Poland holds military drills involving 18,000 soldiers from 20 NATO states.
The invading Russian forces continued their ground offensive in eastern Ukraine and targeted Ukrainian cities in the west with missile strikes.
In an apparent effort to cripple the Ukrainian resistance, the Russia military is trying to stop the flow of weapons supplies headed from the U.S. and Western countries to Ukraine. “Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday it had struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries and destroyed a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odesa,” Reuters reported.
With the Russian offensive raging in the east and south of the country, the port city of Odesa has become a significant point of entry for Western military and humanitarian aid to the besieged nation.
In the east, the Ukrainian defenders appear to have slowed down the Russian advance. “On the front line in the east, Russian troops have advanced slowly but steadily in some areas — helped by massive use of artillery — but Ukrainian forces have also recaptured some territory in recent days, particularly around the city of Kharkivm,” the French news agency AFP noted on Sunday.
Moscow to Introduce Ruble in Occupied Ukraine
The Russian military is tightening its control over the occupied territory by setting up puppet administrators and plans to replace the Ukrainian currency hryvnia with the Russian ruble.
The UK TV channel Sky New reported the Russian measures:
The city in southern Ukraine is under Russian control, and the MoD [the British Ministry of Defense] says Moscow has sought to legitimise its control by installing a pro-Russian administration.
This puppet government has declared a return to Ukrainian control “impossible” and “announced a four-month currency transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the Russian rouble”.
The MoD adds: “The Russian rouble is due to be used in Kherson from today.
“These statements are likely indicative of Russian intent to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term.
Pelosi, Angelina Jolie in Ukraine
In other news, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie toured Ukraine over the weekend. The high-profile visits were largely ignored by the media of the war-ravaged country.
UN, Red Cross Begin Evacuations in Besieged Mariupol
After weeks of Russian shelling, the United Nations has succeeded in providing safe passage to hundreds of civilians stranded in the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, a strategic port city in the east of Ukraine.
Besides Ukrainian soldiers, an unspecified number of civilians are reportedly trapped inside the battered ruins of the Azovstal steel plant. At least 100 civilians have been evacuated, German news reports on Sunday afternoon confirmed.
It is unclear if the Ukrainian combatants will be evacuated as well. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defense minister to “block” the steel plant “so a fly can’t pass.”
The Associated Press reported the humanitarian operation in Mariupol:
The United Nations has confirmed that an operation to evacuate people from a steel plant in the bombed-out Ukrainian city of Mariupol is underway.
U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu told The Associated Press on Sunday that the effort to bring people out of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant was being done in collaboration with the International Committee for the Red Cross and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.
He called the situation “very complex” and would not give further details.
Up to 1,000 civilians are believed to be hunkered down with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters beneath the sprawling Soviet-era steel plant that is the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.
The control over the city of Mariupol would give Russia direct land access to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.
Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began. The 1st group of about 100 people is already heading to the controlled area. Tomorrow we’ll meet them in Zaporizhzhia. Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 1, 2022
Poland Hosts NATO Drills
With Russia hitting targets in western Ukraine just miles from Poland’s border, Warsaw is hosting a large military drill involving thousands of NATO troops. These defense exercises are expected to continue throughout the month of May and will include eight other European countries apart from Poland, new reports confirm.
German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported the commencement of the NATO drills:
Exercises involving 18,000 soldiers from over 20 NATO countries have begun on the military alliance’s eastern flank, Poland’s armed forces said on Sunday.
The Defender Europe 2022 and Swift Response 2022 exercises are taking place under the shadow of the war in Ukraine and are slated to run from May 1 – 27.
The Polish military stressed that the NATO exercises are a regular occurrence and are not aimed at any country or related to “the current geopolitical situation” in the region.
Polish officials, however, urged the public not to publish pictures or videos of the military vehicles that will be moving through the country over the next few weeks, saying that it could potentially harm the alliance’s security.
Russia Demands Lifting of Sanctions
Russia has spelled out the terms for entering into ‘peace’ talks with Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded an end to international sanctions as a pre-condition for a negotiated peace, the media reports on Sunday said.
The Biden White House as already given Kremlin a written guarantee allowing Russian to use Iran as a hub for sanctions evasion in case his nuclear deal with Tehran goes through, Foreign Minister Lavrov announced on March 15.
UK’s Sky News reported the latest Russian terms:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that lifting sanctions on Russia is a key part of his country’s peace negotiations with Ukraine.
“At present, the Russian and Ukrainian delegations are actually discussing on a daily basis via video-conferencing a draft of a possible treaty,” Lavrov said in comments to China’s official Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
“The talks’ agenda … includes, among other things, the issues of denazification, the recognition of new geopolitical realities, the lifting of sanctions, the status of the Russian language,” Lavrov said, without elaborating.
It is unlikely that Russia will settle for peace or even agree to a cease-fire before achieving its military objectives in Ukraine. Last week, a senior Russian commander declared that Moscow sought full control over southern and eastern Ukraine.
According to him, the invading Russian forces aim to capture the entire southern coast of Ukraine, cutting off the country’s access to the sea and creating a corridor connecting Russia to Transnistria, a pro-Moscow breakaway region in the eastern European country of Moldova.DONATE
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