Russian Strikes Hit Ukraine's Port City of Odesa
By VOA News May 02, 2022
Russia launched new assaults on Ukraine's southwestern port city of Odesa on Monday as the European Union prepared for a new round of sanctions on Russian oil.
Odesa's City Council said Monday a Russian strike hit a residential building in the city, killing a 15-year-old boy and hospitalizing a girl. Regional governor Maksym Marchenko said a Russian missile also hit a strategically important bridge in the area.
The European Union is expected as soon as Tuesday to propose a new package of sanctions on Russia, including limits to Russian oil. German officials indicated Monday the country could support a full EU embargo of Russian oil.
"We have managed to reach a situation where Germany is able to bear an oil embargo," German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Monday, "We expect a new package from the European Union soon. This package should include clear steps to block Russia's revenues from energy resources."
Evacuation of Mariupol
Earlier Monday, Ukraine's foreign minister said the evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol remained "very fragile" after the first group was able to leave a bombed-out steel plant.
Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in Kyiv Monday that "things can fall apart at any given moment, so it's better to wait until the evacuation is over."
Zelenskyy said in a video message that more than 100 civilians were able to leave Sunday, and that they were headed to Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometers away, although their progress was reported as slow. Kuleba said Monday the evacuation, conducted by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, was still "underway" and declined to give more details until it was complete.
With Russian troops taking control of the rest of Mariupol, hundreds of civilians and an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops have been holed up at the Azovstal iron and steel works. Multiple earlier attempts to evacuate civilians from the site fell apart, with Ukraine accusing Russia of shelling evacuation routes.
Video footage posted by Ukrainian forces showed elderly women and mothers with small children climbing over a steep pile of rubble near the mammoth plant and eventually boarding a bus.
Kuleba said Monday that only civilians had so far been able to leave the plant and that Ukraine's government was continuing to work to negotiate an evacuation for soldiers holed up inside.
Russia's military said Monday that 69 people who came out of the steel mill chose to be evacuated to Ukraine-controlled territories, while 57 others asked to stay in areas controlled by Russia.
Ukraine has previously accused Russia of taking Ukrainians against their will to Russia, a charge Moscow denies.
Zelenskyy told Greek state television Monday that the remaining civilians in the steel plant had been afraid to board buses because they believed they would be taken to Russia.
Meanwhile in Washington, the CIA released instructions on social media explaining how Russians disaffected by the war could get in touch with U.S. intelligence.
"We are providing Russian-language instructions on how to safely contact the CIA â€” via our dark web site or a reputable VPN â€” for those who feel compelled to reach us because of the Russian government's unjust war," a CIA spokesperson said.
A senior U.S. defense official described continuing problems for Russia's military, including poor command and control issues and low morale in many units.
"We continue to see minimal at best progress by the Russians" in capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine," the official said, adding, "They'll move in, declare victory and then pull out, allowing the Ukrainians to take it back."
The official described Russia's advances as "very cautious, very tepid, very uneven," adding that "in some places, quite frankly, the best word to describe it would be 'anemic.'"
US House speaker visits
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, along with six other Democratic lawmakers, made an unannounced visit Saturday to Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy, held talks Monday in Poland with President Andrzej Duda as Pelosi pledged support for NATO allies in their efforts to bolster Ukraine against Russia.
Pelosi told VOA that Russia had "done enough to justify the strongest possible military response, the strongest sanctions, to make the case that this is not tolerable."
"We shouldn't do anything less because of a threat from Russia," Pelosi said. "They have already delivered on their threat. They've killed children and families and civilians and the rest. And as I said yesterday, we don't respond to a bully."
More than 5.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, according to the United Nations, with more than 3 million of them going to Poland. Romania has taken in the second most, with more than 800,000.
The White House announced Monday that first lady Jill Biden would begin a trip Thursday to Romania and Slovakia and that it would include meeting with Ukrainians displaced by Russia's invasion. Biden would also meet with aid workers, local families supporting Ukrainian refugees and educators who are helping Ukrainian children continue schooling.
Pelosi was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine since February 24, the start of the Russian invasion that has killed thousands of fighters on both sides and thousands of Ukrainian civilians.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Pelosi's visit "sends a clear message that the United States stands with Ukraine and underscores the strong bipartisan commitment of the American people to supporting the brave people of Ukraine."
In other developments Monday, Israel denounced statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who, when asked by an Italian news channel about Russia's stated aim to "denazify" Ukraine when the country's president is Jewish, said, "Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn't mean anything."
"Foreign Minister Lavrov's remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error. Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust," Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted. "The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism."
Kuleba said Lavrov's comments were offensive to Zelenskyy, Ukraine, Israel and the Jewish people.
"More broadly, they demonstrate that today's Russia is full of hatred towards other nations," Kuleba tweeted.
VOA's Myroslava Gongadze, Jeff Seldin and Nike Ching contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Press and Reuters.
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