Here’s what has happened in Mariupol and beyond today.
Conflicting reports of evacuations: Russia state media said that two buses with civilians were evacuated out of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday. But Ukrainian officials said they can’t comment on the evacuation of civilians from the plant being organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross. And the mayor of Mariupol’s office told CNN it was not aware of the latest evacuations.
Zelensky alleges deportations: More than “500,000 Ukrainians have been deported to Russia” since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday. He also accused Russians of blockades and torture with starvation in Mariupol.
G7 to meet this weekend: US President Joe Biden will meet virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, a National Security Council spokesperson said. Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the timing of Sunday’s call ahead of Russia’s Victory Day is intentional.
Preparations for Victory Day: May 9, known as Victory Day inside Russia, commemorates the country’s defeat of the Nazis in 1945. The Kremlin said May 9 won’t be “overshadowed” by the events unfolding in Ukraine, adding “the significance of this holiday cannot be overestimated.” But this year’s parade is expected to be of a smaller scale than in previous years.
Some Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine Monday, paving the way for him to step up his campaign.
Russia leaving its mark: Ukrainian officials have posted images from Mariupol showing continuing work by what they call “the occupiers” to restore monuments from the Soviet era. Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of the city, distributed new photographs on Friday saying that, in recent days, all the monuments of the Soviet period have been “restored.”
Also, a senior official in Russia’s governing United Russia party on Friday said Russia has come to the Kherson region to “stay forever,” and there should be “no doubt about that.”
And new satellite images show Russia is excavating the site of the heavily bombed drama theater in Mariupol.
Grain stalled: The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, along with infrastructure challenges, are preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported, according to a United Nations official.
CNN has also reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources.