While Russian forces maintained Saturday April 30 their pressure on the eastern regions of Ukraine, particularly around the city of Kharkiv, where they continue to nibbling ground, and in the south where they destroyed the runway at Odessa airport. A hundred civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, according to Volodymyr Zelensky. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi met the Ukrainian president on Saturday during a surprise visit to Kyiv.
- A hundred civilians evacuated from the Azovstal factory in Mariupol
The evacuation of the Azovstal factory, the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, a port besieged by the Russians in the south-east of the country, “has begun” and a hundred civilians are heading towards “the territory controlled by Ukraine” , announced this Sunday, Volodymyr Zelensky. “The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun. A first group of about 100 people is heading towards the territory controlled (by Ukraine). Tomorrow we will welcome them in Zaporijjia”, west of Mariupol, wrote on Twitter the Ukrainian president. “Thank you to our team! They are working with UN representatives to evacuate the civilians who remain on the territory of the factory,” he continued.
This statement follows several announcements about these civilians holed up in the huge steelworks dating from the Soviet era. The Ukrainian Azov regiment, which defends this area, first mentioned the evacuation of around twenty people overnight from Saturday to Sunday. The Russian Ministry of Defense then declared on Sunday that nearly fifty civilians had been evacuated: a first group of 25 civilians on Saturday afternoon, then a second of 21 people in the early evening. It was not immediately clear whether the Ukrainian and Russian sides were talking about the same evacuation and the same people.
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The total capture of Mariupol would allow Moscow to make the connection between the territories conquered in the South, in particular the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014, to the pro-Russian separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east.
- Nancy Pelosi makes a surprise visit to Kyiv
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday during a surprise visit to Kyiv to show U.S. support for Ukraine, Kyiv and Washington said Sunday.
“Thank you to the United States for helping to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state,” the Ukrainian president tweeted. This message is accompanied by a video where we see him, flanked by armed guards, welcoming Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation in front of the presidency, in kyiv, and then meeting with the American delegation. “The United States is a leader in strong support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression,” he continued. “Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unequivocal and resounding message to the world: the United States stands with Ukraine,” according to a statement from the American delegation.
During their trip, the two officials announced the gradual return of an American diplomatic presence in Ukraine and additional direct and indirect aid of more than $700 million. As a reminder, US President Joe Biden asked last Thursday Congress to release 33 billion dollars to increase their aid to Ukraine.
- Odessa airport targeted by missile fire on Saturday evening
In the south of the country, Odessa airport was hit by missile fire on Saturday evening. “Today the enemy struck from Crimea by a Bastion coastal defense missile system. The runway at Odessa airport was destroyed. Thank God there were no casualties,” the governor said in a video on his Telegram account.
Odessa, a large port city on the Black Sea of one million inhabitants, with major symbolic and historical weight, has so far been relatively spared from the fighting. It is located in the coastal strip that Russia could consider conquering to connect to the west with the pro-Russian separatist enclave of Transnistria, in Moldova, where it has troops.
- According to London, Russia is using a “troll factory”
Pro-Russian trolls are waging an information war from an old factory in St. Petersburg, from where they target Western leaders and relay propaganda from Moscow about the invasion of Ukraine. This was reported on Sunday by the British government, which commissioned a study on the subject. The report “shows how the Kremlin uses a troll factory to relay lies on social media and in the comments of sites with large audiences”, said the British Foreign Office.
Russian authorities hinted on Sunday that Russian assets from certain countries deemed hostile could be seized, in response to the US administration’s proposal to liquidate assets seized from Russian oligarchs and transfer the proceeds to the Ukraine.
“It is right, with regard to a company located on Russian territory, whose owners come from hostile countries where such decisions are taken (to seize Russian assets, editor’s note), to respond with mirror measures: confiscate these assets,” thundered the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, on his Telegram channel. “And the proceeds from the sale will be used for the development of our country,” he adds. He also accuses “a number of hostile countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and even the United States” of not respecting international law and of “simply indulging in theft”.
- Biden mentions Russia at White House Correspondents Gala Dinner
Returning from the White House Correspondents’ Gala Dinner on Saturday night in Washington, US President Joe Biden pointed to Russia and paid tribute to journalists covering the war in Ukraine. He notably alerted to “the poison which is spreading in our democracy (…) with disinformation which is increasing sharply”. “You, the free press, are more important than you have ever been in the last century,” he said.
- Russian plane violates Swedish airspace
A Russian reconnaissance plane briefly violated Swedish airspace on Friday, the staff of the Scandinavian country announced on Saturday, whose authorities are considering a possible candidacy for NATO after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
- Angelina Jolie in Lviv with displaced civilians
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, made a surprise visit to Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday, where she spoke with displaced people. She was notably seen in a cafe.
“For all of us, this visit was a surprise,” Lviv region governor Maxim Kozytski wrote on Telegram, posting photos and videos of the actress playing with children and posing with volunteers.
The actress notably went to a hospital to meet children injured in the April 8 bombardment outside Kramatorsk station in the east of the country, attributed to Russia, which had killed more than 50 civilians, according to the governor.