Ukraine: 50 civilians evacuated from Mariupol′s Azovstal steel plant — as it happened | News | DW | 06.05.2022

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Ukraine: 50 civilians evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant — as it happened

Fifty civilians, including children, were brought out by bus from the besieged steel complex. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited German leaders to visit Kyiv on May 9.

Civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrive at a temporary a temporary ccommodation centre in Bezimenne,

Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross help civilians evacuated from Azovstal who arrived in Russian controled Bezimenne

  • UN Security Council agrees on statement
  • Russia says it has no plans for Victory Day celebrations in Mariupol
  • Germany announces plans to send howitzers to Ukraine
  • US says it shared intelligence with Ukraine about the location of Moskva

This live updates article is now closed. For our latest from May 7, click here.

50 civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant

More civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, that is under Russian siege.

Some 50 women, children and elderly people were brought out from the vast complex on Friday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

She accused Russia of constantly violating a ceasefire that was supposed to help ensure the safety of the evacuations.

"Therefore, the evacuation was extremely slow ... tomorrow morning we will continue the evacuation operation," she said in an online post.

Buses carrying the civilians were brought out from the plant to a camp in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne.

An estimated 200 civilians, along with Ukrainian resistance fighters, remained trapped in underground refuges at the huge industrial complex.

Mariupol has endured the most destructive bombardment of the war, and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant was the last part of the city still in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.

Zelenskyy invite — Chancellor's office tight-lipped, but signals preexisting appointments

A German government spokesperson said there was nothing in German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's diary indicating he would visit Ukraine on Monday, at least as of early on Friday evening.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited Scholz and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to visit Kyiv on May 9, the day Russia marks the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II.

However, the spokesman told German news agency dpa that Scholz was due to host French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin on Monday.

The German leader was also scheduled to take part in a G7 virtual discussion on Sunday about the situation in Ukraine that Zelenskyy would also attend.

"I currently have no other details of appointments reached at short notice to share with you," the spokesman told dpa.

Scholz will also give a televised address to the German people on the evening of May 8, when Germany and western Allies mark the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

UN Security Council finally agrees on a statement on Ukraine

The UN Security Council, including Russia, has expressed "deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine."

In the first unanimously approved declaration on the war in Ukraine, the 15-member council also "recalls that all Member States have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means."

Russia is one of five permanent members of the Security Council and has vetoed declarations and decisions since Moscow invaded its neighbor 10 weeks ago.

The UN General Assembly is currently pushing for new rules that would in future require veto-wielders in the Security Council to explain why they chose to exercise this power.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, however, last week condemned the "evil" war during a visit to Ukraine.

He met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv two days after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

UN humanitarian agencies have provided support to Ukraine and its people since the start of hostilities.

Berlin police curbs Russian commemoration and war protest

Police in the German capital, Berlin, will crack down on any attempts to glorify Russia's attack on Ukraine around the anniversary of the end of World War II.

Police said that more than 3,400 officers would be deployed on May 8 and 9, and keep a close watch on 15 memorial sites across the city.

Berlin's police chief Barbara Slowik said authorities had banned the use of Russian or Ukrainian flags, the playing of military music, or the wearing of uniforms or the orange and black ribbon of St. George showing support for the Russian military anywhere near the memorial sites.

The Russian government has tried to portray the leadership in Kyiv as `Nazis' _ a claim both Ukraine and Germany have ridiculed.

Russia getting ready to declare victory? DW's Fanny Facsar

Ukraine asks MSF to help evacuate Azovstal fighters

Ukraine has appealed to Doctors Without Borders, known by their French acronym MSF, to help evacuate fighters holed up in the vast Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

An MSF spokesperson confirmed the charity had received a letter from the government requesting support.

"We will be discussing with [the relevant ministries]...to see the best way MSF can provide medical assistance to these people in need of urgent help," the spokesperson said.

