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The Guardian - UK

Questions over future of evacuated Azovstal fighters – as it happened

Our live coverage of the Ukraine war is pausing for the time being, but you can find all of our reporting here. We will be back with a new blog in the coming hours.

A little more on the stalled peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, with some comments from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Reuters reports Lavrov said he believes no peace deal can be made if negotiators try to “transfer the dialogue” to focus on what the West had to say instead of the immediate situation in Ukraine. That rules out chances for progress in talks, he added.

“We always say that we are ready for negotiations ... but we were given no other choice,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine and Russia have held intermittent peace talks since the end of February 2022, just days after Russia invaded its neighbour, but there has been little communication between them in recent weeks.

Here is a selection of images from Ukraine on day 83 of Russia’s invasion:

A woman walks through the rubble of a destroyed building after a bombing in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
A woman walks through the rubble of a destroyed building after a bombing in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen sitting in a bus as they are evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen sitting in a bus as they are evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photograph: Alessandro Guerra/EPA
Russian military vehicles escort buses carrying Ukrainian servicemen from the besieged Azovstal steel plant.
Russian military vehicles escort buses carrying Ukrainian servicemen from the besieged Azovstal steel plant. Photograph: Alessandro Guerra/EPA
A woman sits at the entrance of her building which was damaged in a shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A woman sits at the entrance of her building which was damaged in a shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Kozlov/EPA
A Ukrainian soldier clears debris from a car after a bombing in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier clears debris from a car after a bombing in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

ICC sends ‘largest ever’ investigative team to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday has sent a 42-member team to Ukraine to probe alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in what it called the largest such deployment in its history, AFP reports.

The squad comprises investigators, forensic experts and support staff and will work with Ukrainian authorities, said Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based ICC.

“This represents the largest ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement. The ICC was set up in 2002 to probe the world’s worst crimes.

US considers move to block Russian debt payments

The United States is considering blocking Russias ability to pay its US bondholders by allowing a key waiver to expire next week, a US administration official said on Tuesday, which could put Moscow closer to the brink of default, Reuters reports.

Russia has so far managed to make its international bond payments despite Western sanctions, which have complicated the process of paying. The country has $40bn of international bonds and last month made a late U-turn by making overdue bond payments to avoid default.

Russia has not defaulted on its external debt since the aftermath of its 1917 revolution and was rated investment grade up until its 24 February of Ukraine. Now Russia has a looming 25 May deadline when a US license allowing it to make payments is due to expire.

US creates unit to document Russian ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

The US state department will create a new unit to research, document and publicise alleged war crimes by Russia in Ukraine.

The Conflict Observatory will “capture, analyze, and make widely available evidence of Russia-perpetrated war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” the department said.

The Observatory will collect publicly and commercially available information, including what is seen on social media and commercial satellite imagery, for use in current and future civil and criminal legal processes.

Nearly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv says it has identified thousands of suspected war crimes cases. Most notorious have been the allegations murder of scores of civilians in Bucha, just outside Kyiv.

The Observatory will create an online platform “to help refute Russia’s disinformation efforts and shine a light on abuses,” the department said.

  • The fate of more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said they could be tried or even executed.
  • Eight people have died and 12 wounded after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service. The regional governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said Russia launched four missiles at around 5am local time on Tuesday. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.
  • France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that French arms deliveries to Kyiv would intensify in the coming days, the Élysée said. Zelenskiy said he had a “long and meaningful” conversation with Macron where they discussed “the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process”.
  • In a rare diversion from the Kremlin’s official line, Russian TV aired an interview with military analyst Mikhail Khodarenok, who said Russia’s situation “will clearly get worse”. Russia has tried to hide the scale of its losses and setbacks in Ukraine, aggressively censoring and prosecuting any who question the Kremlin’s claims that all is going according to plan.

– Léonie Chao-Fong, Lauren Aratani, Maanvi Singh

Updated

In yesterday’s nightly address, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the military and intelligence officers had begun the operation to rescue Ukrainian troops from Mariupol, but the the work needs “delicacy and time”.

Meanwhile, he said, “we also maintain maximum diplomatic activity in other areas in the interests of Ukraine”. Zelenskiy said that in the mean time, Ukrainian troops are “repelling constant attacks in those areas where Russia is still trying to advance”, naming Severodonetsk and other cities in Donbas as main targets.

“We do everything to protect our land and our people,” he said.

Here’s the latest on Mariupol:

Correction: This post was amended to reflect that Zelenskiy’s comments were from yesterday night, local time in Ukraine.

Updated

In a rare diversion from the Kremlin’s official line, Russian TV aired an interview with Mikhail Khodarenok, a military analyst and retired colonel, during which he said that Russia’s situation “will clearly get worse” as Ukraine receives military assistance from the West.

“Ultimate victory on the battlefield is determined by the high morale of troops who are spilling blood for the ideas they are ready to fight for,” he said, according to the BBC. “The biggest problem with [Russia’s] military and political situation...is that we are in total political isolation and the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it. We need to resolve this situation.”

Russia has tried to hide the scale of its losses and setbacks in Ukraine, aggressively censoring and prosecuting any who question the Kremlin’s claims that all is going according to plan.

But the realities have leaked through occasionally, angering the families of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, as the Guardian’s Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer report:

Ukraine farming group calls for urgent end to ports blockade

One of Ukraine’s largest farming groups has called for an urgent solution to unblock the country’s Black Sea ports as exports of grain, sunflower and rapeseed are being held up by the Russian naval blockade, driving inflation and shortages around the world.

G7 ministers have held urgent talks about trying to open routes through Romanian and Baltic ports, potentially fed with an army of 10,000 trucks making a five-day trip from Ukraine.

John Rich, the chairman of MHP, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, said: “If we had a UN agreement in place it would solve an enormous amount of issues.” But he said that without the war ending such a deal was unlikely, piling pressure on prices for grain and seeds used for cooking oil and ethanol around the world into next year.

“We are now in a vicious cycle,” Rich said. “Normally what happens is that farmers cure high prices as [when prices go up] farmers produce more and prices collapse. This time it could be different,” Rich said pointing to a combination of climate change, the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, as well as fertiliser shortages which are hitting production around the world.

He said the world could be looking at a “cascade of export bans”, following India’s block on the export of wheat and Indonesia’s block on palm oil exports, raising the prospect that “the whole concept of globalisation in food production is dead”.

Exports from Ukraine, which produces as much as half the world’s sunflower seeds, a tenth of wheat and up to a fifth of barley and rapeseed, have been severely interrupted by the closure of Ukraine’s ports following Russia’s invasion. Only about 1m tonnes of grain and seed were exported in April compared with more than 5m tonnes of grain and 700,000 tonnes of oilseeds a month in a typical year.

Before the war, about 80% of Ukraine’s grain and oilseeds were exported via the Black Sea but that route is now cut off, creating a bottleneck as farmers prepare to harvest the summer crops.

Efforts are being made to increase the pace of exports, by increasing the use of trucks and improving rail capacity and links, which are hampered by differing track gauges in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. However, Rich said road and rail could replace little more than a quarter of the capacity that once flowed through Ukraine’s ports and would take time to develop.

Read more:

Recently released footage purports to show Ukrainian soldiers leaving the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol as Ukraine confirmed that more than 260 fighters were evacuated from the plant and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

The videos – released by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia’s defence ministry – show people being carried on stretchers. The Guardian has been unable to verify the date or conditions under which this footage was shot

The Economist has a great interactive on how powerful Vladimir Putin’s grasp on the media in Russia is, essentially controlling a huge propaganda machine.

The story goes through what a typical Russian citizen is reading and watching as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues. Here’s an excerpt:

As Mr Putin’s regime shifts from a relatively open authoritarianism towards a more closed dictatorship, its propaganda is changing, too. Television hosts and guests present the “special military operation” as part of a grander conflict in defence of Russia. State media have long intoned about the West’s supposed intention to undermine Russia and Mr Putin’s efforts to protect the motherland. But where propaganda once sought mostly to breed passivity, cast doubt on reality and discourage political participation, it increasingly seeks to mobilise popular support for Mr Putin’s war, by convincing people that Russia is under attack and victory is the only way out. “The old rules of authoritarian life are breaking down, active participation is being demanded,” says Greg Yudin, a sociologist.

Dramatic video shows a community center in Derhachi, near Kharkiv, that has been puvlarized by Russian missiles. The community center was handing out humanitarian aid to local residents.

Updated

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy just gave a surprise address to open the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Over video, Zelensky said that “it’s necessary for cinema not to be silent”, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Zelenskiy cited several movies, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and said that such movies were “horrific documentaries and newsreels”. But, ironically, “the most brutal dictators of the 20th century loved cinema”.

“I’m sure that the dictator will lose,” Zelesnkiy said at the end of the address. “Glory to Ukraine.”

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg will meet with ambassadors from Finnish and Sweden tomorrow, according to a NATO press release. Stoltenberg will meet with Klaus Korhonen and Axel Wernhoff, the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors to NATO.

Earlier today, Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson said that the two countries planned to formally submit applications to join NATO on Wednesday.

This is Lauren Aratani taking over for Léonie Chao-Fong.

Bloomberg is reporting that the US government is preparing to block Russia from being able to pay off debt held by US bondholders, a move that would lead Russia closer to default on its debt.

In early April, the US government banned Russia from using money held in US banks as a way to financially squeeze the Kremlin.

The last time the Russian government defaulted was in 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution. Defaulting will make it harder for the Russian government to borrow money in the future, potentially creating a dire financial situation in the country.

Summary

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

  • The fate of more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said they could be tried or even executed.
  • Eight people have died and 12 wounded after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service. The regional governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said Russia launched four missiles at around 5am local time on Tuesday. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.
  • France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that French arms deliveries to Kyiv would intensify in the coming days, the Élysée said. Zelenskiy said he had a “long and meaningful” conversation with Macron where they discussed “the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process”.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, as I hand the blog over to my colleague, Lauren Aratani. I’ll be back tomorrow, thank you for reading.

Updated

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that French arms deliveries to Kyiv would intensify in the coming days, the Élysée said.

In a phone call with Zelenskiy held earlier today, Macron said France was ready to respond to additional demands for help from Ukraine, the French presidential office said in a statement.

Macron confirmed that arms deliveries by France will “continue and increase in intensity in the days and weeks to come, as will the delivery of humanitarian aid,” the statement said.

Macron also told Zelenskiy that Ukraine’s application to join the EU would be “examined” during a European Council session in June.

During the conversation, which lasted for an hour and 10 minutes, the leaders also discussed the evacuations of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol as well as “the challenge of food security and possible ways to allow exports of Ukrainian grains, which a large part of the world depends on for its food”.

Zelenskiy earlier tweeted that he had a “long and meaningful” conversation with Macron.

US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has spoken with the wife of basketball star, Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, according to a US state department official.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at a Moscow airport allegedly in possession of vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil. If found guilty, she faces up to 10 years in prison. The US has said the 31-year-old was wrongfully detained and has assigned diplomats to work for her release.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia.
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Blinken told Cherelle Griner on Saturday that her wife’s release is a top priority for the Biden administration and that the US is working day and night on the case, the official said.

On Friday, Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov, said her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month.

Seven buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers have left the Azovstal steel works in the port city of Mariupol and arrived at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk, Reuters reports.

The Ukrainian fighters, many of them members of the Azov Battalion, will be questioned by the Russian investigative committee, according to Russia’s state-owned news agency Tass.

The questioning will be done as part of the Russian investigation into what Moscow calls “criminal cases concerning Ukrainian regime crimes”, Tass added.

