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The Guardian - AU

Russian forces conducting ‘storming operations’ on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine says – as it happened

Charles Michel (left) with Ukrainian PM Denys Shmyhal in Odesa
Charles Michel (left) with Ukrainian PM Denys Shmyhal in Odesa earlier in the day. Photograph: Ukrainian Governmental Press Service/Reuters

Thank you for following our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

This blog has now closed. You can find our latest coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war in our new live blog in the link below.

Summary

It is just after 8am in Ukraine. Here is a comprehensive rundown of everything you might have missed:

  • Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged the international community to take immediate steps to end a Russian blockade of his country’s ports in order to allow wheat shipments and to prevent a global food crisis. Ukraine’s major Black Sea port of Odesa for exporting agricultural products was struck by missiles on Monday. “Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the brink of food shortages,” he said.
  • Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders remained holed up, Ukraine’s defence ministry said. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region.
  • The Pentagon said it had seen indications that Ukrainians caught up in Russia’s invasion were being forcibly removed to Russia. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he “can’t speak to how many camps or what they look like”.
  • Joe Biden has signed the Ukraine Democracy Defence Lend-Lease Act of 2022 to streamline the supply of US weapons and other material to Ukraine or eastern European countries. US congressional Democrats also agreed to provide another $39.8bn in aid for Ukraine, two sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters on Monday.
  • In Odesa, Russian missiles struck tourist sites and destroyed five buildings while injuring two people, its city council said. Ukrainian media reported a shopping centre was on fire.
  • The European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, hailed the “progress” made during talks with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán during discussions related to the proposed sixth package of EU sanctions, which would include a ban on Russian oil imports to the EU. “We made progress, but further work is needed,” she said.
  • Ukraine has submitted the second part of a formal questionnaire to obtain candidacy for EU membership. “Today we have taken another step – a very important and not just a formal step – on our path to the European Union,” Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced in his national address late on Monday evening.
  • The UN human rights council is due to hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine. More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body.
  • The UN Security Council is also expected to hold a new public meeting on Thursday on Russia’s war in Ukraine, in light of the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation. France and Mexico have requested briefings from the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), a diplomat told Agence France-Presse.

Here is a quick snap from White House press secretary Jen Psaki who earlier told reporters that President Joe Biden was not happy with leaks to news outlets in which US intelligence appeared to take credit for helping Ukraine target a Russian ship and Russian generals in Ukraine.

The president was displeased with the leaks. His view was that it was an overstatement of our role, an inaccurate statement and also an understatement of the Ukrainians’ role and their leadership and he did not feel they were constructive,” she said.

Here are some of the latest images showing the continued evacuation of Ukrainian civilians across the country.

A woman holds her dog as she arrives from Kherson to Zaporizhia, on Sunday.
A woman holds her dog as she arrives from Kherson to Zaporizhia, on Sunday. Photograph: Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
Two people say goodbye through the train window in Dnipro, Ukraine.
Two people say goodbye through the train window in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photograph: Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock
Azovstal evacuees wait for the bus to depart for their stay in Zaporizhia on Sunday night.
Azovstal evacuees wait for the bus to depart for their stay in Zaporizhia on Sunday night. Photograph: Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
A young girl and her siblings arrive from Mariupol to Zaporizhia by the evacuation held by the Red Cross on Sunday night.
A young girl and her siblings arrive from Mariupol to Zaporizhia by the evacuation held by the Red Cross on Sunday night. Photograph: Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Removing Russian President Vladimir Putin from power is the only way to protect the west and its allies from future threats from Moscow, Lithuania’s top diplomat has said.

Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Putin’s annual Victory Day speech was “underwhelming” and that the “gloomy faces” of generals and others were signs of failing in the Ukraine war. Yet, he said a wounded Putin may be even more dangerous and that the only way to remove the threat is to remove him in an interview with the Associated Press.

From our standpoint, up until the point the current regime is not in power, the countries surrounding it will be, to some extent, in danger. Not just Putin but the whole regime because, you know, one might change Putin and might change his inner circle but another Putin might rise into his place.

And so as long as a regime that intends to wage wars outside Russian territory is in place, the countries surrounding it are in danger.”

Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states that among Nato allies are particularly concerned about possible Russian designs on forcefully returning them to Moscow’s rule.

Landsbergis said Lithuania was pleased with the support that its Nato allies have offered to it and the other countries in the alliance’s eastern flank, but that they needed more. He said Lithuania, along with fellow Baltic nations Estonia and Latvia, would be pressing Nato to supply more air and maritime defences as well as permanent deployments of troops on their territory when alliance leaders meet in Madrid in late June.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold a new public meeting on Thursday on Russia’s war in Ukraine, in light of the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation, diplomats said Monday.

The session, requested by France and Mexico, will be the 16th held by the Security Council since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, as part of an effort by western states to maintain pressure on Russia, Agence France-Presse reports.

France and Mexico have requested briefings from the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), a diplomat said.

The meeting will be held on the same day as an extraordinary session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, requested by Ukraine, on “the deterioration of the human rights situation in Ukraine.”

The new Security Council meeting will follow the adoption on Friday of a unanimous Security Council statement, initiated by Norway and Mexico, giving “strong support” to the UN Secretary General in his search for “a peaceful solution” to the conflict.

Ukraine calls for help to unblock ports and prevent global food crisis

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the international community to take immediate steps to end a Russian blockade of his country’s ports in order to allow wheat shipments and to prevent a global food crisis.

Ukraine’s major Black Sea port of Odesa for exporting agricultural products was struck by missiles on Monday.

For the first time in decades there is no usual movement of the merchant fleet, no usual port functioning in Odesa. Probably this has never happened in Odesa since World War II.

Ordinary life related to the sea is blocked by Russia. Exactly Russia. And this affects not only Ukraine.

Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the brink of food shortages. And over time, the situation can become downright terrible.

Politicians are already discussing the possible consequences of the price crisis and famine in Africa and Asia. This is a direct consequence of Russian aggression, which can be overcome only together - by all Europeans, by the whole free world. It can be overcome by putting pressure on Russia, by effectively forcing Russia to stop this disgraceful war.”

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, visited Odesa and said he saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn that was ready for export but blocked.

“This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black Sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response,” he said.

Updated

EU chief hails 'progress' made with Hungary for Russian oil embargo

The president of the European commission earlier hailed the “progress” made during talks with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who has so far resisted Brussels’ plans for a Russian oil embargo.

Landlocked Hungary relies on Russian oil from a single pipeline and Orban has warned he cannot approve the European Commission’s proposed sixth package of EU sanctions against Moscow.

“This evening’s discussion with PM Viktor Orban was helpful to clarify issues related to sanctions and energy security,” von der Leyen tweeted.

The two leaders discussed the issue during a meeting in Budapest.

“We made progress, but further work is needed,” she said, adding she would organise a videoconference call “with regional players to strengthen regional cooperation on oil infrastructure”.

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto also said the two sides “made progress” but that they still had plenty to discuss.

“We cannot make the Hungarian people pay the costs of this war,” he said in a video posted on Facebook, according to Reuters.

Before the leaders’ talks, Orban’s international spokesman Zoltan Kovacs, citing Szijjarto, compared the sanctions package to an “atomic bomb” for Hungary’s economy.

“Hungary will not vote for the EU Commission’s initiative on sanctions against Russia because it poses a problem for Hungary and does not contain a proposal for a solution,” he tweeted.

“The proposal is like an atomic bomb for the Hungary economy and would destroy our stable energy supply.”

European diplomats in Brussels are locked in negotiations on the next series of sanctions against Russia.

The draft was drawn up by experts in von der Leyen’s commission, the EU executive, but several member states have reservations - most vocally Hungary.

The package would have seen most EU members halting oil imports from Russia by the end of the year.

Technical talks continue, and negotiators insist there is united EU support behind the need for tougher sanctions, but Hungary and its neighbours need support to ensure alternative sources of fuel.

Here is quick visual guide as to what is happening in Ukraine.

Intense fighting is continuing to rage in Ukraine’s east, the vital Black Sea port of Odesa in the south came under bombardment again, and Russian forces are seeking to finish off the Ukrainian defenders making their last stand at a steel plant in Mariupol.

White House accuses Putin of 'revisionist history' in Victory Day speech

The White House has dismissed a ‘Victory Day’ speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin as “revisionist history” and said his suggestion that western aggression led to the Ukraine war was “patently absurd.”

Speaking to reporters during a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Putin’s speech was “revisionist history that took the form of disinformation.”

What we saw President Putin do is give a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook.

Psaki said 9 May is supposed to be “about celebrating peace and unity in Europe and the defeat of Nazis in World War Two” but instead “Putin is perverting history” to justify his unprovoked and unjustified war.

Now, what is fortunate is that we are all aware — reporters around the world are aware, Europeans are aware, Americans are aware — of the disinformation factory that President Putin and the Kremlin seem to be.

The suggestion that this war that was prompted by — directed by President Putin was prompted by Western aggression or Western plans is patently false and absurd.”