"Based on the principles that guide MSF, the Ministry for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine is asking for a mission to evacuate the defenders of Mariupol, who are now in the Azovstal metallurgical plant," the ministry wrote on its website.

In the letter to MSF, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk expressed concern about "deplorable conditions" at the plant.

Ukrainian fighters and about 200 civilians remained trapped in underground refuges at the huge industrial complex surrounded by Russian forces.

Over the weekend, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) evacuated some of the civilians and were hoping they would be allowed to make further extractions.

Zelenskyy invites German leaders to visit on May 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to visit Kyiv on May 9, the day Russia marks the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II.

"He's invited to come to Ukraine, he can make this very powerful political step to come here on the 9th of May, to Kyiv. I am not explaining the significance, I think you're cultured enough to understand why," Zelenskyy told Britain's Chatham House think tank.

Scholz has traded barbs with Ukrainian officials in recent weeks because of Kyiv's refusal to invite Germany's head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom Ukraine accuses of cozying up to Russia during his time as foreign minister.

Steinmeier and Zelenskyy spoke by phone on Thursday to clear the air.

Following the conversation, Scholz told journalists that Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock would soon be traveling to Ukraine but did not comment on potential personal travel plans.

Scholz had been scheduled to host President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin on Monday, and to give a speech commemorating Victory in Europe day on May 8 in Germany. 

Millions of tons of grains stuck and some stolen in Ukraine

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) said that nearly 25 million tonnes of grains were stuck in Ukraine with blockades at ports due to the war with Russia.

"It's an almost grotesque situation we see at the moment in Ukraine with nearly 25 mln tonnes of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country simply because of lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports," Josef Schmidhuber, FAO Deputy Director, Markets and Trade Division said.

Ukraine, the world's fourth-largest exporter of maize (corn) in the 2020/21 season and the number six wheat exporter, has sharply reduced its grain exports to around 1 million tonnes in April from nearly 6 million tonnes before the war.

Another concern was that about 700,000 tons of grain may have "disappeared'' in Ukraine.

Schmidhuber cautioned that there were no "statistics'' about possible theft.

"There's anecdotal evidence that Russian troops have destroyed storage capacity and that they are looting the storage grain that is available,'' he said. "They are also stealing farm equipment.''

Russia has no plans for Victory Day celebrations in Mariupol: Peskov

The Kremlin said there will be no Victory Day celebrations in the besieged city of Mariupol.

"A time will come and there will be a big celebration there," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that there were no plans for official visits on the day.

"There will certainly be Russians there, and there will be many Russians on May 9, but I don't know about any official delegation," Peskov said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's military intelligence said Russia had been planning to hold a parade in Mariupol.

The May 9 Victory Day is one of Russia's most important holidays, marking the end of the war with Nazi Germany in 1945.

Russian forces control most of Mariupol except the Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian fighters and some civilians were still holding out.

Saving Ukraine’s cultural heritage from destruction

Anti-Kremlin newspaper returns to shelves in exile

Print copies of the Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper hit Latvian newsstands on Friday after having to suspend its operations in Russia under pressure from the authorities.

The new version, called Novaya Gazeta. Europe, is legally independent from its Russian form and is being published in both Russian and Latvian.

The reporting focuses on the war in Ukraine, a topic which has become increasingly difficult to independently report on in Russia.

The original paper's editor-in-chief, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dmitry Muratov was attacked with paint on a train in Russia on April 7. Novaya Gazeta had long been critical of the Kremlin and several of its staff have been killed over the years.

"If our readers like what we do, and if they support us, we will consider publishing a weekly print edition of Novaya Gazeta. Europe," the new paper's editor-in-chief, Kirill Martynov, said in a statement shared on the paper's website.

Russian Foreign Ministry denies plan to use nuclear weapons

Russia is not planning to use weapons in Ukraine, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexei Zaitsev said.

Western officials have warned that Russia may consider using a tactical nuclear strike if it cannot achieve its aims through conventional warfare.