Buses carrying service members of Ukrainian forces at Azovstal steel works drive away under escort of the pro-Russian military.
Buses carrying service members of Ukrainian forces at Azovstal steel works drive away under escort of the pro-Russian military. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Sweden and Finland to formally submit Nato bids ‘hand in hand’

Sweden and Finland will formally submit simultaneous requests to join Nato on Wednesday, the Swedish prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, has said, in a seismic shift in Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Finland and Sweden have agreed to go through this entire process hand in hand, and we will tomorrow file the application together,” Andersson told a joint news conference with the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, in Stockholm.

“Membership of Nato strengthens security in Sweden but also in the Baltic Sea region,” Andersson said.

The fact that we are applying together with Finland means that we can contribute to security in northern Europe.

The announcement came as the White House said Niinistö, and Andersson would meet the US president, Joe Biden, on Thursday to discuss their bids to join the US-led mutual defence alliance and European security more broadly.

The Finnish parliament approved the country’s Nato membership application by 188 votes to eight on Tuesday.
The Finnish parliament approved the country’s Nato membership application by 188 votes to eight on Tuesday. Photograph: Kimmo Brandt/EPA

Finland, which shares an 810-mile (1,300km) border with Russia, has remained neutral or non-aligned since the end of the second world war, while Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for more than two centuries. Both had long seen Nato membership as an unnecessary provocation of Russia.

Andersson said the simultaneous applications reflected the brutal impact of “Russia’s illegal war” on Ukraine and the Nordic neighbours’ common history, traditions, values and culture. “In recent months, it has also become clear that Sweden’s and Finland’s security are closely linked,” she said.

Niinistö said Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine had “changed everything”, adding that Finnish and Swedish Nato membership meant the Nordic region would now be “a bastion not just of democracy, welfare and human rights – but also of security”.

Updated

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he held a “long and meaningful” phone call with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to discuss the issue of fuel supplies to Ukraine and defence support from France.

Zelenskiy tweeted that he told Macron about “the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process”.

The two leaders also spoke about the “preparation of the sixth package of sanctions, possible ways to export Ukrainian agricultural products”, Zelenskiy said.

They also held a “substantive discussion of our application for the status of a candidate for EU membership”, he added.

Today so far...

It is almost 7.30pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • The fate of more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said they could be tried or even executed.
  • Eight people have died and 12 wounded after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service. The regional governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said Russia launched four missiles at around 5am local time on Tuesday. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong here to bring you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.

A Ukrainian self-propelled Howitzer in a field near Sydorove, eastern Ukraine.
A Ukrainian self-propelled Howitzer in a field near Sydorove, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
A Ukrainian soldier in Kyiv wears a “Snake Island” embroidered badge on his uniform commemorating the moment when a Ukrainian soldier defiantly replied “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself!’ when ordered to surrender.
A Ukrainian soldier in Kyiv wears a “Snake Island” embroidered badge on his uniform commemorating the moment when a Ukrainian soldier defiantly replied “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself!’ when ordered to surrender. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Russia may be suffering ‘impressive losses’, says EU’s Borrell

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Russian forces may have suffered “impressive losses” since their invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Borrell said:

I wouldn’t dare to make an hypothesis about how long Russia can resist...

If it is true that Russia has lost 15% of their troops since the beginning of the war, this is a world record of the losses of an army invading a country.

He added that the European Union “will not let” Ukraine run out of military equipment, Reuters reports.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to reporters following a EU Defence Ministers Council in Brussels, Belgium.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to reporters following a EU Defence Ministers Council in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA

The International Criminal Court has sent a team of investigators and forensic experts to Ukraine to probe alleged war crimes in what it has called the “largest-ever” deployment in its history.

The ICC team will “advance our investigations into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and provide support to Ukrainian national authorities”, said Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor.

Investigators will chase up leads and collect witness testimony “relevant to military attacks”, Khan said in a statement.

They would also work with Ukrainian authorities to “strengthen chain of custody with respect to hard evidence,” he said.

Khan continued:

Now more than ever we need to show the law in action. It is essential that we demonstrate to survivors and the families of victims that international law is relevant to their experience...in order to bring them some measure of solace through the process of justice.

Khan announced an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity just four days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory, Shaun Walker and Andrew Roth report.

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said they could be tried or even executed. MPs in Russia’s State Duma said they would propose new laws that could derail prisoner exchanges of fighters who Moscow claims are “terrorists”.

Buses leave Mariupol carrying Ukrainian forces who have surrendered after weeks holed up at the Azovstal steelworks, under escort by pro-Russia forces.
Buses leave Mariupol carrying Ukrainian forces who have surrendered after weeks holed up at the Azovstal steelworks, under escort by pro-Russia forces. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Russia called the Azovstal operation a mass surrender, while the Ukrainian army said the soldiers defending the steel plant had “performed their combat task” and that the main goal was now to save their lives.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive,” said the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a video address.

For weeks, hundreds of troops have been holed up in a warren of tunnels and bunkers underneath the steelworks, as Russian forces took control of the rest of the city after turning much of it into an uninhabitable wasteland. Many of those stuck at Azovstal had serious injuries, with limited medical care and dwindling supplies.

In the last few weeks, civilians who had also taken cover in the plant were rescued after a deal was brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross to allow them to leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Ukraine had been pushing for a deal that would also allow the fighters to retreat to Ukrainian-controlled areas, or for their evacuation to a neutral country. However, with that not forthcoming, Ukrainian officials announced in the early hours of Tuesday that the defence of the plant was in effect over.

“This was the only option,” said the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, on Tuesday.

At least seven buses carrying surrendered Ukrainian fighters left the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, escorted by pro-Russian armed forces, Reuters reports.

Some of the Ukrainian fighters being transported did not appear to be wounded, according to a witness.