Russian President President Vladimir Putin attends a military parade on Victory Day in Red Square in Moscow on Monday.
Russian President President Vladimir Putin attends a military parade on Victory Day in Red Square in Moscow on Monday. Photograph: EyePress News/REX/Shutterstock

It is “highly likely” that Finland will apply for Nato membership, the Finnish minister for European affairs has said.

Tytti Tuppurainen told CNN the decision has not yet been made, but called the nation’s likely membership “a very natural response” to Russia’s war in Ukraine. She added that if her country does indeed apply, she hopes “the ratification process would be as brief as possible.”

We would, of course, prefer to have a neighbourhood that would have been founded on friendship and cooperation.

But it is Russia that has distanced itself from the security order and it is Russia that has started war in Europe. It is Russia that has invaded in Ukraine. Now, people see this new reality and the time has come to join Nato.”

Interim Summary

  • Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders remained holed up, Ukraine’s defence ministry said. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region.
  • The Pentagon said it had seen indications that Ukrainians caught up in Russia’s invasion were being forcibly removed to Russia. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he “can’t speak to how many camps or what they look like”.
  • Joe Biden has signed the Ukraine Democracy Defence Lend-Lease Act of 2022 to streamline the supply of US weapons and other material to Ukraine or eastern European countries. US congressional Democrats also agreed to provide another $39.8bn in aid for Ukraine, two sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters on Monday.
  • In Odesa, Russian missiles struck tourist sites and destroyed five buildings while injuring two people, its city council said. Ukrainian media reported a shopping centre was on fire.
  • Ukraine has submitted the second part of a formal questionnaire to obtain candidacy for EU membership. “Today we have taken another step – a very important and not just a formal step – on our path to the European Union,” Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced in his national address late on Monday evening.
  • The UN human rights council is due to hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine. More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body.

US President Joe Biden has said he is worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t have a way out” of the Ukraine war and is struggling to figure out what to do next.

Speaking at a political fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Potomac, Maryland, Biden said Putin had mistakenly believed the invasion of Ukraine would break up Nato and break up the European Union.

“I’m confident that Putin believed that he could break up Nato, that he believed he could break the European Union,” Biden said, according a CNN report from the event.

Instead, the west has rallied to Ukraine’s side.

Biden said Putin is a very calculating man and the problem he worries about now is that the Russian leader “doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the creation of a working group on international payments whose tasks will include figuring out terms for transactions with “unfriendly” states, according to a Reuters report.

Putin said in March that Russia, the world’s largest natural gas producer, would require countries it deems hostile to pay for fuel in roubles by opening accounts at Gazprombank and making payments in euros or dollars, to be converted into Russian currency.

Poland and Bulgaria refused to comply, and Russian energy giant Gazprom cut them off last month. The Kremlin has said the same will happen to anyone else who rejects the new payment terms.

The working group will come up with “an infrastructure for international payments, including in Russian roubles, with trading partners from foreign states and territories that carry out unfriendly actions against Russia,” the order said.

It will also look into payment terms in roubles and other national currencies with friendly countries - which would include China and India, although they were not named.

The group - which will be led by presidential adviser Maxim Oreshkin and include top officials such as Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina - is also tasked with finding measures to reduce the risks associated with the freezing of nearly half of Russia’s $640 billion of foreign reserves.

Russia has so far approved a list of “unfriendly” countries including the United States, Canada, Britain and European Union member states.

Ukrainians being taken ‘against their will’ into Russia: Pentagon

The United States says it has seen indications that Ukrainians caught up in Russia’s invasion are being forcibly removed from their homeland and sent to Russia.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked about statements from Kyiv that some 1.2 million Ukrainians were being sent to Russia and placed in camps.

I can’t speak to how many camps or what they look like.

But we do have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will into Russia,” Kirby said. He called these actions “unconscionable” and “not the behaviour of a responsible power.”

The deportation of Ukrainians from their own nation - often to isolated or economically depressed regions of Russia, according to Kyiv - is another indication that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “simply won’t accept and respect Ukrainian sovereignty.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said back in early April, six weeks after Russia launched its deadly invasion, that thousands of Ukrainians had been sent to Russian territory.

But that figure has since ballooned to more than 1.19 million, including at least 200,000 children, Ukraine’s ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said.

Ukrainians continue to return to homes entirely destroyed by Russian shelling.

Svetlana Magyrovks, 58, picks up belongings in a room of her home after Russians shelled the neighbourhood in early March in Irpin, Ukraine.
Svetlana Magyrovks, 58, picks up belongings in a room of her home after Russians shelled the neighbourhood in early March in Irpin, Ukraine. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/UPI/REX/Shutterstock
A bed and baby crib are seen in a burned apartment bedroom in Irpin, Ukraine.
A bed and baby crib are seen in a burned apartment bedroom in Irpin, Ukraine. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/UPI/REX/Shutterstock
Svetlana picks up a giant purple teddy bear found in the debris of her home.
Svetlana picks up a giant purple teddy bear found in the debris of her home. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Ukraine submits second questionnaire to join EU

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed he submitted the second part of a formal questionnaire to obtain candidacy for membership in the European Union during a video call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Zelenskiy made the announcement in his national address late on Monday evening.

Today, we have taken another step - a very important and not just a formal step - on our path to the European Union. Ukraine has submitted the second part of the answers to a special questionnaire to be completed by each country aspiring to be part of the European Union. It usually takes months. But we did everything in a few weeks....

A statement released by Zelenskiy’s office also reads:

I think these answers are also a small victory for our team. We are waiting for the consideration and conclusions of the European Commission. I would like these conclusions to be positive. And I would like these conclusions to be provided faster thanks to you.”

“We expect to receive a positive response in June regarding the acquisition of EU candidate status by our country,” he added.

Ursula von der Leyen noted that the European Commission will review the completed questionnaire submitted by Ukraine with the aim of making a decision in June this year.

I am very impressed with the speed with which you prepared the answers to our questionnaire. This will encourage the European Commission to work faster,” she said.

Zelenskiy also thanked President of the European Council, Charles Michel, for supporting Ukraine on its path to European integration.

“I want to thank you for your political support, for being here. For the fact that you see Ukraine in the near future equal among other members of the European family,” he said.

Michel also confirmed that the European Council will consider Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status in June.

Updated

US plans $40bn aid package for Ukraine

US Congressional Democrats have agreed to provide another $39.8bn in additional aid for Ukraine, two sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters on Monday.

The House of Representatives could pass the plan, which exceeds President Joe Biden’s request last month for $33 billion, as soon as Tuesday, and Senate leaders said they were also prepared to move quickly, the news agency reports.

Biden on April 28 asked Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine, including more than $20 billion in military assistance.

The new proposal includes an additional $3.4 billion for military aid and $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid, the sources said.

A statement released by the White House read:

The need is also urgent: I have nearly exhausted the resources given to me by a bipartisan majority in Congress to support Ukraine’s fighters. This aid has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further Congressional action. We are approximately ten days from hitting this critical deadline.”

Democrats and Republicans both reportedly said they supported more aid for Ukraine and would approve emergency funding quickly, but it was delayed by disputes between the parties over whether additional funding for Covid-19 relief or stiffer immigration controls should be included.

  • This is Samantha Lock back with you on the blog as my US colleagues sign off for the day.

Updated

Several fires have broken out as the result of a Russian missile attacks in Odesa. At least one of the fires is at a shopping center, the Kyiv Independent reports. In early-April Russian missiles struck an oil refinery and fuel storage facilities in the city during a Sunday morning attack.

The city is referred to as Ukraine’s “mother city” and has been a target for Russian forces because of its port access.

Today the Guardian published a story from Emma Graham-Harrison about a family who was a part of the last group of civilians officially evacuated from Azovstal, after spending nearly two months in a bunker sheltering from ongoing Russian attacks.

Olena and Yegor Chekhonatski went into an underground bunker with their daschund Spike and two sons, 12-year-old Artem and 17-year-old Dmitry early into the invasion to get away from Russian shelling. The family of four only expected to stay hunkered down for two weeks, but as time went on the family had to use car batteries to power the lights and filled their time by playing games.

Here’s an excerpt from the family’s harrowing time underground

They had been deprived of almost everything except sleep. “Sleep more, eat less. Because when you are asleep, you don’t need to eat,” Yegor said. “The plan now is to keep on living. The rest will follow.”

When they moved in, there was electricity, but their world rapidly shrank in the mouldy basement, its dank smell seeping into their clothes and skin. The electricity was cut off after a day, and there was no internet, just a small radio that could pick up some longwave transmissions.

Read the rest of Emma’s coverage here.

Updated

The Pulitzer Prizes have awarded their special citation to the journalists of Ukraine. The awards body granted this recognition based on the “courage, endurance and commitment to truthful reporting”, that the country’s reporters have shown throughout the weeks-long Russian invasion.

Despite bombardment, abductions, occupation, and even deaths in their ranks, they have persisted in their effort to provide an accurate picture of a terrible reality, doing honor to Ukraine and to journalists around the world,” the Pulitzer Prize Board wrote.

Just last month, on 29 April Ukrainian reporter Vira Hyrych was killed after a Russian missile hit her Kyiv apartment building. Hyrych was working for Ukraine’s Radio Liberty at the time of her death, BBC reported. And less than a week ago, on 4 May, Oleksandr Makhov, a Ukrainian television reporter who joined the country’s armed forces was killed while fighting Russian forces in the north-eastern city of Izyum, according to Reuters.

Last year, reporters granted their special citation to reporters in Afghanistan who reported on the impact that years of war were having on the country and its residents.

Read about the rest of this year’s Pulitzer Prize recipients here.

Updated

I’m Guardian US reporter Abenè Clayton, I’ll be taking over the blog for the next couple of hours. It’s just after 11.30 in Ukraine, here’s where thing stand:

  • Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers they are “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did” as he used his Victory Day speech to justify his invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.
  • As Putin sought to rally his country through the memory of the second world war, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pushed back in his own address from Kyiv. “We will not allow anyone to annex this victory, we will not allow it to be appropriated,” he said in a recorded address to a piano accompaniment as he walked through central Kyiv past anti-tank barricades.
  • Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders are holed up. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region.
  • Russia’s ambassador to Poland was pelted with red paint thrown at him by people protesting against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw. Video footage released by Russian news agencies showed Sergey Andreev with paint on his clothes and face surrounded by a crowd, some holding Ukrainian flags. In other videos of the incident circulating online, anti-war activists can be heard chanting “fascists” and “murderers”.
  • The United Nations human rights council will hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine, a UN official said. More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”.

Updated

Joe Biden on Monday eased the acceleration of US weapons shipments to Ukraine through a law based on a second world war measure helping US allies to defeat Nazi Germany, Agence France-Presse reports.

U.S. President Joe Biden clasps hands with Vice President Kamala Harris as Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat of Maryland) and Ukraine-born Representative Victoria Spartz (Republican of Indiana) wait for Biden to into law S. 3522, the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022” in the Oval Office on May 9.
U.S. President Joe Biden clasps hands with Vice President Kamala Harris as Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat of Maryland) and Ukraine-born Representative Victoria Spartz (Republican of Indiana) wait for Biden to into law S. 3522, the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022” in the Oval Office on May 9. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The US president signed the Lend-Lease Act in the Oval Office at the White House, in Washington DC, saying the US supports Ukrainians’ “fight to defend their country and their democracy against Putin’s brutal war”.

Acknowledging the billions of dollars already spent by the United States, Biden said “caving to aggression is even more costly”.

The lend-lease act, streamlining the flow of military equipment, “is based on a WWII-era program to help Europe resist Hitler”, the White House said.

The president noted he was signing the act the day after the United States and Western Europe marked Victory in Europe day and the 1945 defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

He also underlined that Monday marked the anniversary of Europe Day, which celebrates the founding of the European Union in 1950 and creation of an “economic powerhouse” and “global force for peace”.

This blog will now be handed over for the next few hours from the New York office to my Guardian colleague in California, Abené Clayton.

Updated

A ragged Ukrainian flag reportedly still flies over the besieged Azovstal steel plant, where the last Ukrainian defenders have been holed up in Mariupol but are under what may be the final, storming attack in this stage of the Russian offensive to take the southern city.

The same Politico reporter has tweeted a clip from a tranquil Kyiv.

As our faithful readers know from this blog, bringing you developments since the Russian invasion in late February, extricating news details from the front lines in Ukraine became increasingly difficult as the war intensified. Sometimes we receive just glimpses.

Here are some pictures from Mariupol on Monday.

People are seen in front of damaged residential building in Ukraine’s Mariupol city on 9 May.
People are seen in front of damaged residential building in Ukraine’s Mariupol city on 9 May. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Details and identifies are limited, but the images are vivid and telling.

A woman is seen in front of a damaged building in Mariupol.
A woman is seen in front of a damaged building in Mariupol. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

More from Mariupol.

A woman carrying her baby is seen in front of damaged residential building in Ukraine’s Mariupol.
A woman carrying her baby is seen in front of damaged residential building in Ukraine’s Mariupol. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

More:

People walk past a graffiti tribute to the Azov soldiers of the Ukrainian army who are currently under siege by the Russian military in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
People walk past a graffiti tribute to the Azov soldiers of the Ukrainian army who are currently under siege by the Russian military in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. Photograph: Joseph O’Brien/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres said during an official visit to non-NATO member Moldova on Monday that the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine escalating are “too frightening to contemplate”, the Associated Press reports.

Guterres, who arrived in Moldova’s capital Chisinau on Monday, said in a joint press conference with prime minister Natalia Gavrilita, that the impact of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine “is profound and far-reaching”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres holds a joint press conference with Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita in the government building in Chisinau, Moldova, on Monday.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres holds a joint press conference with Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita in the government building in Chisinau, Moldova, on Monday. Photograph: Dumitru Doru/EPA

The UN chief’s visit to Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, which has a population of about 2.6 million people, follows a series of unsettling incidents that have rocked Moldova’s pro-Russia breakaway region of Transnistria, which has put officials in Chisinau on high alert.

In late April, three men launched grenades at the region’s state security office, and two large broadcast antennas were downed a day later.

On Friday, police in Transnistria said explosive devices were dropped from a drone leaving one-meter-deep craters near a village.

Guterres said:

I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine.”

Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity:

Must not be threatened or undermined,” he added.

Transnistria, a small strip of land with a population of about 470,000, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova.

Russia bases about 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, ostensibly as peacekeepers. No casualties were reported in the incidents.

People wait in the bus station, on 3 May in Chisinau, Moldova.
People wait in the bus station, on 3 May in Chisinau, Moldova. Photograph: Andreea Câmpeanu/Getty Images

Updated

Here is a new image of European Council president Charles Michel and Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, taking shelter as Russian shells were incoming while they met in the southern city of Odesa earlier on Monday.

Here they are in the bomb shelter.

Earlier, Michel lamented that “silos full” of food for export are blocked in Odesa, which is a strategically important Black Sea port.

“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export. This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response,” he said, The Associated Press reports.

Ukraine is a global grain exporter, and United Nations officials have warned that failure for those products to ship will hurt food security in importing countries, especially poorer ones in Africa and elsewhere.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a statement said he spoke with Michel during the Odesa visit.

It is important to prevent a food crisis in the world caused by Russia’s aggressive actions. Immediate measures must be taken to unlock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports,” Zelenskiy said.

The US Department of Defence is slamming Vladimir Putin’s public remarks on Monday on the conflict in Ukraine as “the same bluster ... falsehoods ... untruths”.

In a briefing at the Pentagon on the outskirts of Washington, DC, which is ongoing, DoD spokesman John Kirby urged the US Congress to pass legislation to authorise the huge $33bn (£26.7bn) package of military and economic aid to Ukraine now before it, in order to continue an uninterrupted flow of weapons beyond the end of this month, to assist Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.

“We urge Congress to add quickly ... to keep the flow going,” Kirby said.

The Pentagon spokesman declined to describe the current state of Ukraine-Russia fighting in the eastern Donbas region as “a stalemate”, as queried by a reporter.

“We wouldn’t call it a stalemate in the classic sense,” he said, noting that people typically associate the phrase with first world war trench warfare and fighting without any territorial shift.

There is “a lot of artillery going back and forth”, Kirby said and control of villages changing hands between Russian and Ukrainian forces. But he added: “We don’t see the Russians making a lot of progress and we believe they are behind their own schedule and are not making much geographic gain.”

Meanwhile, Kirby said that Putin’s grievance-laden speech earlier in the day, marking the second world war defeat of Nazi Germany, was marked by “some of the same bluster, some of the same falsehoods ... quite frankly, untruths, in terms of his rhetoric that we have heard from the beginning” of the war, when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

Kirby said Putin talked about the war being a “justified action”. He said: “It is not.” And that the war was provoked by a threatening Ukraine. “No,” he said. And Putin’s claim that it was a timely military action by Russia, to “denazify” Ukraine.

“You know who’s in Ukraine? Ukrainians, not nazis. What we should have heard is how he is going to end this war and get his forces out of Ukraine ... a sovereign nation,” Kirby said.

The US once again called “unconscionable” the fact that Russia appears to have forcibly taken many Ukrainians to Russia.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby last Friday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby last Friday. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart earlier in the day.

A note to our blog readers - this is Joanna Walters in New York. The Guardian’s US team has just taken the blog over from our London colleagues and we’ll cover events for the next few hours, as they develop.

Updated

Summary

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

  • Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers they are “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did” as he used his Victory Day speech to justify his invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.
  • As Putin sought to rally his country through the memory of the second world war, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pushed back in his own address from Kyiv. “We will not allow anyone to annex this victory, we will not allow it to be appropriated,” he said in a recorded address to a piano accompaniment as he walked through central Kyiv past anti-tank barricades.
  • Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders are holed up. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region.
  • Russia’s ambassador to Poland was pelted with red paint thrown at him by people protesting against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw. Video footage released by Russian news agencies showed Sergey Andreev with paint on his clothes and face surrounded by a crowd, some holding Ukrainian flags. In other videos of the incident circulating online, anti-war activists can be heard chanting “fascists” and “murderers”.
  • The United Nations human rights council will hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine, a UN official said. More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”.