But Zaitsev on Friday told reporters that such a move was not applicable to what Moscow has called its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

However, he also warned Western countries to stop what he called their escalation against Russia, including openly discussing the threat of a Russian nuclear strike.

World food price dip slightly from record high

Global prices of food, which reached a record high in March, fell slightly in April, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Friday.

Food prices remain high, despite the drop, due largely to the combination of military conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

The FAO's food price index was down just 0.8% compared to March.

Both Russia and Ukraine play vital roles in exporting food to the global food market, accounting for a large share of commodities such as wheat, vegetable oil and corn. The high prices of these key food commodities have raised fears of a global hunger crisis.

"The small decrease in the index is a welcome relief, particularly for low-income food-deficit countries, but still food prices remain close to their recent highs, reflecting persistent market tightness and posing a challenge to global food security for the most vulnerable," FAO chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen said.

Amnesty: Russia must be held to account for war crimes

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International published a report on Friday documenting allegations of extensive war crimes carried out by Russian forces in previously occupied areas around Kyiv.

Amnesty looked at evidence from eight cities near the Ukrainian capital, including Bucha, where bodies were found dead and handcuffed in the street after Russian soldiers withdrew.

The human rights group said it had found evidence of arbitrary executions, bombardments of civilian residences and torture.

"The pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces that we have documented includes both unlawful attacks and willful killings of civilians," Amnesty's Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said in a statement. "It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice."

Fact check: Russia's claims of acting in self-defense and de-Nazifying Ukraine

EU's von der Leyen 'confident' bloc will approve sanctions package

Although an embargo on Russian oil imports will not be easy, the step is necessary to reduce the EU's dependence on Moscow, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

"Russia is no longer a reliable partner," the Commission head said at a conference hosted by the German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"We cannot allow ourselves to remain dependent on such a supplier," she added.

Von der Leyen said that despite pushback from some EU member states over the bloc's proposed sanctions package, she believes it will ultimately be approved.

"I am confident that we will get this package on track — if it takes a day longer, it takes a day longer — but we are moving in the right direction," she said.

Her remarks came as Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country could not support the current sanctions package, saying it would be an "atomic bomb" for his country's economy.

Separatists remove Ukrainian traffic signs in Mariupol

Russia-backed separatists have removed road signs in Mariupol and replaced them with Russian-language ones.

"Updated road signs have been set up at the entrance to Mariupol," the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said in a statement.

The now-removed signs had spelled the name of Mariupol in Ukrainian and English.

Pictures released by the separatists showed workers in orange vests removing the signs, with the statement describing the battered city as "liberated territory."

Ukraine says 500 civilians evacuated from Mariupol in recent days

After weeks of bombardment and delays, progress is being made in efforts to evacuate civilians from the port city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian president's office said on Friday.

Nearly 500 civilians have been rescued in a United Nations-led operation, said Andriy Yermak, who heads the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He announced the figures in a post on Telegram, adding that Kyiv will "do everything to save all its civilians and military" stuck in the heavily damaged city that is almost completely under the control of Russian forces.

The UN is set to send in a new convoy later on Friday in an effort to rescue hundreds more civilians who remain trapped in the city's Azovstal steel plant. Despite Russia's announcement of a three-day daytime ceasefire, fighting reportedly has continued at the complex.

Azovstal defenders refuse to surrender – DW's Emma Chaze reports

Orban says Hungary can't support new EU sanctions package

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban criticized the European Union's latest proposed sanctions package, saying Hungary would not be able to support the plan in its current form.

The comments stem from an interview with Hungarian state radio, Reuters news agency reported.

Orban described the current proposal, which includes an embargo on Russian oil, as an "atomic bomb" that would deal significant damage to Hungary's economy.

"We know exactly what we need, first of all we need five years for this whole process to be completed... One to one-and-a-half years is not enough for anything," he said.

In addition to banning Russian oil imports to the 27-member EU, the latest sanctions proposal also calls for sanctions against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and several other Russian officials over their role in fueling tensions and disseminating propaganda.