Updated

Russia’s prosecutor general has asked the supreme court to recognise Ukraine’s Azov regiment as a “terrorist organisation”, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian justice ministry’s website.

Russia’s supreme court is scheduled to hear the case on 26 May, Interfax reports.

Updated

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend the funeral ceremony of the first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend the funeral ceremony of the first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, in Kyiv. Photograph: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters
Former Presidents of Ukraine, from left; Viktor Yuschenko, Petro Poroshenko, and Leonid Kuchma, pay their respects at the funeral of Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine’s first president.
Former presidents of Ukraine (from left) Viktor Yuschenko, Petro Poroshenko and Leonid Kuchma pay their respects at the funeral of Leonid Kravchuk. Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Updated

Duma appears to be trying to prevent Azovstal soldiers being part of prisoner swap

The Russian state Duma appears to be moving toward trying to prevent Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov battalion being included in any prisoner swap.

The Azov Regiment, a one-time nationalist militia integrated into Ukraine’s National Guard, has been alleged by Moscow to be the main perpetrator of anti-Russian nationalism from which Russia has claimed it needs to protect Ukraine’s Russian-speakers from.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, said its members were “Nazi criminals” who should not be included in prisoner exchanges. “They are war criminals and we must do everything to bring them to justice,” he said.

Reuters reports the Duma website said he had asked the defence and security committees to prepare an instruction to that effect.

At the same time, the Telegram channel of the RIA news agency is carrying this short news snap, citing Russia’s justice ministry:

Supreme court on 26 May to consider case on recognising Ukrainian Azov battalion as a terrorist organisation and banning its activities in Russia.

Updated

With its urban areas sprawling along the coastline of the Sea of Azov in the shape of a comma, the siege of Mariupol came to define one of the most brutal episodes in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

It was one of the first major cities to be encircled and viewed as one of the Kremlin’s key objectives both for its economic importance and as a stepping stone in building a land bridge from Russia to Russian-occupied Crimea.

The capture of Mariupol loomed large in the Kremlin’s imagination for propaganda purposes too: as the home base of the Azov brigade, which at its 2014 inception, when the war in Donbas began, included far-right volunteers, some with neo-Nazi affiliations. (In recent years the brigade has been fully integrated into the Ukrainian military).

It was the sheer levels of violence inflicted on the city and on its civilian population day after day, however, that has kept Mariupol in the headlines.

The few who have been able to enter the city – including the International Committee for the Red Cross – have described conditions in the city as “apocalyptic”.

Read more of Peter Beaumont’s deep look at the siege of Mariupol: ‘Defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time’ – the battle that gripped the world

Updated

Vladimir Putin has said that by abandoning Russian energy supplies, Europe risked paying the most expensive energy prices in the world.

Reuters reports Russia’s president said it was impossible for some European countries to quickly ditch Russian oil. They quote him saying:

Obviously, some EU states, in whose energy balance the share of Russian hydrocarbons is especially high, will not be able to do this for a long time, to ditch our oil.

Speaking at a televised meeting with domestic oil managers and government officials, Putin also said that western sanctions and a possible embargo on Russian oil had resulted in an increase in global oil prices. He also said that western sanctions had stoked inflation across Europe itself.

At the same time, the Polish president Andrzej Duda told a joint media conference with his Hungarian counterpart Katalin Novák that Hungary would struggle to diversify its energy supply.

“Please remember that it will be hard for the Hungarians to diversify if European recovery funds remain blocked,” Duda said, adding that he hoped a sixth package of EU sanctions on Russia could be agreed on.

Updated

Finland's parliament approves bid to join Nato

Finland’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a proposal to apply for membership in the Nato alliance.

The proposal was passed with 188 votes in favour and eight against.

Finland is expected to sign a formal application and file it to Nato headquarters in the coming days, along with Sweden, where its government announced a similar bid yesterday.

It comes as the White House announced that the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, and Sweden’s prime minister, Magdelena Andersson will meet with the US president, Joe Biden, on Thursday to discuss their Nato applications.

Updated

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia stalled

Ukraine’s top presidential adviser and negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, said negotiations with Russia on resolving the conflict have been suspended, blaming Moscow’s “stereotypical mindset”.

Since the two delegations met in Istanbul in late March, there have been “no significant changes, no progress”, he said.

Podolyak told reporters:

Objectively speaking, the negotiation process is suspended. Why? There are several reasons. Russia does not demonstrate the key – the understanding of today’s processes in the world and (Russia’s) extremely negative role.

Russia does not understand that the war is “no longer going on according to the rules, their plans, and schedule”, he said, while at the same time the “resistance of Ukraine, the professional resistance just grows, that’s why there’s no way Russia achieves its goals”.

He said the political elite in Russia are afraid of telling the truth and were choosing to “continue negotiations as an element of their propaganda only for domestic use”.

Podolyak added:

In my opinion, it’s a strategic goal of Russians: All or nothing.

He said the Ukrainian delegation does not consider the issue “to withdraw or not to withdraw” from the negotiation process as only expediency and specificity matter at the current stage, adding:

If there is specificity, political negotiations will continue.

Podolyak’s remarks to the media come after Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Andrei Rudenko, said that virtually no peace talks are going on at the moment.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Rudenko told journalists in Nizhny Novgorod:

No, the negotiations are not continuing. Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiating process.

Updated

265 Ukrainian fighters surrendered at Azovstal, says Russian defence ministry

Russia’s defence ministry said 265 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

More than 50 were heavily wounded, the ministry said, adding that those in need of medical care were transferred to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol.

Russian authorities have released images of what it claims are wounded Ukrainian servicemen who left the steel plant and who are now in Russian custody.

Updated

Russian airstrike kills eight in Chernihiv, says state emergency service

Eight people have died and 12 wounded after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service, Reuters reports.

The regional governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said Russia launched four missiles at around 5am local time. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.