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, met with Emmanuel Macron in Berlin today during the French president’s first trip abroad since being re-elected for a second term last month.

Speaking at a press conference between Franco-German talks, Scholz told reporters “we stand side by side with Ukraine as part of the European family”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “turning point in history” that required European countries to work together, the chancellor said, adding:

We support Ukraine morally, financially, and militarily — with weapons. It cannot be the case that borders in Europe can be moved around with violence. And we will do everything we can to ensure the war does not spread to other countries and to enhance our defence capabilities.

Macron said the two countries would work together to “create a Europe that is stronger, that is prepared to tackle great challenges” and that European countries would continue to support Ukraine while increasing sanctions on Moscow.

The war that Russia launched in Ukraine has a deep impact on all of us, on our citizens, on Europe, and it has led to joint action in order to try and ... achieve some sort of cessation of hostilities and protect Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Earlier today, Macron addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg where he proposed the formation of a new type of “political European community” that would allow democratic states outside the EU to join in “European core values”.

At the press conference in Berlin, Scholz welcomed Macron’s suggestion for a wider European club of countries beyond the EU that could include Ukraine or Britain.

Scholz said:

I want to say explicitly that this is a very interesting suggestion.

He added that he was “very pleased about the suggestion that we are discussing together”.

Updated

An Italian parliamentary committee has begun an investigation into the spread of disinformation, reportedly amid suspicions that some Russian commentators hosted on television networks could be on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.

The probe by Copasir, a parliamentary committee for the security of Italy, was triggered after an outcry over a recent interview with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Rete 4, a channel operated by the privately owned Mediaset.

Enrico Borghi, a member of Copasir and politician with the centre-left Democratic party, confirmed an investigation was under way but would neither confirm nor deny a report in la Repubblica on Monday that at least three unnamed Russian guests on Italian TV were on the Kremlin’s payroll.

Lavrov’s interview on 1 May, prompted a diplomatic row with Israel after the minister claimed that Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood”. The screening coincided with the appearance of the prominent pro-Kremlin journalist, Vladimir Solovyev, on the rival channel, La7.

“The fact they were both interviewed on the same night, by private networks, was really quite striking,” Borghi said. “But this investigation is not about censorship or limiting press freedom, but this so-called hybrid war of disinformation, interference, the production of fake news and influence, which are objective themes of Russian activities against Nato, and, in particular, against Italy. These elements have increased, unfortunately, in connection with the real war.”

The committee will first hear Carlo Fuortes, CEO of the state-owned broadcaster, Rai, on 12 May, followed by Giacomo Lasorella, president of the media watchdog, Agcom, on 17 May.

“Our task is to supervise the information service and security of the country. It’s in the context of this activity that we carry out our work,” added Borghi.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rai and other TV channels have regularly hosted Russian journalists to debate the war, sparking divisions between those who condemn the networks for giving space to “propagandists” and those who argue that it is right to air the opinions of those on both sides of the conflict.

Protesters in Poland covered the country’s Russian ambassador in red paint as he attended a wreath-laying ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

Many protesters carried Ukrainian flags while some waved the white-red-white flag that has come to symbolise the Belarusian opposition movement. Before leaving, Sergei Andreev told the cameras he was proud of his country and his president.

Some Russian troops refusing to obey orders in Ukraine, says US official

The United States has seen “anecdotal reports” that some Russian troops in Ukraine are not obeying orders, according to a senior US defence official.

The US believes that Russian troops and “mid-grade officers at various levels, even up to the battalion level” are refusing to obey orders to move forward in the new Donbas offensive in Ukraine, the official said.

These officials “have either refused to obey orders or are not obeying them with the same measure of alacrity that you would expect an officer to obey”, the US official said.

Russian forces have struggled with widespread morale problems since its invasion of Ukraine, the official added.

From Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch:

Updated

Anti-war protesters have taken to the streets across Russia in acts of brave defiance on Victory Day.

From Kevin Rothrock, an English-language editor with the Russian news site Meduza:

Ukraine’s bid to join EU will take ‘several decades’, says Macron

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union would “take several years indeed, probably several decades”.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Macron suggested Ukraine needed to be given some hope in the short-term while it awaits a decision.

Macron said:

Ukraine by its fight and its courage is already a heartfelt member of our Europe, of our family, of our union.

Even if we grant it candidate status tomorrow, we all know perfectly well that the process to allow it to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades.

French president Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the Conference on the Future of Europe, in Strasbourg, eastern France.
French president Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the Conference on the Future of Europe, in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photograph: Jean-François Badias/AP

Rather than bringing down the stringent standards to allow countries to join more quickly, he suggested creating a “parallel European community” for countries who aspired to join the bloc or, in an apparent reference to Britain, countries which had left the union.

This “European political community” would be open to democratic European nations adhering to “European core values” in areas such as political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment of infrastructure or circulation of people.

Macron added:

Joining it would not necessarily prejudge future EU membership. Nor would it be closed to those who left it.

His comments came after the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the top EU body would be publishing its initial opinion on Ukraine’s bid for membership next month.

Updated

The United Nations human rights council will hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine, a UN official said.

More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”.

The meeting could include a resolution that would task the newly formed Commission of Inquiry into the war with providing a detailed report to the council later this year.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Yevheniia Filipenko, wrote in a letter to the council’s president:

The current situation requires the urgent attention of the council in view of the recent reports of war crimes and large-scale violations in the town of Bucha and other liberated areas of the country and ongoing reports of mass casualties in the city of Mariupol.

Britain’s ambassador, Simon Manley, tweeted that he was “proud” that the UK was standing with Ukraine in calling for a special session “in the face of the appalling atrocities being perpetrated in Mariupol and elsewhere in Ukraine”.

Updated

Today so far...

It is almost 6.30pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers they are “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did” as he used his Victory Day speech to justify his invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.
  • As Putin sought to rally his country through the memory of the second world war, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pushed back in his own address from Kyiv. “We will not allow anyone to annex this victory, we will not allow it to be appropriated,” he said in a recorded address to a piano accompaniment as he walked through central Kyiv past anti-tank barricades.
  • Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders are holed up. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region.
  • Russia’s ambassador to Poland was pelted with red paint thrown at him by people protesting against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw. Video footage released by Russian news agencies showed Sergey Andreev with paint on his clothes and face surrounded by a crowd, some holding Ukrainian flags. In other videos of the incident circulating online, anti-war activists can be heard chanting “fascists” and “murderers”.

Good afternoon from London. I’m Léonie Chao-Fong and I’ll continue to bring you all the latest news from the war in Ukraine. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Our central and eastern Europe correspondent, Shaun Walker, has this analysis of Vladimir Putin’s Victory Speech this morning:

Two presidents and two speeches for Victory Day: from Vladimir Putin in Moscow and Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

Both presidents talked more about the present day than the past. Both insisted their enemies today were the heirs of the Nazis, and both promised their countries would succeed in what they both said was a defensive war they had been forced to fight.

There, however, the similarities between the two addresses by Putin and Zelenskiy came to an end.

The first difference was stylistic: Putin was surrounded by the pomp and militarism of the annual Red Square parade, riffing on a topic he has been angry about for years. Zelenskiy, strolling along Kyiv’s main street and delivering a casual but impassioned speech straight into the camera, cut a very different figure, as he has since the start of the war.

But the main difference was that for most people existing beyond the reach of Russian state television, Zelenskiy’s arguments were likely to be a lot more convincing than Putin’s.

Putin has long used his 9 May speeches to draw parallels between the second world war and the present day, and this year’s speech was nothing new, simply a compilation of previous grievances that were recycled and intensified for this year, when his army is fighting a new war.

But the images from that war, seen across the world, have made Putin’s politicisation of the Soviet wartime sacrifice even less convincing.

Read more of Shaun Walker’s analysis: Putin uses Victory Day speech to rehash list of grievances against west

The European Commission will aim to deliver its opinion on EU membership for Ukraine next month, its president Ursula von der Leyen said.

Von der Leyen, who has previously pledged to try to speed up Ukraine’s bid to become an EU member, tweeted that she had spoken with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss his country’s “European pathway”.

She added that she was “looking forward to receiving the answers to the EU membership questionnaire”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission chief is heading to Hungary to meet its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to discuss issues related to the proposed sixth package of EU sanctions, which would include a ban on Russian oil imports to the EU.

From Von der Leyen’s chief spokesperson, Eric Mamer:

Von der Leyen has faced resistance from Hungary over her proposals to stop Russian oil flows to Europe. On Friday, Orbán said the EU’s new sanctions plans amounted to a “nuclear bomb” for Hungary’s economy.

People find shelter from shelling in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
People take shelter from shelling in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
A boy reads a book as residents find shelter from shelling in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A boy reads a book as residents shelter in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Updated

European Council president forced to take cover from missile strike during Odesa visit

More on the surprise visit by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, to Odesa today. Michel was forced to break off a meeting with Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, and take shelter when missiles struck the southern Ukrainian city, according to an EU official.

During the meeting, “participants needed to interrupt the meeting to take shelter as missiles struck again the region of Odesa”, the official said.

The official added:

The president was briefed by the head of Ukraine’s navy in particular on the damage caused by Russian missiles fired from the sea and was able to witness at first hand the wanton destruction of a residential building and the impact on innocent civilians.

The strategic port city of Odesa has seen several Russian missile strikes over the past few days.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who joined their talks by video conference, thanked Michel for visiting Ukraine on Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in the second world war.

Zelenskiy said in a video statement from his office:

I am very pleased that today the European Union, at the highest level, supports Ukraine at a time when manifestations of Nazism, unfortunately, exist and are being revived.

During the talks, both sides discussed “the importance of taking immediate measures to unblock Ukraine’s ports for grain exports”, the statement said.

Updated

Russian journalists fill pro-Kremlin site with anti-war articles

Two Russian journalists working for a popular pro-Kremlin website filled it with anti-war articles on Monday morning in a rare act of dissent as the country celebrated the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.

The articles on Lenta.ru called president Vladimir Putin a “pitiful paranoid dictator” and accused him of waging “the bloodiest war of the 21st century”.

“We had to do it today. We wanted to remind everyone what our grandfathers really fought for on this beautiful Victory Day – for peace,” said 30-year-old Egor Polyakov, one of the two journalists.

During his annual speech in front of 11,000 soldiers in the Kremlin on Monday morning, Putin sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine, tying the fighting in Ukraine to the Soviet victory in the second world war.

“This is not what Victory Day is about,” Polyakov told the Guardian in an interview. “Ordinary people are dying, peaceful women and children are dying in Ukraine. Given the rhetoric that we have seen, this isn’t going to stop. We couldn’t accept this any longer. This was the only right thing we could do.”

Polyakov, who works as a business reporter at Lenta, said he and his colleague Alexandra Miroshnikova published more than 40 articles critical of the Kremlin and its actions in Ukraine. The articles have since been taken down, but can be accessed through a web archive tool.

Read more of Pjotr Sauer’s report here: ‘Paranoid dictator’: Russian journalists fill pro-Kremlin site with anti-war articles

Updated

Vladimir Putin has sought to justify Moscow’s war in Ukraine as a forced response to western policies. Speaking on Monday at a military parade marking the Soviet Union’s second world war victory over the Nazis, the Russian president drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine. Here is our video report:

Today the Guardian and other European outlets are publishing articles by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has suspended publication in Russia because of censorship over the Ukraine war. Here Alexei Levinson, a sociologist and senior researcher at Russia’s leading polling organisation, writes that Putin may have high ratings – but Russians are terrified too:

After Russia’s short war with Georgia in 2008, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating shot up to 88%. In 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, the same thing happened: the proportion of people who said they approved of his leadership once again rose to the same figure.

In both instances, negative global reaction merely served to strengthen the Russian belief that they were right. Sanctions did little damage.

This time, it’s different. Military action is proving to be neither quick nor bloodless. Everyone understands that, even those who only listen to the voices coming out of their TVs. This time, there is a broad, anxious expectation of lean times, of economic blockade.

There is a school of thought that hails from Soviet times that the refrigerator is more powerful than the TV. Could that be right this time?

So far, the signs are mixed. Just as in 2014, there has been a rise in the approval rating of the operation and its commander in chief. But it’s not all positive news for Russia’s political class: an absolute majority, 55%, expects an improvement in political life over the coming months. They cannot be disappointed. This will have to be created – if not in real life then in the virtual world.

Read more here: Alexei Levinson – Putin may have high ratings – but Russians are terrified too

There has been a Russian response to their ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev being covered with red paint by pro-Ukrainian protesters as he attempted to lay flowers at a cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Warsaw [see 11.37am].

Russian Ambassador to Poland, Ambassador Sergey Andreev reacts after being covered with red paint during a protest.
Russian Ambassador to Poland, Ambassador Sergey Andreev reacts after being covered with red paint during a protest. Photograph: Wojtek Radwański/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said on Telegram:

Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergei Andreyev and Russian diplomats accompanying him were assaulted in Warsaw as they were laying a wreath at the cemetery of Soviet soldiers. Neo-Nazi fans showed their face once again – and it is bloody.

The demolition of monuments to World War II heroes, the desecration of graves and now the disruption of a flower-laying ceremony on the day that is sacred to every decent human being proves the obvious again: the west has set the course for the reincarnation of Nazism.

But as I said before, you can’t scare us. It’s the Europeans who should be scared when they look at their reflection in the mirror.

A worker removes anti-Russian slogans written at the site of the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw.
A worker removes anti-Russian slogans written at the site of the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw. Photograph: Piotr Molęcki/East News/REX/Shutterstock

Zelenskiy calls for 'immediate measures' to unblock Ukraine's ports for wheat exports

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also commented on European Council president Charles Michel’s visit to Odesa. On his official Telegram channel, Zelenskiy said:

It is important to prevent a food crisis in the world caused by Russia’s aggressive actions. Immediate measures must be taken to unblock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports.

I appreciate the bold position of the President of the European Council and his personal presence in Odesa. I am grateful for the constant support of our country from the EU in many areas.

Updated

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has thanked Charles Michel for his support after the European Council president visited Odesa on Monday.

The pair discussed the European Commission’s proposed sixth sanctions package as well as the importance of the EU’s integration of Ukraine, Shmyhal tweeted.

Michel also tweeted photos of his visit to the Ukrainian port city, which has recently seen renewed Russian missile strikes.

Ukraine says Russia conducting 'storming operations' Mariupol’s Azovstal plant

Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russian forces, backed by tanks and artillery, were conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where the southern city’s last defenders are holed up.

There could be future attacks on the steelworks, defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said, without proving evidence or giving further details.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces began “storming” the Azovstal plant after a UN convoy left the Donetsk region, adding:

In particular, an unsuccessful attempt was made to break through the bridge, which was the gate of evacuation.

Russia has previously denied Ukraine’s claims that it has tried to storm the plant.

Updated

Vladimir Putin said there was no doubt Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine would achieve its result, according to Russian state-owned news agency Tass.

The Russian president was speaking after overseeing the annual military parade on Moscow’s Red Square to mark the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war.

Putin was quoted by Tass as saying:

All plans are being fulfilled. A result will be achieved – on that account there is no doubt.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall after the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia.
Vladimir Putin at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall after the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Anton Novoderezhkin/Kremlin pool/Sputnik/EPA

Updated

Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day speech today shows the Russian president is “completely out of ideas” about the war in Ukraine, according to one analyst.

Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.

Instead he suggested Russia was “forced” into the war by Nato and told Russian soldiers they were “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did”.

Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, says the absence of any big announcements in Putin’s speech is far more important than the rhetoric he used.

O’Brien tweeted:

Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia can’t fight a long war, and the clock starts ticking on the failure of their army in Ukraine.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has warned Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, that all efforts must be made to ensure the Ukraine conflict does not turn into an “unmanageable situation”, Chinese state media reports.

In a video call between the two leaders, Xi is cited as saying to Scholz:

All efforts must be made to avoid the intensification and expansion of the Ukraine conflict, which could lead to an unmanageable situation.

Chinese state media said Xi also invited Germany to participate in the Global Security Initiative, a broad and vague framework the Chinese president put forward last month that upholds the principle of “indivisible security”, a concept invoked by Russia to justify its invasion of Ukraine.

A mine-sniffing dog, credited with detecting more than 200 explosives since the start of the war in Ukraine, has been given a medal for his services to the country.

Patron, a two-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell terrier, was presented with the award by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a ceremony in Kyiv.

The pint-sized terrier, whose name means “ammo” in Ukrainian, sniffs out Russian mines and explosives in the north-eastern city of Chernihiv and acts as a mascot of the country’s State Emergency Service.

Patron searches for explosives at an airfield in the town of Hostomel, in Kyiv region.
Patron searches for explosives at an airfield in the town of Hostomel, in Kyiv region. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

He has become a national symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia, regularly featuring in videos on official Ukrainian social media channels.

Zelenskiy presented Patron and his owner, Mykhailo Iliev, with their awards at a news conference, alongside Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who made a surprise visit to the country on Sunday.

As Patron was presented with his award, Trudeau patted his pockets as though looking for dog treats. Zelenskiy described the terrier as “a wonderful little sapper” (a military engineer).

“Today, I want to award those Ukrainian heroes who are already clearing our land of mines. And together with our heroes, a wonderful little sapper – Patron – who helps not only to neutralise explosives, but also to teach our children the necessary safety rules in areas where there is a mine threat,” Zelenskiy said in a statement after the ceremony.

Updated

The British defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and his inner political circle are “mirroring fascism and tyranny” equal to Nazi Germany with their invasion of Ukraine.

During a speech at the National Army Museum in London, Wallace said Putin was “repeating the errors of the last century’s totalitarian regimes” as Russia marked the Soviet Union’s victory in the second world war with a grand military parade in Moscow.

The Russian ambassador to Poland was covered with red paint by pro-Ukrainian protesters as he attempted to lay flowers at the cemetery of Soviet soldiers, Russian state agencies cited local correspondents.

