Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Scores of Ukrainian civilians including women and children were trapped on Thursday in underground bunkers at a steel works in the ruined port city of Mariupol, although President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to allow them to leave safely, Reuters reported.

* Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, posted a video online which purported to be shot in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works and said “Heavy, bloody fighting is going on.”

* The Kremlin denied a Ukrainian claim that its forces were storming the plant and said humanitarian corridors were currently operating there. Putin later said Kyiv should order fighters to put down their weapons.

* More than 300 civilians have been evacuated from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine as part of a joint U.N.-Red Cross operation, the United Nations said.

* Russia said its artillery struck multiple Ukrainian positions and strongholds overnight, killing 600 fighters. Reuters could not independently verify the claim.

* A Ukrainian presidential adviser said he did not expect Russia’s offensive to produce “significant results” before it holds the annual May 9 Victory Day in Moscow to mark the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany.

* The Kremlin said the United States and other NATO countries were “constantly” feeding intelligence to Ukraine but this would not stop Russia achieving its military goals there.

* European Union countries are “almost there” in agreeing the bloc’s proposed new package of sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

* Oil prices jumped on the proposed EU ban. The Kremlin said it was looking into various options in response.

* U.S. President Biden said he would speak with leaders from the G7 advanced economies this week about more sanctions.

* The British government said it had sanctioned steel manufacturing and mining company Evraz, whose biggest shareholder is sanctioned billionaire Roman Abramovich

DIPLOMACY

* Sweden has received U.S. assurances that it would receive support during the period a potential application to join NATO is processed by the 30 nations in the alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in Washington.

“Because this Russian war against Ukraine was planned as a prelude to a hit on a united Europe, more unification is a powerful response. And that is why Ukraine’s membership in the European Union must be an absolute reality,” Ukraine President Vlodymyr Zelenskiy told an international donors’ conference.

“My position is simple: every euro paid to Russia for gas, oil or other goods ends up as rounds of ammunition in Ukraine to kill my compatriots,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Austrian TV channel Puls 4.

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