Russia-Ukraine war: Russia trying to storm Azovstal plant, says Ukraine; European council president caught up in Odesa shelling – live | Ukraine

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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.

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.

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”.

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.

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

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

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.

The @eucopresident was in Odesa during missile strikes that destroyed infrastructure and brought victims.
Together with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denis Shmygal, @CharlesMichel had to hide in the bomb shelter. This is such an important commitment and sign of solidarity pic.twitter.com/yzc4ddCmAR

— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 9, 2022

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.

Earlier this morning, I spoke with my counterpart @oleksiireznikov to discuss Ukraine’s 🇺🇦 evolving military requirements. I was sure to reiterate our enduring support for providing Ukraine the capabilities it needs to counter Russian aggression. pic.twitter.com/j7Zkgm8qPU

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) May 9, 2022

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.

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”.

Angela Giuffrida

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.

Russian ambassador doused in red by antiwar protesters in Poland – video

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:

NEW: U.S. has seen indications that some Russian officers are refusing to obey orders or not following commands “with alacrity” in Donbas: senior U.S. defense official

Western officials have said that Russian troops failing to obey orders has forced more generals into the field.

— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) May 9, 2022



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