From the Washington Post’s Mary Ilyushina:

Russian smart TV owners tuning in to watch the Victory Parade today were faced with an anti-war message condemning their president, Vladimir Putin, for having “the blood of thousands of Ukrainians” on his hands.

Instead of previewing the top shows of the day, the Russian online TV schedule showed every programme had been changed to a message that read:

On your hands is the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and their hundreds of murdered children.

TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.

From the BBC’s Francis Scarr:

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong with you today to bring you all the latest developments from 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.

Updated

A protester holds a Russian passport and a poster with words ‘I am Russian and I oppose the war’ at a ‘Walk For Ukraine’ rally in the centre of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
A protester holds a Russian passport and a poster with words ‘I am Russian and I oppose the war’ at a ‘Walk For Ukraine’ rally in the centre of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock
A die-in against the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during celebrations to mark Victory Day at the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park in Berlin, Germany.
A die-in against the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during celebrations to mark Victory Day at the Soviet war memorial at Treptower Park in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Christian Mang/Reuters

Updated

Today so far …

  • Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers they are “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did” as he used his Victory Day speech to tie the war in Ukraine to the memory of the second world war and justify his invasion. Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.
  • In a rare mention of Russian casualties in Ukraine, Putin said that the “the death of each of our soldiers and officers is a grief for all of us and an irreparable loss for relatives and friends”, adding that he signed a law that “will provide special support to the children of the dead and wounded comrades”.
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy, commemorating victory over Nazi Germany, has said Ukraine will win in its war with Russia and would not cede any territory. In a video posted to social media, the Ukrainian president said: “We are fighting for our children’s freedom and therefore we will win. Very soon there will be two victory days in Ukraine. And someone won’t have any. We won then. We will win now.”
  • Residents of Russian-occupied areas of Zaporizhzhya oblast have had their personal documents taken away by Russian authorities, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces has said, saying they would be returned “on the basis of the participation of the latter in the solemn events … of Victory Day”.
  • Kirill Stremousov, deputy chairman of the pro-Russian military-civilian administration in Kherson in southern Ukraine has said “we will integrate as much as possible into the Russian Federation”.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in its ability to conduct precision strikes at scale, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said in its latest intelligence update
  • The European Union should consider seizing frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves to help pay for the cost of rebuilding Ukraine after the war, its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said in an interview.
  • Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is set to travel to Berlin for talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday and to make a major address. It will be his first trip abroad since his re-election and Ukraine is expected to be high on the agenda for the two leaders.
  • UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has accused leaders of Russia’s armed forces of “amorality and corruption” and said the conflict in Ukraine brings “dishonour”.
  • The UK government has expanded its sanctions against Russia to include punitive import tariffs on Russian precious metals, as well as export bans on certain UK products, to increase economic pressure on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Traumatised Ukrainian refugees who have sought sanctuary in the UK may have to wait two years before they can get specialised therapy to help them heal from the horrors of war.

Updated

The British ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, recently returned to Kyiv, and has tweeted this morning about the warm reception she received while out shopping this morning.

Updated

Today, on Russia’s Victory Day, the Guardian and other European outlets are publishing articles by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has suspended publication in Russia because of censorship over the Ukraine war. This piece is from Kirill Martynov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe, who says that for Vladimir Putin, the sinister cult of victory is all that is left:

There came a point when Putin resolved to stay in power indefinitely. Elections would come and go, and he would lie that they would be his last, that he had no intention of changing Russia’s 1993-era constitution, which provides for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

His first strategy for eternal rule was to allow citizens to become wealthy, as the country became richer than it had ever been in the second half of the 2000s. But when growth stopped, with much of the wealth captured in a few hands, he had to turn to propaganda. He began to invoke a sense of “traditional values” to augment the notion of his paramount importance to Russia – the indispensable leader who was the only defence for Russians against westernisation and dissolution in the sea of European peoples.

And Putin came to believe his own propaganda – that he now had a special historic mission to create a Greater Russia.

Read more here: Kirill Martynov – For Vladimir Putin, the sinister cult of victory is all that is left

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, commemorating victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war, has said Ukraine will win in its war with Russia and would not cede any territory. The message, which the Ukrainian president delivered in a video posted on his official Telegram channel, came as Russia also marked the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.

Ukraine’s military have said that four high-precision Onyx missiles fired from the Russian-controlled Crimea peninsula had struck the Odesa area in southern Ukraine, but gave no other details.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Monday that peace talks with Ukraine had not stopped, and that they were being held remotely.

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Our Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth has this report on Russia’s Victory Day parade at Red Square this morning:

Vladimir Putin has told Russian soldiers they are “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did” as he used his Victory Day speech to tie the war in Ukraine to the memory of the second world war and justify his invasion.

Prior to the speech, foreign officials had said Putin could use it to launch a full mobilisation of Russian troops or formally declare war in Ukraine, but there were no large policy announcements.

Instead he suggested Russia was “forced” into the war by Nato and pledged to provide aid for the families of soldiers who had died in what the Kremlin is calling a “special operation”.

Speaking at the 77th annual celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Russian president launched a defence of his war in Ukraine, pivoting from a recognition of Russia’s “greatest generation” to a description of how it was believed Ukraine was being armed by the west for an imminent attack on Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at a memorial to the Hero Cities during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Victory Day.
Russian president Vladimir Putin lays flowers at a memorial to the Hero Cities during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Victory Day. Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

“Nato countries did not want to listen to us,” Putin said. “They had different plans, and we saw it. They were planning an invasion into our historic lands, including Crimea … Russia gave a preemptive rebuff to aggression, it was a forced, timely and only right decision.”

He also described the war as “sacred”. “The defence of the motherland, when its fate was being decided, has always been sacred,” Putin said, speaking of the second world war. “And now, you are fighting for our people in the Donbas. For the security of our homeland – Russia.”

Read more of Andrew Roth’s report: Putin ties Ukraine invasion to second world war in Victory Day speech

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UK defence secretary: conflict in Ukraine brings 'dishonour' to Russian armed forces

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has accused leaders of Russia’s armed forces of “amorality and corruption” and said the conflict in Ukraine brings “dishonour”.

Discussing Russian troops who died fighting the invading Nazis in the second world war, he said: “I thought about the scale of the suffering across the Soviet Union, but also how the suffering was used then as it is now – to cover up the inadequacy of those ruling in safety and comfort from behind the Kremlin walls above and within the general staff nearby.

“Most Soviet conscripts hadn’t a chance. The suffering was often needless. In the absence of effective military leadership many of their best officers were purged by the NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) for counter-revolutionary crimes. Fear and sycophancy dictated behaviours then, and today’s Russian armed forces still carry that Soviet imprint – the imprint of amorality and corruption.”

In a speech at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, south-west London, PA Media also quotes Wallace saying: “Really what President Putin wants is the Russian people and the world to be awed and intimidated by the ongoing memorial to militarism. I believe the ongoing und unprovoked conflict in Ukraine does nothing but dishonour those same soldiers.”

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A couple of pieces of analysis here on that Vladimir Putin speech. The Financial Times’ Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon noted the absence of any talk of contemporary victory, tweeting:

The biggest absentee from Putin’s speech, though, was any actual “victory”. He said Russian troops were fighting heroically in the Donbas, but didn’t mention Mariupol or any other territories Russia has captured.

Roland Oliphant, who is senior foreign correspondent at the Telegraph, described it as underwhelming, noting:

Second world war tribute was boilerplate, and the justifications for the current war were ritualistic repetitions of everything we’ve heard before. But he did acknowledge deaths and wounded.

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In a rare mention of Russian casualties in Ukraine, earlier this morning in Moscow Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the “the death of each of our soldiers and officers is a grief for all of us and an irreparable loss for relatives and friends”, adding that he signed a law that “will provide special support to the children of the dead and wounded comrades”.

Moscow has not released any figures on casualties among its troops since late March. Nato estimates that up to 40,000 Russian soldiers are killed, wounded, captured or MIA in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian officials have announced that the aerial parades planned for today’s celebrations have been cancelled in most major cities across the country due to “cloudy weather”.

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Here is a translation of one of the key parts of Vladimir Putin’s speech, where he explained why he blames the west for forcing Russia to act. Reuters have this translation of the key passage:

Despite disagreements in international relations, Russia has always advocated the creation of a system of equal and indivisible security, a system that is vital for the entire international community.

In December last year, we proposed the conclusion of an agreement on security guarantees. Russia called on the west to enter an honest dialogue, in search of reasonable compromise solutions, to take each other’s interests into account. It was all in vain.

Nato countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this. Openly, preparations were under way for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea.

In Kyiv, they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, the Nato bloc began actively taking military control of territories adjacent to ours. As such, an absolutely unacceptable threat to us was systematically created, and moreover directly on our borders.

Everything indicated that a clash with the neo-Nazis, the Banderites [Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers], backed by the United States and their junior partners, was inevitable.

Putin marks Victory Day in Moscow with no major new announcements on Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin in his speech at the Red Square parade did not make any major announcements as the Russian leader spent of it justifying his invasion of Ukraine, describing it as he has done in the past as “the forced, timely and only correct decision.”

