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Contact to Azovstal steel plant fighters lost

War updates: Russia says strikes target supply lines for Western weapons

Germany's Scholz says Putin 'completely miscalculated' war on Ukraine

Deutsche Welle Published 04.05.22, 11:56 AM
Russia says its attacks aim to stop Western weapons from reaching Ukrainian forces

Russia says its attacks aim to stop Western weapons from reaching Ukrainian forces Deutsche Welle

Russia's military struck power sites near five railway stations in a likely bid to interrupt the flow of Western military aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the EU unveiled plans for an oil embargo on Moscow. DW has the latest.

  • Ukraine says Russian forces are storming the Azovstal plant in Mariupol
  • Belarus starts previously unannounced military drills
  • Sberbank, Russian state-owned in part, winds down European operations
  • Top Pentagon officials tell the US Congress of Russia's logistical failures

This article was last updated at 5:30 PM (IST)

Mariupol mayor: Contact to Azovstal steel plant fighters lost

Contact has been lost with the last Ukrainian soldiers holed up, with some civilians, at the Azovstal steel plant, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on national television.

On Tuesday Ukrainian commanders said Russian forces were storming the sprawling plant, which is spread out over 11 square kilometers (4 square miles) and includes a series of bunkers and tunnels. On Wednesday, the Kremlin denied Russia was storming the plant. Boichenko said fighting has continued around the plant.

Over the weekend, more than 100 civilians, including women, the elderly, and 17 children, were evacuated from the plant by the United Nations and Red Cross. Russia strikes key infrastructure in bid to interrupt weapons deliveries.

Russia's Defense Ministry said it struck several infrastructure sites across Ukraine on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The ministry said it used air- and sea-based missiles to hit electric power facilities located at five railway stations across Ukraine.

Russian troops also struck Ukrainian defensive strongholds as well as fuel and ammunition depots The strikes targeted areas near the western city of Lviv, the city of Odesa in the south, as well as Dnipropetrovsk in the southeast. Russia's Defense Ministry said the rail stations were being used to transport ammunition and weapons from the US and EU to Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

Germany's Scholz says Putin 'completely miscalculated' war on Ukraine

German Chancellor Scholz and his government sought to strike a new tone with its Ukraine policy and outline a new plan going forward on Wednesday, after facing mounting criticism. Speaking at the end of a two-day Cabinet meeting, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The weeks since the war began have shown that Putin "completely miscalculated with his brutal invasion of Ukraine," Scholz said. Putin is now facing "a stronger NATO" as well as "a unified European Union," Scholz said.

The German chancellor's comments come amid a wave of criticism over Berlin's cautious response to Russia's invasion. Ukrainian officials, EU partners and Scholz's coalition partners have been urging for more consequent action. Scholz sought to defend Berlin's course, while also mapping out the government's plan for weathering the economic repercussions of mounting Russian sanctions — particularly for Russian energy-dependent Germany.

EU regulators approve German aid for firms hit by Russian sanctions

The EU's competition regulators greenlit Germany's scheme that seeks to keep businesses afloat that have been hit hard by Russia's invasion in Ukraine — and the resulting international sanctions. The €11 billion ($11.6 billion) state aid plan seeks to help companies across multiple sectors that have been impacted by the war and whose ties and operations in Russia have put them in severe financial risk.

Companies will be able to apply for loans at reduced interest rates and secure loans covered by a state guarantee. "This umbrella scheme will enable Germany to mitigate the economic impact of Putin's war in Ukraine and to further support companies across sectors affected by the current crisis and the related sanctions," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The European Commission, which acts as the competition enforcer for the bloc, concluded that "the German umbrella scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy."

Russia bans entry to Japan's prime minister
Russia announced sanctions against 63 Japanese officials and citizens — including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the measures bar those on the list from entering Russia indefinitely.

The sanctions include Japanese officials, journalists and professors for "unacceptable rhetoric" against Russia, the ministry said. The move comes after Japan joined international sanctions against Russia over its military invasion in Ukraine. It is one of only three Asian countries to do so.

Last week, Kishida praised Germany's decision to send heavy weapons to Ukraine during a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Tokyo.

