Evacuation efforts are continuing in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering in the Azovstal plant -- which saw its perimeter breached this week by Russian forces, according to a commander inside. Meanwhile, tensions are rising in the lead-up to May 9 — Russia's symbolic "Victory Day" holiday, which could bring a formal declaration of war.
Here are the latest developments:
- Mariupol plant: At least 50 civilians were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday, according to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, with more evacuation efforts scheduled for Saturday. On Wednesday, Ukrainian defenders in the plant said there were "bloody battles" with Russian forces inside the complex after they broke in.
- Zelensky's comments: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he’s working on diplomatic efforts to save military forces that remain in the Azovstal plant. Speaking on Friday, he said Mariupol was one of the most complicated points of the war, and if Russian forces killed civilians inside, Ukraine would not be able to continue diplomatic talks.
- Foreign aid: The UK announced Saturday it would send extra generators to help run Ukrainian relief centers and hospitals. It will also relax its rules on overseas fossil fuels, so the government can support Ukraine's energy and fuel needs, it said. US President Joe Biden also announced additional security assistance to Ukraine, with $150 million worth of equipment including artillery and radars.
- Russia's "Victory Day": The mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv has urged citizens to “be aware” and stay inside Sunday into Monday, around Russia's symbolic annual "Victory Day." Western officials have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on May 9, allowing him to step up his campaign and mobilize reserves.
- G7 weekend summit: Biden will meet virtually with Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, deliberately scheduled ahead of Russia's "Victory Day." Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting.
- Grain stalled: The UN has called to reopen the Odesa port in southern Ukraine, to help ease a global food crisis. The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports is preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported. CNN has also reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources.