Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky confirmed a news report that “several long conversations” took place on Friday with the head of Ukraine’s delegation at the peace talks between the two countries but gave no further details.
Russia said Friday it would fight to take control over all east and south of Ukraine, but Kyiv pledged to save the country, as the UN documented dozens of civilians killed in one town.
New satellite images have revealed possible mass graves in a town outside Mariupol, where Ukrainian officials believe the Russian military has buried around 9,000 Ukrainian civilians killed in the fighting. Another mass grave has been found outside Mariupol, the city council and an adviser to the mayor said Friday.
The Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will convene a meeting next week in Germany of defence officials and military leaders from more than 20 countries to discuss Ukraine’s immediate and long-term defence needs.
Here are the latest updates
Ukraine reports Russians trying to storm Mariupol plant
An advisor to Ukraine's presidential office says Russian forces are attacking a steel plant that is the last defense stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Oleksiy Arestovich, an advisor to the head of Ukraine's presidential office, said during a briefing on Saturday that the Russian forces have resumed air strikes on Azovstal and were trying to storm it.
“The enemy is trying to completely suppress resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the area of Azovstal,” Arestovich said.
Arestovich's statement came two days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the whole of Mariupol, with the exception of Azovstal, had been “liberated” by the Russians.
Putin ordered the Russian military to not to storm the plant and instead to block it off in an apparent attempt to stifle the remaining pocket of resistance there.
Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops are inside the plant along with about 1,000 sheltering in the facility's underground tunnels.
Arestovich says the Ukrainian fighters are still holding on despite the resumed attacks and are even trying to counter them.
‘Fierce battles’ in eastern Ukraine, say governors
Authorities in two eastern Ukrainian regions said Saturday that fighting with Russian forces was "fierce", as hope fades for a truce over Orthodox Easter weekend.
The governor of the eastern Kharkiv region, Oleg Sinegubov, said on Telegram that Kyiv retook three villages near the Russian border after "fierce battles".
"Our units kicked Russian troops out of the settlements of Bezruki, Slatine, Prudyanka," he said, adding that the Ukrainian forced "secured their positions".
He said the battles took place on Friday morning.
The villages lie north of Ukraine's second city Kharkiv and close to Russian territory. Prudyanka is at around 40 kilometres (25 miles) south-west of the border.
Sinegubov claimed Russian forces had also attacked residential infrastructure, killing two people.
Sinegubov said he had agreed with local religious leaders there would be "no night services" in churches on Saturday, the eve before Orthodox Easter, which both Russia and Ukraine celebrate.
"We can't allow crowds, security comes first," he said.
The governor of the neighbouring Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said in a video on Telegram on Saturday that fighting also raged there.
"There is round the clock shelling," Gaiday said, adding that Russian forces "continue to attack" the cities of Rubizhne and Severodonetsk.
He called on people to "evacuate if you have the chance", saying volunteers are helping people leave the area.
He added, however, that Moscow's forces had "no particular success" and vowed to "chase them, push them out of our land because it is ours".
Presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovich also claimed Saturday that Russian forces were not making any major breakthrough in their eastern offensive.
At a briefing he said Russian forces are trying "to develop an offensive on the city of Hulyaipole", in the north of the Donetsk region.
"They do not manage to do so already for six days," he said.
Arestovich said Russian forces are "focusing efforts on the area between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk", two cities in the eastern Donetsk region.
Evacuations from Ukraine’s Mariupol to start at midday -deputy PM
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that if all went as planned, evacuations from the besieged city of Mariupol would start at noon (0900 GMT). -Reuters
U.S. official warns China against providing material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
A senior U.S. official has warned China against providing “material support” to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unprovoked” war in Ukraine, saying sanctions against Moscow would give Beijing some idea of the menu from which America could choose.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s warning came on Thursday following the third convening of the EU-US dialogue on China in Brussels. -PTI
U.S. discouraging India not to rely on Russia for its defence needs: Biden admn officials
The U.S. is discouraging India from relying on Russia, its largest defence supplier, for its defence needs, citing the crippling impact the Western sanctions will have on Russian military-industrial complexes after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, top American officials have said.
The remarks of the top Biden administration officials this week came amid growing disquiet in Western capitals over India’s refusal to directly condemn the Russian aggression in Ukraine and its decision to procure discounted Russian oil. -PTI
Russia says one died and 27 were left missing in Moskva fire
Russia says one serviceman was killed and 27 others were left missing after the fire on board the warship Moskva, which sank a week ago following what the Ukrainians boasted was a missile attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that 396 others were rescued.
UN chief to meet Zelensky in Ukraine
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine next week after a stop in Moscow to confer with President Vladimir Putin about the war, the UN said Friday.
Guterres will see Zelensky and Ukraine’s foreign minister on Thursday, two days after visiting Moscow, the United Nations said in a statement.
The Kremlin confirmed Friday that Putin would meet Guterres on Tuesday. -AFP
Kremlin critic jailed over denouncing Ukraine war
Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against a prominent opposition activist and remanded him in pre-trial detention Friday for allegedly spreading “false information” about the country’s armed forces.
A court in Moscow ordered Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. held in detention until June 12. Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov told reporters that the false information case against Kara-Murza cited a March 15 speech to the Arizona House of Representatives, in which he denounced the war in Ukraine, as the basis for the latest charges. The activist rejects the accusations. -AP
Canada says it has provided heavy artillery to Ukraine forces
Canada said on Friday it has provided heavy artillery to Ukrainian security forces, following up on a pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine in the face of a Russian assault on its East. -Reuters
U.S. will “absolutely” re-open embassy in Ukraine at some point, Ukrainian PM says
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday that he “absolutely” expected the United States would eventually re-open its embassy in Ukraine but stopped short of predicting when that would happen.
“It will happen, absolutely, but we will wait,” Mr. Shmyhal told reporters at a conclusion of a visit to Washington when asked whether he had received assurances from the United States that it would re-open its embassy. -Reuters