Norway closes access to Russian trucks and ships, joins EU sanctions regime against Moscow

Hopes for the evacuation of civilians trapped in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol faded on April 29, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy indicated there was also little hope for broader peace talks with Moscow.

Zelenskiy’s office had said an operation was planned to smuggle civilians out of the massive Azovstal steel plant, where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holed up along with about 1,000 civilians.

But there was no sign of an evacuation at the end of the day, and Zelenskiy then expressed pessimism about the prospect of continuing peace talks with Russia, blaming public anger on alleged atrocities committed. by Russian troops.

“People (Ukrainians) want to kill them. When this kind of attitude exists, it’s hard to talk about things,” Interfax quoted Interfax as saying to Polish journalists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of changing its position under what he said were orders from the United States and Britain.

Hopes for an evacuation rose on April 28 when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to Kyiv that intense talks were underway to evacuate civilians from the steelworks, which has come under heavy attack as part of the Russian offensive in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Previous evacuation attempts have collapsed.

Zelenskiy said the constant “brutal” shelling of infrastructure and residential areas “shows that Russia wants to empty [the Donbas region] of all peoples. Speaking in his nightly address to the nation on April 29, he said, “Therefore, the defense of our land, the defense of our people, is literally a fight for life.

He said that the towns and villages of Donbass would only survive if Ukraine remained standing.

“If the Russian invaders are able to carry out their plans, even partially, then they have enough artillery and planes to turn all of Donbass into stones. As they did with Mariupol.

Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the major developments on the invasion of Russia, how kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.

Zelenskiy said Mariupol, once one of the region’s most developed cities, was now a “Russian concentration camp among the ruins”.

The situation in Kharkiv, a major northern city, is “brutal”, he said, without giving further details, that Ukrainian troops and intelligence officers “have scored significant tactical successes”.

After failing in an assault on kyiv in northern Ukraine last month, Russia is now trying to fully seize two eastern provinces in the region known as Donbass.

Ukraine has acknowledged losing control of some eastern towns and villages since Russia refocused its assault, but says Moscow’s gains have come at a heavy cost to troops already exhausted by their previous defeat near the capital city.

“We have serious losses but the Russians’ losses are much, much greater… They have colossal losses,” presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

In Washington, Congress prepared to consider US President Joe Biden’s request for $33 billion to support Ukraine, a massive increase in funding that includes more than $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and weapons. other military aid.

This is nearly 10 times the aid Washington has sent since the invasion began on February 24, representing a dramatically increased US involvement in the conflict.

Zelenskiy thanked Biden and the American people on Twitter.

“We stand for common values ​​– democracy and freedom. We appreciate the help. Today, we need it more than ever!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat of California) said lawmakers hoped to pass the aid package “as soon as possible.”

President Vladimir Putin this week threatened unspecified retaliation for Western arms shipments to Ukraine, and Lavrov said earlier this week that the West should not underestimate the high risks of nuclear conflict on the ‘Ukraine.

But Lavrov took a step back from those comments on April 29, saying Russia did not see itself as being at war with NATO.

Ukrainian officials said that on April 29, Russia pounded the entire frontline in the eastern Donetsk region with rockets, artillery, mortar shells and aircraft to prevent Ukrainians from regrouping.

US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said Putin had shown “complete disregard” for the lives of Ukrainian civilians. Russia’s war in Ukraine is of the “coldest, most depraved type,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

“I don’t think we fully appreciated how much he would visit with this kind of violence and cruelty,” Kirby said in response to a reporter’s question if he thought Putin was acting rationally. .

The Pentagon spokesman said he could not assess what was going through Putin’s mind, but said “depravity” had been shown towards civilians.

Earlier on April 29, RFE/RL announced the death of one of its journalists, Vira Hyrych, in the missile attack in kyiv.

Hyrych’s body was found amid the rubble of his building, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service said.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of our Ukrainian service staff member Vira Hyrych in Kyiv overnight. We have lost a dear colleague who will be remembered for her professionalism and dedication to our mission,” said the president of RFE/RL, Jamie Fly, in a statement.

“We are shocked and angered by the senseless nature of her death in her home, in a country and city she loved. Her memory will inspire our work in Ukraine and beyond for years to come,” he said. added.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Hyrych was going to bed when a Russian ballistic missile hit his apartment.

“Russia’s barbarity is incomprehensible,” Nikolenko said.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that “long-range, high-precision” missiles hit the kyiv factory buildings of Ukrainian rocket maker Artem.

Ukrainian officials did not say whether the plant was hit.

The United States is still trying to determine if there was a military target for the strike or if Russia may have just been “trying to send a message to the international community”, the Department of Defense spokesman said. State, Ned Price, on MSNBC.

The attack was an attack on the Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian people and “those who do nothing more than try to spread the truth,” Price said, noting that Hyrych, unfortunately, “is not the first journalist to lose his life in this fight.

With reports from AFP, AP, Reuters and dpa

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