Speaking in front of over 10,000 troops, the Russian leader repeated his rationales for what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, claiming that the west was planning an attack on Crimea and that Moscow had “no other option”.

“Nato countries did not want to listen to us. They had different plans, and we saw it. They were planning an invasion into our historic lands, including Crimea … Russia gave a preemptive rebuff to aggression, it was a forced, timely and only right decision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow.
Russian president Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, in Red Square in central Moscow. Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters


Putin notably did not declare general mobilisation or a formal declaration of war, two scenarios experts said would further escalate the war in Ukraine. His speech was also devoid of threats to use nuclear weapons, as western concerns have recently grown concerned over Moscow’s rhetoric that signalled the Kremlin was considering such weapons.
But there were also no signs that Putin planned to de-escalate the conflict. Some observers said the Russian leader might seek to end the war by proclaiming victory in the Donbas.

As expected, Putin aimed to portray the war in Ukraine as a continuation of the second world war and the battle aganst Nazism.

Addressing Russian soldiers who he said arrived from the battlefield in Ukraine, he said: “You are fighting for the homeland, for its future, for no one to forget the lessons of world war two.”

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Here are some more images from Moscow, where Vladimir Putin has just addressed the Victory Day military parade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech.
Russian president Vladimir Putin delivers his speech. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war.
Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Russian service members march.
Russian service members march. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Russian servicewomen march on Red Square.
Russian servicewomen march on Red Square. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images
A security service officer aims his sniper rifle during the parade.
A security service officer aims his sniper rifle during the parade. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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During his speech, Vladimir Putin made a strong pitch that Russia was a united, multi-ethnic nation, saying:

Shoulder to shoulder, soldiers and officers are standing here from many regions of our huge motherland, including those who arrived here straight from Donbas directly from the war zone.

We remember how Russia’s enemy tried to use against us the gangs of international terrorism. They tried to sow international and religious enmity to break us, to weaken us from inside, but they failed.

Today our warriors of different ethnicities are fighting together in the battle. They shield each other from bullets and fragments and shrapnel, really as brothers, and this is the strength of Russia. The unbeatable strength of our multi-ethnic nation.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has said “Glory to our armed forces. For Russia! For victory!” and there has been a gun salute and patriotic music.

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The Moscow Victory Day parade has just observed a minute of silence. Putin then said that losses to Russia’s military forces are “a tragedy for us all” but “an irreplaceable loss to their families”.

He wished a speedy recovery to wounded soldiers and officers and said that he has today signed an executive order in order to provide “crucial support” for “the children of fallen comrades”.

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In a slight break from his anti-west rhetoric so far, Vladimir Putin has said Russia celebrates as esteemed comrades those from the allied armies, including the English, French and Americans who fought alongside the Soviet Union in the second world war.

He then went on to say he was addressing the armed forces of Russia and the “militiamen of Donbas”, saying they are fighting on their land to defend Russia.

Nobody will forget the lessons of the second world war so that there will be no place in the world for punishers and Nazis.

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Putin has said late last year the west was openly preparing an attack on Donbas and Crimea, and there were calls in Kyiv for nuclear weapons creating “an unacceptable threat right on our border”.

He accused the US and “its minions” of causing a threat, and “the danger grew every day”.

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Vladimir Putin has been addressing the Victory Day parade in Moscow. The Russian president has begun by congratulating the forces on the second world war victory 77 years ago, and immediately referenced Ukraine, saying:

It is the same now. You are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of our motherland. The day of victory is close to each of our hearts. There is no family in Russia that wasn’t scorched by the great patriotic war. We are proud of the generation of victors.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has begun speaking in Red Square in Moscow at Russia’s main Victory Day celebration.

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In Moscow as part of the Victory Day celebrations, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu is being driven along Red Square, saluting massed troops of various branches of Russia’s armed forces.

Russia celebrates the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during the second world war.
Russia celebrates the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during the second world war. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

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Here is a reminder of what our Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth suggested might be in Putin’s speech today:

Facing setbacks, officials have suggested that Vladimir Putin may use the May 9 holiday to repackage the war in Ukraine. Dramatic options include escalation through a formal declaration of war or general mobilisation – or de-escalating by proclaiming victory.

Alternatively, Putin could offer up a “sandwich”, as one analyst put it, that praises the Russian army’s “victory” while preparing the population for a grinding and painful conflict as status quo.

Ukrainian officials in particular have warned that Putin is planning to announce a mass mobilisation, or even to declare war against Ukraine, calling up personnel and resources that were untapped under Russia’s so-called “special operation” that began on 24 February.

Pictures coming in from Moscow show that Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. He has been seen greeting senior military officials ahead of a speech he is due to give shortly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square.
Russian president Vladimir Putin arrives to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

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Zelenskiy on Victory Day: 'We won then. We will win now.'

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has issued a Victory Day statement, saying that Ukraine will prevail in the war. He posted to his official Telegram channel:

We are fighting for our children’s freedom and therefore we will win. We will never forget what our ancestors did in World War II, which killed more than 8 million Ukrainians. Very soon there will be two victory days in Ukraine. And someone won’t have any.

We won then. We will win now. And Khreschatyk will see the victory parade – the Victory of Ukraine! Happy victory over Nazism day! Glory to Ukraine!

Khreschatyk is the main street in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

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Evgeny Popov, a member of parliament in Russia’s state Duma, has been interviewed live from Moscow on Sky News. A staunch supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Popov is a former journalist who has previously been banned from visiting Ukraine.

He gave a robust defence of Russia’s action in Ukraine, accusing Ukrainian authorities of using children as human shields, and of killing 14,000 people in Donbas over the last eight years. He said Russia had only had military infrastructure, Nazis and neo-Nazis as targets.

We are not going to attack civilian infrastructure, we’re not going to attack civilian people, and we are just fighting Nazis and neo-Nazis in Ukraine. And now we are on a rescue.

It’s a huge hypocrisy you asking this question just now. We are at war with Ukraine now for about eight years, and the Ukrainian artillery was shelling Ukrainians in Donbas schools, hospitals, kindergartens for eight years.

He said Ukraine had shown no evidence that 600 people were killed in the bombing of a theatre in Mariupol. and he repeated Russian claims that pictures of wounded people in a maternity hospital used actors.

On the issue of Finland’s membership of Nato, he said they were welcome to do what they liked as a sovereign nation, but that it was a huge security threat if nuclear weapons were located in the Baltic, and that Finland should not “bully” its neighbour.

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Here are some of the latest images that have been sent to us over the newswires of Russian Victory Day celebrations from across the country.

A boy wearing the Red Army styled uniform watches a parade in Vladivostok.
A boy wearing the Red Army-styled uniform watches a parade in Vladivostok. Photograph: Tatiana Meel/Reuters
Second world war veteran Garold Kuznetsov speaks with navy cadets in Vladivostok.
Second world war veteran Garold Kuznetsov speaks with navy cadets in Vladivostok. Photograph: Tatiana Meel/Reuters
People carry portraits of their veteran relatives as they take part in the Immortal Regiment march in Vladivostok.
People carry portraits of their veteran relatives as they take part in the Immortal Regiment march in Vladivostok. Photograph: Pavel Korolyov/AFP/Getty Images
Servicemen of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry take part in a military parade in Novosibirsk.
Servicemen of Russia’s emergencies ministry take part in a military parade in Novosibirsk. Photograph: Rostislav Netisov/AFP/Getty Images

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Traumatised Ukrainian refugees who have sought sanctuary in the UK may have to wait two years before they can get specialised therapy to help them heal from the horrors of war, according to experts.

Therapists who specialise in treating war trauma say they have seen NHS waiting lists of two years before refugees can access the specialist treatment they need.

Services across the UK are patchy with some areas “treatment deserts when it comes to trauma”, according to Emily Palmer-White, a psychotherapist and community manager at the charity Room to Heal, which provides support for people who have fled persecution.

“There are often extremely long waiting lists. I have been told two years. You can’t separate the psychological from the practical – it’s more difficult to help people if they’re preoccupied with survival,” said Palmer-White.

Read more of Josh Halliday and Diane Taylor’s report here: Ukraine refugees in UK face waits of up to two years for war trauma therapy

Russia’s RIA news agency is carrying some quotes from Kirill Stremousov, whom they describe as deputy chairman of the military-civilian administration in Kherson. They report he said:

We are not planning to hold a referendum and create a republic. Today, based on the opportunities we have, we will integrate as much as possible into the Russian Federation.

Kherson region is to the north of Crimea, which Russia annexed after its 2014 invasion.

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As Vladimir Putin wages a bloody and unrelenting war in Ukraine, Guardian foreign correspondent Luke Harding has examined Putin’s unlikely path to the Russian presidency.

From his humble beginnings in St Petersburg to his mysterious and “mediocre” career in the KGB, in this video report we chronicle how Putin deftly manoeuvred himself to become one of the most powerful autocrats in modern history:

Here’s a bit of economic news from Reuters, which reports that Chinese exports to Russia are dropping rapidly, while Russian exports to China have jumped:

Chinese exports to Russia fell in April for the second month as China’s northern neighbour grappled with economic sanctions, while Russian shipments to China surged, a balm to hard-hit Russian firms facing international economic isolation.

