reports.

Evacuees from Azovstal steel plant arrive at a temporary accommodation centre in Bezimenne.
Evacuees from Azovstal steel plant arrive at a temporary accommodation centre in Bezimenne. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A girl looks through the bus window as civilians arrive at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne.
A girl looks through a bus window as civilians arrive at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A woman evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walks accompanied by a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a service member of pro-Russian troops.
A woman evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walks accompanied by a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a service member of pro-Russian troops. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Officials at the centre said they expected several buses to arrive from the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians and fighters are believed to be holed up.

Ukrainian officials had accused Russia of violating a ceasefire on Friday aimed at evacuating scores of civilians still trapped underground in the plant, after fighting thwarted efforts to rescue them the previous day.

Posters accusing famous Swedish figures of supporting Nazism have appeared in Moscow in a sign of worsening relations between Russia and Sweden, Reuters reports.

At a bus stop outside the Swedish embassy in the Russian capital, two photographs of Swedish King Gustaf V, writer Astrid Lindgren, film director Ingmar Bergman and Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad with the message: “We are against Nazism, they are not.” A third poster was spotted on a major thoroughfare in central Moscow.

A poster with a portrait of King Gustaf V of Sweden and the message “We are against Nazism, they are not” is installed at a bus stop near the Swedish embassy in Moscow, Russia.
A poster with a portrait of King Gustaf V of Sweden and the message ‘We are against Nazism, they are not’ at a bus stop near the Swedish embassy in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Reuters Photographer/Reuters

Asked about the posters, Sweden’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Sweden “has no intention of engaging in a public polemic with the Russian organisation ‘Our Victory’, which is reportedly behind these posters”, adding:

In Russia, accusations of ‘Nazism’ have repeatedly been deployed against countries and individuals who express justifiable criticism of Russia’s actions.

Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

US officials have said they shared information about the location of the Russian warship Moskva with Ukraine prior to its sinking last month, a fresh demonstration of the close intelligence support Kyiv is receiving from Washington.

It is unclear how far the US intelligence helped Ukraine launch an accurate double missile strike on the Moskva, and the US officials briefing the information insisted the targeting decision was a matter for the Ukrainians alone.

But the fact that the US was willing to confirm it had at least some involvement, three weeks after the Moskva went down on 14 April, shows how far Washington is willing to acknowledge its critical backseat role in the 10-week-long war, even at the risk of openly antagonising Moscow.

On Thursday US officials confirmed, first to NBC News, that they provided location information about the Moskva before it was struck. However, Ukraine has its own surveillance capacity, so it is not certain whether the US information was critical.

Tracking the location of Russian warships in the Black Sea, which have been threatening Odesa and have launched missile strikes against other Ukrainian cities, has been going on for some time, the officials added.

Last month Ukraine fired two Neptune cruise missiles at the Moskva, a missile cruiser with a crew of about 500. It sank after a fire. The number of casualties is not known, although the sinking is one of the biggest naval losses in war seen by any nation for decades.

A second evacuation bus has left the besieged Azovstal plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the Russian state-owned news agency Ria is reporting.

This is in addition to a previous bus carrying 12 civilians, including children, which reportedly left the plant earlier today.

The second bus is carrying 13 civilians, including one child, according to Ria.

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