In a video posted on Facebook, Chaus said:

In the morning, the enemy fired missiles at the village of Desna. […] According to preliminary reports, we have those killed and many wounded.

It has not been able to independently verify these claims.

Updated

Here are some lines from Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, during his regular briefing where he said it would be “outright theft” for G7 countries and EU to seize Russia’s frozen reserves and spend them on behalf of Ukraine.

It comes after Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, said he was open to the idea of seizing Russian state assets to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Proposals to this effect were already being discussed among the G7 and in the EU, Lindner added.

Peskov said no one had told Russia of such an initiative, which he said would be “illegal, blatant and of course requiring an appropriate response … It would be, in fact, outright theft”.

The Kremlin spokesperson also told reporters that Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol would be treated “in accordance with international standards”.

Updated

Sweden’s Minister of Foreígn Affairs Ann Linde signs Sweden’s application for Nato membership in Stockholm, Sweden.
Sweden’s minister of foreígn affairs, Ann Linde, signs her country’s application for Nato membership in Stockholm. Photograph: Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

All EU member states will support Finland and Sweden in joining Nato, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said.

EU representatives will discuss the intentions of both Nordic countries to join the alliance, for which they will receive “strong support”, Borrell told reporters before a meeting of the EU foreign affairs council, adding:

They will receive a strong support I’m sure from all member states, because it increases our unity and it makes us stronger.

He added that he “hopes” Nato will overcome Turkey’s objections to Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the alliance:

I am sure the council will support extremely … the membership of Sweden and Finland to Nato. I know that Turkey has put some objections. I hope Nato will be able to overcome them.

Meanwhile, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, said his country and Sweden will be able to reach an agreement with Turkey over its objectives.

In an address to Sweden’s parliament, Niinistö said:

Statements from Turkey have very quickly changed and become harder during the last few days. But I am sure that, with the help of constructive discussions, we will solve the situation.

Updated

Growing numbers of refugees are being made homeless, and in many cases destitute, following relationship breakdowns with their Homes for Ukraine hosts in the UK, community organisations have warned.

Some predict the system could crash entirely amid reports of Ukrainian refugees being asked to leave the homes of their sponsors with as little as one day’s notice, leaving them with no option but to be referred to local authorities as homeless, or if they can afford to, attempt to seek last-minute rented accommodation.

Community leaders said it was happening among typically well-meaning hosts who may have failed to anticipate the enormity of the commitment until refugees arrived in their homes, adding to the stress and trauma of the refugees.

Other factors cited include costs, personality and cultural clashes, hosts not setting house rules, misunderstandings and communication issues.

Iryna Terlecky, a board member of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), said: “Our community is seeing these cases frequently and our perception is that they’re increasing.”

They also report similar issues among those who arrived on the Ukraine family scheme – either due to space issues or relationship breakdowns. “We are finding that sponsorship relationships are breaking down – in spite of the very clear desire of people to help,” Terlecky said.

A 43-year-old Ukrainian woman told the Guardian she was left homeless, terrified and not knowing where to turn after being asked to leave by her Homes for Ukraine hosts after little more than a week.

Following Russia’s invasion she fled her 22nd-floor flat in Kyiv for Spain but she found it difficult to find work. She met her UK hosts, a couple from Exeter, on Facebook who arranged her flights and documentation.

At first, she said, they all got on well and she felt “loved and cared for”. But their dynamic shifted dramatically when she went to visit a man she had met online. Her hosts have accused her of lying.

“It’s a terrible feeling,” she said, speaking from emergency council accommodation in a hotel. “You feel really happy, loved and cared for and then you feel like you’ve been thrown from a high-rise building to the ground.”

Read Miranda Bryant’s full article: Homes for Ukraine: refugees being left homeless, UK community groups warn

Today so far …

  • More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, many of them wounded, have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, appearing to cede control of the city to Russia after 82 days of bombardment.
  • Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said late on Monday that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk and that more than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka. An “exchange procedure” will take place to bring evacuees home, she said.
  • It was unclear how many soldiers remained in the steelworks or the exact number who left, but Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “We hope to save the lives of our boys. I want to underline: Ukraine needs its Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle,” he said in a video statement.
  • Ukraine deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk this morning said of the wounded servicemen: “After their condition stabilises, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war. We are working on the next stages of the humanitarian operation.”
  • Russia-backed separatists claimed this morning that 256 Ukrainian servicemen who had been in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant “have surrendered” and that 51 were wounded.
  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Finland and Sweden joining Nato would probably make “not much difference” as the two countries had long participated in the alliance’s military drills.
  • Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko has said virtually no peace talks are going on at the moment, accusing Ukraine of withdrawing from the process.
  • Lviv’s governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, has said overnight a missile hit the Yavoriv regional branch of the Lviv railway, and infrastructure was damaged. Kozytskyi also claims Ukraine’s air defence shot down three cruise missiles last night.
  • The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, has claimed that Russian forces suppressed fire from Ukraine on the Russian village of Alekseevka.
  • Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is due to appeal against a nine-year prison sentence he was handed in March on charges that he and his allies say are politically motivated
  • Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has posted that he has held talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.
  • US treasury secretary Janet Yellen called for US allies to step up financial support for Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that funds announced so far would not be sufficient for the country’s short-term needs as it battles a Russian invasion.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I am handing over to Léonie Chao-Fong.

Updated

Russian minister on peace talks: 'Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiating process'

Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko has said virtually no peace talks are going on at the moment, accusing Ukraine of withdrawing from the process.

The Russian Interfax news agency reports that Rudenko told journalists in Nizhny Novgorod “No, the negotiations are not continuing. Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiating process.”

US treasury secretary Janet Yellen called for US allies to step up financial support for Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that funds announced so far would not be sufficient for the country’s short-term needs as it battles a Russian invasion.

“Ukraine’s financing needs are significant,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Brussels Economic Forum, adding that the country’s government continued to function, due to the ingenuity and bravery of its officials.

“In the months until tax collection can resume at pace, Ukraine needs budget funding to pay soldiers, employees and pensioners, as well as to operate an economy that meets its citizens’ basic needs,” Reuters reports Yellen said. “In short order, it will need to turn to repairing and restoring critical utilities and services.”

While Ukraine would eventually need “massive support” for reconstruction and recovery on the scale of the post-second world war Marshall Plan for Europe, the country would have to take this “one step at a time.”

“What is clear is that the bilateral and multilateral support announced so far will not be sufficient to meet Ukraine’s basic needs,” Yellen said.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has posted that he has held talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz. Zelenskiy said:

Held productive talks with Olaf Scholz. Discussed the situation on the frontline, further pressure on Russia, sanctions increase, the prospects of peace. Appreciate German support, including defensive one. We count on further German assistance on Ukraine’s path to full membership in the EU.

Updated

Ukraine deputy PM: humanitarian operation continues in Azovstal

On Telegram, Ukraine deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk has posted that the process of getting Ukrainian forces out of Azovstal plant in Mariupol. She writes:

Azovstal: humanitarian operation continues. In the interests of saving lives, 52 of our severely wounded servicemen were evacuated yesterday. After their condition stabilises, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war. We are working on the next stages of the humanitarian operation. God willing, everything will be fine.

Earlier Reuters carried a line that Russia-backed separatists had claimed this morning that 256 Ukrainian servicemen who had been in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant “have surrendered” and that 51 were wounded.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Finland and Sweden joining Nato would probably make “not much difference” as the two countries had long participated in the alliance’s military drills.

“Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in Nato military exercises for many years,” Lavrov said, Reuters reports.

“NATO takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the East. So in this sense there is probably not much difference. Let’s see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance.”

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, has said on Telegram that Russian forces suppressed fire from Ukraine on the Russian village of Alekseevka. The village is just over the border of Ukraine’s north-eastern Sumy region.

Starovoit said three private houses were damaged as well as a school building. The governor said assistance would be provided to the residents of the shelled village.

Updated

You may have seen the report from my colleague Daniel Boffey over the weekend about Igor Pedin, the 61-year-old who took a 140-mile journey from the besieged port city of Mariupol to the relative safety of the city of Zaporizhzhia.

He expressed concerns about the health of the dog who made the journey with him, telling the Guardian: “She is lame on the front right leg and she doesn’t let me see what’s wrong with her leg. She always nips me when I want to look at her paw … Zhu-Zhu now reacts very badly to sounds. When she hears sharp sounds, she constantly shudders and jumps aside.

The Guardian has been inundated with emails from people who wanted to help out Igor Pedin and Zhu-Zhu, and a crowdfunder has been set up to help them both here.

You can read more about Pedin’s journey and his fears for his dog Zhu-Zhu here: Ukrainian who walked 140 miles to safety fears for his canine companion

Updated

Here are some more of the latest images that have been sent to us from Ukraine and beyond over the newswires.

Ukrainian soldiers at their position in the Donbas.
Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbas. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Servicemen carry a coffin covered with the national flag between two rows of priests during the funeral  in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine, of Ukrainian soldiers Oleksandr Serousov and Robert Madyar.
Servicemen carry a coffin covered with the national flag between two rows of priests during the funeral in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine, of Ukrainian soldiers Oleksandr Serousov and Robert Madyar. Photograph: Future Publishing/Ukrinform/Getty Images
Views of a damaged resort building and a car caused by a rocket strike in the Odesa region.
Views of a damaged resort building and a car caused by a rocket strike in the Odesa region. Photograph: Vladimir Sindeyeve/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock
Moldova welcomes Ukrainian refugees at a camp in Palanca where they can eat and rest before continuing their journey.
Moldova welcomes Ukrainian refugees at a camp in Palanca where they can eat and rest before continuing their journey. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mannequin depicting a Russian soldier is seen with a sign reading ‘to Russia’ in Borodyanka.
Mannequin depicting a Russian soldier is seen with a sign reading ‘to Russia’ in Borodyanka. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Updated

Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, has just posted some additional information about that attack on the railway in the west of Ukraine. He said on Telegram:

In one of the villages of Yavoriv district, the wreckage of the rocket partially damaged the railway infrastructure. Windows flew in the surrounding houses. And all this in a 20km zone to the border with the European Union.

This was indeed one of the largest attacks on the Lviv region in terms of the number of missiles. It is difficult to predict what will happen next. So go to the shelter!

He also implored citizens not to give away crucial information, posting:

Do not film missile flights or air defence operations. Such videos are needed by Moscow. Don’t be like the Russians, please.

Lviv’s governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, has posted to Telegram that overnight a missile hit the Yavoriv regional branch of the Lviv railway, and infrastructure was damaged. Kozytskyi also claims that Ukraine air defence shot down three cruise missiles last night. The claims have not been independently verified.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the governor of Sumy in the north-east of Ukraine, has posted to Telegram that Okhtyrka was struck by Russian missiles overnight. He said:

Five Russian missiles landed on civilian targets and caused a lot of damage. Warehouses caught fire. The shockwave damaged the front door of the two-storey building, and people were trapped inside.

Many private houses were affected. The windows in the church were broken. The “Fairy Tale” Kindergarten also suffered. This is the same one that was bombed by the racists in the first days of the war, when people died here.

At least five people have been injured in today’s attack on the city.

The claims have not been independently verified. Russia has repeatedly insisted its attacks only target the military and military infrastructure.

Updated

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is due to appeal against a nine-year prison sentence he was handed in March on charges that he and his allies say are politically motivated, AFP reports.

The news agency writes:

His hearing on Tuesday comes as Russian authorities seek to silence remaining government critics and Moscow pushes on with its military campaign in neighbouring Ukraine, with thousands killed and 10 million displaced.

A vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Navalny in late March had his jail time extended to nine years after he was found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court.

He is already serving two-and-a-half years in a prison 100 kilometres east of Moscow for violating parole on old fraud charges.

On Tuesday, he will appeal against the extension of his jail term, joining the hearing at a Moscow court via video link from his prison colony.

If his new sentence comes into force, the 45-year-old opposition politician will be transferred to a strict-regime penal colony, which will place him in much harsher conditions.

The new sentence will replace the old one – that he was handed in February last year – meaning Navalny will remain behind bars for another eight years.

As part of the new charges, investigators accused Navalny of stealing for personal use several million dollars’ worth of donations that were given to his political organisations.

Alexei Navalny in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow in February 2021.
Alexei Navalny in the Babuskinsky district court in Moscow in February 2021. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Updated

The evacuation of Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, their last remaining redoubt in the city, began on Monday. Here are some images from that evacuation:

A bus carrying Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal steel mill drives away under the escort of the pro-Russian military.
A bus carrying Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal steel mill drives away under the escort of the pro-Russian military. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A wounded Ukrainian soldier looks out of a bus as it arrives under the escort of the pro-Russian military in Novoazovsk.
A wounded Ukrainian soldier looks out of a bus as it arrives under the escort of the pro-Russian military in Novoazovsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A convoy of pro-Russian troops escorting the evacuation buses from the Azovstal steel plant.
A convoy of pro-Russian troops escorting the evacuation buses from the Azovstal steel plant. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A wounded Ukrainian soldier from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol is stretchered out of a bus on arrival in Novoazovsk.
A wounded Ukrainian soldier from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol is stretchered out of a bus on arrival in Novoazovsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Updated

A village in Russia’s western province of Kursk bordering Ukraine came under Ukrainian fire on Tuesday, regional governor Roman Starovoit said, according to Reuters, but there were no injuries, although three houses and a school were hit.

Russian border guards returned fire to quell the shooting from large-calibre weapons on the border village of Alekseyevka, Starovoit wrote on the messaging app Telegram.

Updated

More on the theme of Russian disenchantment with the war from the Guardian’s own Moscow correspondents Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer.

They report that as more and more information has leaked out about the scale of Russia’s losses in Ukraine, it has angered the families of soldiers and discouraged even previous supporters of the invasion.

Here’s an extract from their report:

“I look at my government totally different since the war started,” said Tatyana Efremenko, 39, whose son Nikita Efremenko was a conscript on the Moskva missile cruiser when it was sunk in a Ukrainian missile strike one month ago. She is still searching for her son. “There are some very harsh things I would like to say about our leadership, but maybe best if I don’t because they would put me in prison for it.”

In Russian-controlled east Ukraine, wives of fighters have complained on camera that their husbands were left behind as Russian soldiers retreated across the border near Kharkiv. “They aren’t deserters, just those who managed to get away with their lives,” one woman yelled at a local official.

Kyiv has said that it has the remains of thousands of Russian soldiers, but Moscow won’t accept them because that would force it to admit the high death toll in the war.

As evidence of the Bilohorivka rout became clear over the last week, even some pro-Russian cheerleaders appeared to be losing faith in the wisdom of the country’s military leadership.

“Until we know the name of the ‘military genius’ who put a battalion tactical group by the river and he doesn’t answer for it publicly, then there will never be reforms in the army,” wrote Vladlen Tatarzky, the pseudonym used by a Russian blogger and former soldier who has more than 300,000 subscribers on Telegram.

He has generally supported the war. “How can one not remember comrade Stalin here, who despite the difficult military situation was not afraid to take difficult personnel decisions? If this isn’t done, then no mobilisation will save us.”

Read on here:

The scale of the damage left behind by Russian troops north of Kyiv illustrates Russian willingness to use artillery on inhabited areas, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said in its latest intelligence update, adding that Moscow is likely to rely more on artillery in the Donbas in coming weeks.

In the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv, approximately 3,500 buildings are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged during Russia’s abandoned advance towards the Ukrainian capital. 80% of the damage has been caused to residential buildings.

The scale of this damage indicates Russia’s preparedness to use artillery against inhabited areas, with minimal regard to discrimination or proportionality.

Russia has likely resorted to an increasing reliance on indiscriminate artillery bombardment due to a limited target acquisition capability, and an unwillingness to risk flying combat aircraft routinely beyond its own frontlines.

In the coming weeks, Russia is likely to continue to rely heavily on massed artillery strikes as it attempts to regain momentum in its advance in the Donbas.

Russia is conducting its main combat efforts in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s general staff has said in its 6am update, claiming that Ukrainian forces had repulsed 11 attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk over the past 24 hours, destroying equipment including five tanks, one Tor anti-aircraft missile system, six artillery systems, and 12 armoured combat vehicles.

It also said Russian aircraft had “destroyed civilian and military infrastructure in the Eastern Operational Zone and industrial facilities deep in Ukraine” without giving any more details.

In Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces have reportedly driven back Russian forces to the Russian border, the “enemy’s main efforts are focused on maintaining their positions and preventing the advance of our troops.”

The general staff also said it was compiling a separate report on the “total losses of the enemy” which would be published soon.

It has been very difficult to verify the scale of Russian losses in the war.

Moscow last released casualty data in late March, admitting that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded in the first month of the war. The government has not released any more information on casualties in the last month and a half, except to say that they were “significant”.

Western estimates have been 10 or even 20 times as high, with some suggesting that Russia has lost more than 30,000 soldiers since the beginning of the war.

A surprisingly candid assessment from a Russian analyst on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with subtitles provided by the BBC’s Francis Scarr – fascinating viewing if you have five minutes to watch it.

Mikhail Khodaryonok argues that Russian reports of demoralisation among Ukrainian troops are just individual cases and not indicative of a general mood. In fact, he says, Ukrainians are highly motivated and ready to die for their country, which he says is a “component of an army’s high combat readiness, one of the most important components.”