Shipments to Russia fell 25.9% in April from a year earlier in dollar terms, worsening from a 7.7% decline the previous month, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data on Monday.

Imports from Russia, however, surged 56.6% in April, compared with an increase of 26.4% in March.

Russia is a major source of oil, gas, coal and agricultural commodities for China.

In January-February, China’s exports to Russia and imports from it rose 41.5% and 35.8%, respectively.

The European Union should consider seizing frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves to help pay for the cost of rebuilding Ukraine after the war, its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said in an interview with the Financial Times (paywalled).

The EU and its western allies have put curbs on the Russian central bank’s international reserves since the country began its invasion of Ukraine, actions Moscow describes as a “special military operation”.

Borrell told the newspaper it would be logical for the EU to do what the US did with Afghan central bank assets after the Taliban took over.

We have the money in our pockets, and someone has to explain to me why it is good for the Afghan money and not good for the Russian money.

Washington froze the Afghan funds after the military takeover by the Taliban and plans to use some to help the Afghan people while holding the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Islamist militants.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in its ability to conduct precision strikes at scale, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said in its latest intelligence update:

At the onset of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia publicly promoted its ability to conduct surgical strikes and limit collateral damage. It stated that Ukrainian cities would therefore be safe from bombardment.

However, as the conflict continues beyond Russian pre-war expectations, Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted.

This has forced the use of readily available but ageing munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted. Russia will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in its ability to conduct precision strikes at scale. Russia has subjected Ukraine’s towns and cities to intense and indiscriminate bombardments with little or no regard for civilian casualties.

As Moscow prepares to host the main Victory Day celebrations – expected to begin at 10pm local time, or two hours’ time – analysts have been speculating over what president Vladimir Putin will say regarding the war in Ukraine, and what meaning or impact it could have:

In an analysis for the BBC, visiting professor of defence studies at King’s College London Michael Clarke writes that the war is now one which “Russia cannot win in any meaningful sense”.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Putin now has few options but to keep going forward to make this war bigger – either bigger in Ukraine or bigger by advancing beyond its borders. Escalation is built into the current situation and Europe has reached a very dangerous moment in its recent history.

Having failed with Plan A to seize the government in Kyiv before President Zelensky’s forces, or the outside world, could react, Moscow then switched to a Plan B. This was a more “manoeuvrist” military approach to surround Kyiv and move in on other Ukrainian cities – Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Mariupol and Mykolaiv and simply snuff out Ukrainian armed resistance while Kyiv itself would be threatened with capitulation or destruction.

This, too, failed. Kherson was the only major city that fell under Russian control and has since continued to resist Russian administration. The fact is that Russian forces were too small to dominate such a big country; they performed very poorly for a mixture of reasons; they were badly led and dispersed around four separate fronts, from Kyiv to Mykolaiv, with no overall commander.

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Victory Day parades have begun in Russia, the news agency AFP has tweeted, posting some images from the city of Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast:

Wallace set to 'call out the absurdity of Russian generals' on Victory Day

Vladimir Putin and his inner political circle are “mirroring the fascism” of the Nazis through the invasion of Ukraine, the UK defence secretary will say on Monday morning ahead of the Kremlin’s annual military parade.

Ben Wallace is also expected to accuse president Putin of hijacking the annual commemoration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany – and to say the country’s senior politicians and generals are complicit.

“Through their invasion of Ukraine, Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 70 years ago, repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes,” Wallace will say in a speech at the National Army Museum in London.

Their unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, attacks against innocent citizens and their homes, and the widespread atrocities – including deliberately against women and children – corrupts the memory of past sacrifices and Russia’s once-proud global reputation.

Soldiers and tanks not fighting in Ukraine will parade through Moscow and other Russian cities on Monday for the annual Victory Day parades, events that have taken on an increasing importance during Putin’s 20 years in charge.

But Wallace is expected to say that it is the presence of army generals that is particularly inappropriate, because they allow the Kremlin to make a false equivalence between the anti-fascist struggle of the second world war and the unprovoked attack on democratic Ukraine.

“Let’s call out the absurdity of Russian generals – resplendent in their manicured parade uniforms and weighed down by their many medals – for being utterly complicit in Putin’s hijacking of their forebears’ proud history of defending against a ruthless invasion; of repelling fascism; of sacrificing themselves for a higher purpose,” the defence secretary is expected to say.

Russian service members march during a rehearsal for Victory Day celebrations in Red Square in Moscow.
Russian service members march during a rehearsal for Victory Day celebrations in Red Square in Moscow. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Read on here:

Residents of Russian-occupied areas of Zaporizhzhya oblast have had their personal documents taken away by Russian authorities, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces has said its latest update, saying they would be returned “on the basis of the participation of the latter in the solemn events ... of Victory Day.”

It also said “the enemy” had “carried out active preparations for the solemn parades” in Crimea, which was seized by Russia in 2014.

Ukrainian intelligence has previously said that Russia is also planning to hold part of its key Victory Day parade in Mariupol, where around 2,000 members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion, the last remaining Ukrainian fighters in the city, remain trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant.

“Mariupol, according to [Russia’s] plans, should become the centre of ‘celebrations’,” Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said in a statement last week. “For this purpose, the city is urgently cleaning the central streets from rubble, bodies of dead and unexploded Russian ammunition.”

Russian navy sailors cadets attend a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Sevastopol, Crimea.
Russian navy sailors cadets attend a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Sevastopol, Crimea. Photograph: AP

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Putin set to lead Victory Day celebrations in Moscow

Russian president Vladimir Putin is set to preside over the country’s Victory Day celebrations on Monday, when the country marks its victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war.

The main event will be a parade in Moscow’s Red Square of troops, tanks, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Putin is also expected to make a speech at midday that could offer clues to the future of the war.

In an analysis for the Observer, Guardian correspondent Andrew Roth writes that that Putin may use the holiday to repackage the war in Ukraine:

Dramatic options include escalation through a formal declaration of war or general mobilisation – or de-escalating by proclaiming victory.

Alternatively, Putin could offer up a “sandwich”, as one analyst put it, that praises the Russian army’s “victory” while preparing the population for a grinding and painful conflict as status quo.

Ukrainian officials in particular have warned that Putin is planning to announce a mass mobilisation, or even to declare war against Ukraine, calling up personnel and resources that were untapped under Russia’s so-called “special operation” that began on 24 February.

Read on here:

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Welcome summary

Hello, this is Helen Livingstone bringing you the Guardian’s live coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:

  • Vladimir Putin is set to lead Victory Day celebrations marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war on Monday. Analysts say the Russian president is likely to use the event to repackage details of the war in Ukraine to Russians. More dramatic options options have also been suggested, including escalation through a formal declaration of war or general mobilisation – or de-escalating by proclaiming victory.
  • Putin’s regime is “mirroring” the actions of the Nazis, the UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, will say on Monday, according to an advance copy of the speech. Wallace will say president Putin and his inner circle should share the same fate as the Nazis, who ended up defeated and facing the Nuremberg trials for their atrocities.
  • Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is set to travel to Berlin for talks with German chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday and to make a major address. It will be his first trip abroad since his re-election and Ukraine is expected to be high on the agenda for the two leaders.
  • Ukraine will prevail over Russia as freedom prevailed over the Nazi dictatorship in 1945, Scholz said in a TV address to mark the 77th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Scholz, whose relations with Zelenskiy have been frosty, has not yet said whether he will accept an invitation to travel to Kyiv on Monday.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed that 60 people who were sheltering in a school in Bilohorivka were killed when Russian forces bombed it this weekend. The United Nations has condemned the attack, with secretary-general António Guterres saying he was “appalled” by it.
  • More than 170 civilians were successfully evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and have arrived in Zaporizhzhia. Officials said that more than 600 people have been evacuated from Azovstal and Mariupol in total.
  • Members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion trapped inside Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant meanwhile said they fear they will be killed if captured by Russian forces, as they pleaded with Ukrainian authorities to help arrange their extraction. Speaking to the media from inside the besieged steelworks, Lieut Illya Samoilenko vowed to fight on, saying that surrender would be a “gift” to the enemy.
  • US president Joe Biden and other G7 leaders held a video call with Zelenskiy in a show of unity ahead of Russia’s Victory Day celebrations. The G7 said it was committed to phasing out or banning Russian oil and denounced Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “His actions bring shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people,” the group said in a statement, referring to Soviet Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany.
  • New US visa bans on more than 2,600 Russian and Belarusian military officials include personnel believed to have operated in Bucha, the town outside Kyiv that has become synonymous with war crimes, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.
  • The UK government has expanded its sanctions against Russia to include punitive import tariffs on Russian precious metals, as well as export bans on certain UK products, to increase economic pressure on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.
  • America’s top diplomat to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, arrived with her team in Kyiv today in a step towards resuming the country’s presence in the capital. The visit was timed to commemorate Victory in Europe Day on Sunday.
  • Russian airstrikes on Sunday wounded one woman and knocked out electricity to six settlements in the Odesa oblast, authorities said.