Refugee aid group decries 'deportation' of Ukrainian civilians to Russia

The Germany-based refugee rights organization Pro-Asyl sharply criticized reports that Ukrainians fleeing the war are being taken to Russia or Russia-controlled territories. Speaking in an interview with the newspapers of the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), Pro-Asyl director Günter Burkhardt said the reports are the latest in a chain of abuses by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.

"If people who want to flee [the conflict] and are prevented from escaping and taken to another country, then that is deportation — and thereby a blatant violation of human rights," Burkhardt said. The remarks were referencing a Russian military report that claimed 1.1 million people have been brought to Russia from Ukraine — among them nearly 200,000 children.

EU targets officials behind Bucha atrocities: 'We know who you are'

The European Union's newest sanctions package against Moscow is set to include Russian officials responsible for the atrocities committed in Bucha and Mariupol, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. The sanctions will include high-ranking Russian military officers and others "who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol," von der Leyen said. "This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin's war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable," she added.

Following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Bucha, a town located outside Kyiv, the bodies of Ukrainian civilians were found lying on the streets or buried in mass graves. The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been under attack by Russian troops for weeks. While scores of people were evacuated from the embattled Azovstal steel plant in recent days, hundreds of civilians remain holed up in the plant's bomb shelters.

Ukraine 'not ruling out' Belarus military involvement

Ukraine says Russia could, at some point, call for military help from Belarus, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Border Service said on Wednesday. Speaking after the Belarusian armed forces announced the beginning of military drills, spokesperson Andriy Demchenko said: "We do not rule out that the Russian Federation could at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine. Therefore, we are ready." EU recommends sanctioning head of Russian Orthodox Church.
The European Commission has recommended sanctioning the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, according to a document seen by the AFP news agency. The measures are part of a new wave of economic measures against Russia, announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The details of the proposed sanctions package are set to be published later in the day.

The new sanctions list from the EU's executive branch includes 58 individuals, including Russian military personnel, AFP reported. The proposal also includes the wife, daughter and son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

EU shuts out Russia's Sberbank from SWIFT

A new round of EU sanctions seeks to shut out Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international banking payment system. EU chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the measures, alongside a Russian oil embargo, on Wednesday.

Sberbank and two other major Russian banks are set to be excluded from the international financial communication system. The sanctions also include an EU ban on three Russian state broadcasters, with von der Leyen calling the TV channels "mouthpieces that amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively."

EU outlines Russian oil embargo plan

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, targeting Moscow's banks and oil industry. "Today we will propose to ban all Russian oil from Europe," von der Leyen said in the European Parliament, adding that "this will not be easy."

The new measures would ban imports of Russian oil in the bloc by the end of this year. The move is a significant step for European countries, particularly Germany, that rely heavily on Russian energy imports.

The latest sanctions package was expected to include several major exceptions for Slovakia and Hungary. Von der Leyen, however, did not mention any exemptions in her speech.

Initially, Germany led the charge in resistance to an oil embargo on Russia, despite heavy criticism from Ukraine. The German government changed its position, however, after finding alternate sources for securing oil supplies.

Ukrainian officials and energy experts have said Russia is funding its invasion largely through its energy exports to Europe.

Russia looks to 'consolidate' military control in northeastern Donbas, says UK

Despite facing setbacks in its advance in Ukraine's Donbas region, Russian troops are looking to consolidate control in the area, the British Defense Ministry said.

In an intelligence update posted on Twitter, the ministry said Russia "has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups" near the city of Izium in eastern Ukraine.

Although Russia's military is "struggling to break through Ukrainian defenses and build momentum," troops are likely to push towards the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk.

Seizing these areas "would consolidate Russian military control" in the northeastern Donbas region — and provide a new staging point in their operations against Ukrainian forces, the British Defense Ministry said.

Belarus starts sudden military drills

The Defense Ministry of Belarus announced the start of "sudden" military drills on Wednesday, Russian and Belarusian media reported.

The exercises aim to test the military's combat readiness, the Russian TASS news agency and the Belarusian Belta reported.

The drills are taking place against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which border both Russia and Belarus.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said the exercises do not pose a threat to neighboring countries or to Europe in general.

Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko is a close ally of Russia's Vladimir Putin.

At the start of the invasion at the end of February, areas of Ukraine, including Kyiv, came under Russian assault. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered in Belarus for joint military exercises.

The Russian troops were meant to go home — but instead were sent into Ukraine. Experts say there is no evidence so far of Belarusian troops being involved in the war in Ukraine.

Russian forces storm Azovstal plant in Mariupol

Russia has reportedly sent its forces into the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, the Azovstal steel mill. Hundreds of civilians are holed up there, along with the last of the resistance in the city following weeks of constant shelling.

Ukrainian commanders said Russian tanks began storming the sprawling plant, which is spread out over 11 square kilometers (4 square miles) and includes a series of bunkers and tunnels.

Elina Tsybulchenko, 54, among those safely evacuated said, "You can't imagine how scary it is when you sit in the shelter, in a wet and damp basement which is bouncing, shaking."

Osnat Lubrani, the United Nations's humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine, said just over 100 people had been evacuated over the weekend.

Russia's Sberbank winds down European operations

Vienna-based Sberbank Europe is winding down operations in Europe, selling its assets. Sberbank's majority shareholder is the Russian state.

In March, Austria's Financial Market Authority ordered Sberbank to cease operations in the country and appointed a state administrator as it seemed likely the bank would fail.

The effort comes after Russia was harshly sanctioned following its invasion of Ukraine.

Latvia offers financial assistance for supporting refugees

Latvia, a Baltic country that is a member of both the EU and NATO, has plans to offer households that take in a Ukrainian refugee €100 ($105) a month. The financial compensation will be paid for a maximum of 90 days and the assistance will max out at €300.

The plan must still be approved by the Latvian parliament, known as the Saeima.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine Latvia has taken in approximately 26,000 Ukrainian refugees. Interior Minister Marija Golubeva said that Latvia has provided housing assistance to approximately 10,000 Ukrainians in that time.

Top Pentagon officials brief Congress

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified about the war in Ukraine before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in Congress.

The two top defense officials said the US has learned a tremendous amount about Russian military capabilities and shortfalls in a little over nine weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Milley added fighting is currently concentrated in the eastern Donbas region and added Ukraine's military required more tanks and other mechanized vehicles provided by the US and its allies to repel the aggressor.

Austin noted that Russia' s logistical shortfalls became apparent almost immediately with Russia unable to deliver food, water and supplies to its troops in a timely fashion.

Summary of Tuesday's events in Russia's war on Ukraine

Kyiv says Russian troops are attempting to advance on Ukrainian forces stationed in the Donbas region to encircle them. Ukrainian military reports said Russian troops also attacked several other towns while advancing toward Lyman-Siversk and Slovyansk.

A group of more than 100 civilian evacuees from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol were "safely" brought to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Some 200 civilians are believed to still be trapped in the plant as Russian forces renewed their attack on Tuesday. Despite hundreds of civilians remaining trapped inside, Russian forces fired rockets at Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

Russian forces reportedly shelled targets in the western city of Lviv Tuesday evening, with witnessing saying at least four distinct explosions were heard. Lviv, near the Polish border, has been a safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing heavy fighting in the eastern part of the country and was last attacked on April 18, when at least seven people were killed.

The governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk says at least 10 people have been killed in a Russian strike on a coke plant in the city of Avdiivka.

Pro-Russian separatists in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova on Tuesday accused Ukraine of carrying out an armed drone attack on a broadcast facility. Trans-Dniester has increasingly become a point of concern for Moldova, Ukraine and the West, all of which fear Russia could exploit the tense situation to expand its war in Ukraine and possibly drag the West into direct conflict.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Ukrainian parliament via a video-link on Tuesday, becoming the first foreign leader to do so since the invasion started on February 24. He praised the country for destroying "the myth of Putin's invincibility."

Johnson also confirmed his country will send another 300 million pounds (€360 million or $375 million) in military aid to Ukraine, and said, "This is Ukraine's finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come."

The US warned Moscow plans to formally annex parts of eastern Ukraine, specifically the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after Russia failed to take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

French media reports published Tuesday relayed that French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for over two hours on Monday. It was their first talk since March 29.

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