He also warns against “sabre-rattling with missiles in Finland’s direction ... after all the main deficiency of our military-political position is that, in a way, we are in full geopolitical isolation and that, however much we would hate to admit this, virtually the entire world is against us.”

A bit more from the ISW assessment, which says there is growing friction between Russian occupation administrations and pro-Russian collaborators in occupied areas of Ukraine, while inside Russia military bloggers are increasingly in-line with western assessments of Russian military failures.

Russian forces in Zaporizhia, are having “serious conflicts” with collaborators due to “interpersonal power conflicts,” in the Zaporizhia region, the US-based think tank cites the region’s military administrations as saying.

A well-known collaborator in Zaporizhia accused the Russian-installed governor of the area of stealing his 10,000 ruble compensation. Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryshchenko additionally claimed that relatives of those mobilized into the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) are holding a mass protest against mobilization in Donetsk City.

While ISW cannot independently verify these claims, such discontent amongst occupation elements suggests a general lack of planning by Russian authorities in occupied areas, now compounded by increasingly evident Russian losses.

The ISW meanwhile predicted that the “continued disenchantment of pro-Russian milbloggers with the Russian war effort may fuel dissatisfaction in Russia itself, especially if Moscow continues to press recruitment and conscription efforts that send poorly-trained cannon-fodder to the front lines.”

One such blogger, Igor Strelkov, claimed that the Russian offensive to take Donbas has ultimately failed and that “not a single large settlement “has been liberated.

Strelkov even noted that the capture of Rubizhne [a city in Luhansk] is relatively insignificant because it happened before the new offensive in Donbas had begun.

Strelkov stated that Russian forces are unlikely to liberate Donbas by the summer and that Ukrainian troops will hold their positions around Donetsk City.

Strelkov notably claimed that Russian failures thus far have not surprised him because the intent of Russian command has been so evident throughout the operation that Ukrainian troops are aware of exactly how to best respond and warns that Russian troops are fighting to the point of exhaustion under “rules proposed by the enemy.”

The Russian withdrawal from around Kharkiv is different from previous Russian withdrawals from around Kyiv and other cities, when they pulled back to Russian territory, in that they are trying to retain a position in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War think tank writes in its latest assessment of the conflict.

The Russian grouping around Kharkiv City is notably trying to hold the border and prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing further north.

Russian troops may seek to retain positions in Ukraine and continue artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions in order to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting into tube or rocket-artillery range of the outskirts of Belgorod, a major city in Russia and a key hub of the Russian military effort.

The Russians might alternatively hope to conduct a counter-counter-offensive to push back south toward Kharkiv, although such an effort is highly unlikely to succeed.

Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from Mariupol steelworks

More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, many of them wounded, have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, appearing to cede control of the city to Russia after 82 days of bombardment.

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said late on Monday that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk and that more than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka. An “exchange procedure will take place” to bring evacuees home, she said.

It was unclear how many soldiers remained in the steel plant, but Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “We hope to save the lives of our boys”.

“I want to underline: Ukraine needs its Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle,” he said in a video statement.

Buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol arrive under escort of the pro-Russian military in Novoazovsk.
Buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol arrive under escort of the pro-Russian military in Novoazovsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The evacuation is likely to mark the end of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war and a significant defeat for Ukraine. Mariupol is now in ruins after a Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people in the city.

For Ukrainians, the Azovstal plant has become a symbol of resistance, with hundreds of troops continuing to fight on there even after the rest of the city had fallen to Russian forces.

Six hundred troops were believed to have been inside the steel plant.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said that the soldiers defending the steel plant had fulfilled their combat mission.

“The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel,” the general staff said in a statement on its Facebook account. “Efforts to rescue defenders who remain on the territory of Azovstal continue.”

Read on here:

Updated

Welcome summary

Hello, this is Helen Livingstone, bringing you the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Here’s a recap of the latest:

  • The evacuation of wounded Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol is under way, president Volodomyr Zelenskiy confirmed, with more than 260 fighters transported out of the plant. The troops have fulfilled their combat mission, the general staff of the armed forces said. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister has said an “exchange procedure will take place” to bring evacuees home.
  • Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said on Monday that 20 civilians, including a child, were killed in Russian shelling in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • Western military sources say that Vladimir Putin is involved in the war in Ukraine “at the level of a colonel or brigadier”. The Russian leader is reportedly so personally involved he is helping determine the movement of forces in the Donbas.
  • Ukrainian officials claimed that troops counter-attacking against Russian forces in the country’s north-east had pushed them back from the city of Kharkiv and advanced as far as the border with Russia.
  • Russian forces have shelled frontline positions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area as fighting becomes increasingly focused on Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still held by Ukrainian forces after more than 11 weeks of war.
  • After Sweden and Finland yesterday confirmed plans to join Nato, Sweden is seeking to quell Turkish opposition by sending diplomats to the country. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey will not approve the bids, and that delegations from the countries should not bother coming.
  • Vladimir Putin said Russia had “no problems” with Finland and Sweden. “And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion to include these countries,” Putin said. The comments appeared to mark a major shift in rhetoric, after years of casting Nato enlargement as a direct threat to Russia’s security. However he did say that the expansion of military infrastructure on their territory would demand a reaction from Moscow.
  • Hungary has been accused of “holding the EU hostage” over its refusal to agree an oil embargo against Russia, as the bloc struggles to reach consensus on its latest sanctions aimed at eroding the Kremlin’s ability to wage war.
  • American fast-food giant McDonald’s will exit the Russian market and sell its business in the increasingly isolated country, the company said on Monday. Meanwhile, the Moscow city government is to take over a factory belonging to the French carmaker Renault and use it to revive the Soviet-era Moskvitch in Russia’s first major nationalization of a foreign company during its war in Ukraine.