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Ukraine-Russia war: Zelenskyy says Mariupol 'destroyed completely' as Ukraine prepares to evacuate more civilians from steel plant — as it happened

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells a British think tank that Russia believes it cannot be held responsible for committing war crimes in Ukraine, and that Mariupol has been "destroyed completely".

Look back on all of Saturday's developments as they happened with our blog.

Key events

Live updates

By Kate Ainsworth

That's all for the blog today

Thanks for following along throughout the day.

We'll be back tomorrow with the latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but until then you can stay up to date with the latest news online or on the ABC News app.

By Kate Ainsworth

Creating housing and accommodation for millions of displaced Ukrainians

The United Nations says 5.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion – but even more are displaced within the country.

Co-Haty founder Anna Pashynska spoke to ABC's The World about a pilot program working to create accommodation that feels more like home while people rebuild their lives.

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Will Russia have completely captured Mariupol by May 9?

Russia initially claimed victory of Mariupol on April 21, the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops not to storm the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance at the sprawling Azovstal steel plant — instead telling them to isolate the holdouts "so that not even a fly comes through".

Now, 16 days later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the entire city has been destroyed, and the steel plant remains the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold, where civilians and around 2,000 troops remain in underground bunkers.

Azov battalion leader Andriy Billetsky has described the situation inside the plant as critical.

"The shelling does not stop. Every minute of waiting is costing the lives of civilians, soldiers and the wounded," he said.

Why is Azovstal so important to Russia?

The relentless bombardment of the mill by Russian forces has the West speculating Russia is trying to declare victory over the port city in time for Victory Day on May 9.

If Russia captures the Azovstal steel plant, it would mean Russia has complete control of Mariupol, a city they've been trying to capture since the start of the war.

Zelenskyy believes Russia plans to hold a victory parade in Mariupol on May 9, and his adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak has accused Moscow of planning to parade Ukrainian prisoners on that day.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says there are no plans for a dedicated parade in the city to celebrate Victory Day.

"The time will come to mark Victory Day in Mariupol," Peskov said.

"There will certainly be Russians there, and there will be many Russians on May 9, but I don't know about any official delegation."

By Kate Ainsworth

Underneath the rubble of her home, Anna sees a glimmer of hope

There are no walls any longer.

The broad wooden roof beams lie splintered and scattered, and random pieces of clothing dangle from damaged water pipes.

But among the rubble of what used to be her home, the house that her grandparents built, Anna Shevchenko sees a glimmer of hope.

There, among the twisted metal and broken bricks of her former life in Irpin, stood the slender stalk of one of her beloved lilies.

A bit further, some roses had survived. A small bunch of daffodils and a tiny peony poked through the destruction, battered but not broken.

And her tulips are starting to bloom.

"I saw a photo of the house," said Ms Shevchenko, who had fled the town on the outskirts of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, nearly two weeks before the bombs rained down.

"I tried to prepare myself to see it with my own eyes. And then the next moment — I looked and I saw the flowers."

"It was new life," she said. "So I tried to save my flowers."

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Ukraine would accept pre-invasion territory peace deal with Russia, Zelenskyy says

Speaking to the BBC, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he would accept a peace deal that saw Russian troops return to the positions they held the day before they began their invasion of Ukraine.

The BBC's Frank Gardner asked Zelenskyy what the "minimum" concession from Russia would be in return for peace.

"A return of Russian forces to where they were on February 23," Zelenskyy responded.

"But for this to happen there needs to be diplomatic dialogue.

"From our side, not all the diplomatic bridges have been burnt."

Per the BBC, it's not clear what this would mean for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, which have been partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, nor did he mention Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 as well.

By Kate Ainsworth

Where are Russian forces currently located?

The latest update by the UK's Ministry of Defence shows Russian troops remain heavily concentrated in Ukraine's south-east.

There is a small contested area of territory between Mariupol and Melitopol, and to the north near Zaporizhzhia, where it believes Russian forces are likely advancing.

The Ministry says Ukrainian forces are likely gaining ground near Kharkiv in the east, and Mykolaiv and Nova Kakhovka in the south.

By Kate Ainsworth

Zelenskyy says Mariupol is 'destroyed completely'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol is the last part of the city to fall to Russian forces, saying the entire port city has been "destroyed completely".

Speaking to the Chatham House think tank in London, Zelenskyy was asked how the fall of Mariupol could affect the broader conflict in Ukraine.

"You should understand that Mariupol will never fall. There is nothing there to fall apart," he said.

"It is already devastated... there is no structure. This is all destroyed completely."

What remains is "this little turf ... the Azovstal steel mill, or what remains of it," he said.

Around 50 people have been evacuated from the steel plant in Mariupol, with more evacuations planned in the coming days.

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Russia returns 41 Ukrainian prisoners, Ukraine's deputy PM says

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Russia has returned 41 people in a prisoner exchange with Ukraine.

Vereshchuk said 28 of those who were returned to Ukraine were Ukrainian troops, while another 13 were civilians returning home.

A senior representative of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was among those returned to Ukraine, which Vereshchuk said was "especially gratifying".

She did not say how many Russian prisoners of war were returned as part of the exchange.

By Kate Ainsworth

Ukraine's military says Russian shelling of the Azovstal steel plant has been relentless, despite having agreed to a three-day ceasefire. Nick Dole reports.

By Kate Ainsworth

US first lady visits troops in Romania

Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, has met with US troops stationed in Romania as part of her trip to eastern Europe to learn about the refugee crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Around 1,600 US troops are stationed at Romania's Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea, which is around 100 kilometres from Ukraine's border, and are among the thousands of troops who were deployed to eastern Europe by US President Joe Biden.

"It's so important to the President and to me that the Ukrainian people know that we stand with them," she said before departing Washington DC.

On Mother's Day, Dr Biden will meet with Ukrainian mothers and children in Slovakia, who were forced to flee their homes due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The UN estimates more than 390,000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Slovakia since the war started in February.

By Kate Ainsworth

UK donates nearly 300 generators to Ukraine

The UK government will donate another 287 mobile generators to Ukraine, in addition to the 569 generators it's previously donated to the country.

The new generators can power nearly 8,000 homes, but will be used for hospitals, shelters and other essential services in the face of ongoing destruction in eastern Ukraine.

The government has also relaxed rules on support for overseas fossil fuels to boost supply of vital energy to Ukraine.

By Kate Ainsworth

UN Security Council, including Russia, expresses concern about Ukraine

The UN Security Council, including Russia, has issued a statement expressing "deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine" — but failed to use the words "war", "invasion" or "conflict".

The statement was the council's first on the matter since Moscow's invasion began, and it backed efforts by the UN chief to find a peaceful solution to the war.

Security Council statements are agreed by consensus. This one was drafted by Norway and Mexico.

"The Security Council expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine," the statement said.

"The Security Council recalls that all Member States have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.

"The Security Council expresses strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General in the search for a peaceful solution."

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Why is May 9 so important to Russia?

There's been plenty of speculation in recent days that Russia will declare all-out war on May 9, when the country celebrates Victory Day.

This year will mark the 77th anniversary Victory Day, which marks the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

27 million Soviet citizens died in the War, which was the greatest loss of any country.

The anniversary was barely marked in public in the Soviet Union before 1965, and was confined to honouring veterans on major anniversaries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

But since 2008, under Russian President Vladimir Putin, Victory Day has become an occasion to honour the sacrifices of previous generations and show Russia's strength in troops and military hardware.

"From the point of view of national pride, the significance of this holiday cannot be overestimated," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

What will Victory Day look like this year?

With the background of Russia's war in Ukraine, the West has speculated Putin will use this year's Victory Day to announce a full declaration of war, or an end to its invasion — claims that have been denied by the Kremlin.

There have also been suggestions that Putin will use May 9 to declare victory over Mariupol, should Russia claim the Azovstal steel plant, which is the last remaining Ukrainian base in the city.

In preparation for the day, the Russian air force has been rehearsing its annual fly-over, with one squadron flying in the "Z" formation — a symbol that's come to represent Russia's ongoing invasion in Ukraine.

By Kate Ainsworth

Italy seizes billion-dollar superyacht reportedly linked to Russian government

The Italian government says it has seized a luxury yacht worth almost a billion dollars, which is reportedly linked to the Russian government.

The 140-metre, six-deck Scheherazade had been undergoing repairs in the Italian port of Marina di Carrara since September, but recent activity at the dockside suggested the crew might be preparing to put the vessel to sea.

Italy's Finance Minister had adopted a decree to stop the superyacht from sailing away from the Tuscan port earlier this week, after an investigation of the vessel linked it to "prominent elements of the Russian government".

Police boarded the yacht late on Friday to execute the seizure order, the Italian government said.

The vessel has previously been linked by some media organisations to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

By Kate Ainsworth

G7 leaders to hold talks with Zelenskyy on Sunday

Group of Seven (G7) leaders will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday after US President Joe Biden said they would discuss possible additional actions in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier this week.

Talks will focus on the war's latest developments, efforts to bolster Ukraine and ways to demonstrate "continued G7 unity in our collective response, including by imposing severe costs for Putin's war," a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council said.

The leaders of the G7 countries, which include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy, will hold their virtual meeting with Zelenskyy on Sunday morning.

On Wednesday, Biden said he planned to discuss potential additional measures against Moscow for its continuing and intensifying war in neighboring Ukraine, adding that the United States was always open to more sanctions.

By Kate Ainsworth

The moment Russian forces hit a grain storage facility with missile in the Dnipro region of Ukraine last week.

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Russia claims missiles hit 31 areas where Ukrainian troops are deployed

Russia's defence ministry says its missiles have struck a weapons depot near the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna, according to Russian state news agency RIA.

The agency also said Russian missiles have also hit 31 areas where Ukrainian forces were deployed.

Interfax, another state-owned news agency said Russian forces shot down one Ukrainian SU-27 warplane in the eastern Luhansk region.

Ukrainian authorities have not commented on the reports.

By Kate Ainsworth

Key Event

Zelenskyy calls on German Chancellor to visit Ukraine on May 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to take a "powerful step" and visit Kyiv on May 9, the date when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union's victory in World War II.

Speaking to Britain's Chatham House think tank, Zelenskyy offered the invitiation to Scholz, after the two countries' relations were strained when the German president was stopped from visiting Kyiv last month.

"He's invited, the invitation is open, it has been for some time now," Zelenskyy said on a video call.

"He's invited to come to Ukraine, he can make this very powerful political step to come here on the 9th of May, to Kyiv.

"I am not explaining the significance, I think you're cultured enough to understand why."

By Kate Ainsworth

In pictures: The Ukrainians who escaped the Azovstal steel plant

Another 50 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

It's the last Ukrainian stronghold in the port city, and about 150 people remain in the underground bunkers with little food and water.

Those who were evacuated were taken to a temporary accommodation centre in Bezimenne, a small village in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, whose independence is only recognised by Russia.

Reuters photographer Alexander Ermochenko captured these images of those who have emerged after weeks underground.

By Kate Ainsworth

Why the world's weapons makers aren't yet making big bucks off the war in Ukraine

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the stock prices of many of the world's biggest arms manufacturers spiked.

As the first Russian tanks rolled across the border, investors flocked to companies, including Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Thales, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

However, the demand created by the war has yet to translate into big increases in revenue for the major defence contractors.