Germany to send 7 howitzers to Ukraine: Defense Ministry

The German government has agreed to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced on Friday.

The latest weapons deliveries will include seven self-propelled howitzer artillery systems (Panzerhaubitze 2000), Lambrecht said during a visit with German soldiers in Slovakia on Friday.

"These seven howitzers are exactly the kind of heavy weapons that Ukraine has been asking Germany to provide," said DW's chief political correspondent Melinda Crane.

"The German government has repeatedly been accused by the leadership in Kyiv of not doing enough to help defend it against the Russian and until 10 days ago Berlin had been quite reluctant to provide heavy weapons, but Chancellor Scholz appears to have changed course," Crane added.

Training will be offered for the howitzers, which reach a firing distance between 30 to 40 kilometers (19 to 25 miles), according to the German military.

The move comes after a major shift in German policy to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, including "Gepard" anti-aircraft systems.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced increasing criticism over Germany not doing enough to help Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.

Germany to send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine

Azovstal assault comes at a cost for Russia, UK says

The UK Defense Ministry confirmed that Russian forces are carrying out a ground assault on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, despite claims from Moscow that it only seeks to seal off the plant.

In an update posted on Twitter, the UK Defense Ministry said the efforts to seize the plant "come at a personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia."

The ministry added that the push to capture Azovstal is a likely bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin "to have a symbolic success in Ukraine" linked to the upcoming May 9 Victory Day commemorations.

On Thursday evening, the Ukrainian government said Russian forces had infiltrated the site and were shelling the site. Moscow denied that its troops were storming the plant.

Ukrainian forces and hundreds of civilians are still holed up in the plant, which has faced heavy shelling for weeks. A new UN convoy is set to evacuate more civilians from the besieged plant later on Friday.

Jill Biden travels to Romania and Slovakia to meet Ukrainian refugees

US President Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden, is traveling to Romania and Slovakia and is set to arrive later on Friday. The First Lady's visit is intended to show her support for displaced Ukrainian families who are being forced to flee the Russian invasion.

According to the White House, she plans to meet on Saturday with members of the Romanian government, US Embassy staff, humanitarian workers, as well as educators who help educate displaced Ukrainian children and integrate them into a stable and safe school environment.

On Sunday, Mother's Day, Jill Biden travels to Kosice and Vysne Nemecke in Slovakia to meet with Ukrainian mothers and children who have had to flee their homes because of Russian invasion.

More than 380,000 Ukrainians have entered Slovakia and more than 850,000 came to Romania since February 24, according to UNHCR.

Poland looks for EU help to support Ukrainian refugees

Austria warns Germany against Russian gas embargo

After the EU Commission proposed an embargo on Russian oil, Austrian Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck warned Germany against also considering a gas embargo against Russia.

"We mustn't send any signals in the direction of the gas embargo if we know that we won't be able to hold it out - and neither we nor Germany will be able to hold out," Schramböck told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Friday editions).

"A gas embargo is a clear red line for Austria," the minister said.

Schramböck emphasized that her country is trying to become independent of Russian gas. However, with the current level of dependency at 80%, this will not happen anytime soon.

US says it shared intelligence with Ukraine about the location of Moskva

An American official said that the US shared intelligence about the location of the Russian missile cruiser Moskva with Ukraine, US media reported on Thursday. The missile strike sank the warship in mid-April.

According to an unnamed official, Ukraine alone decided to attack and sink the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet with its own Neptun anti-ship missiles.

The official also said the US was not aware that Ukraine planned to strike the Moskva until after they conducted the operation.

Speaking earlier Thursday after a New York Times report about the US role in supporting Ukraine's killing of Russian generals, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said American agencies "do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.''

"Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intel that they themselves are gathering and then they make their own decisions and they take their own actions," Kirby said.

UN calls for end to Russian invasion of Ukraine

The United Nations and several countries on Thursday called for an end to Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a Security Council meeting organized by the United States.

"It must end for the sake of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the entire world," he added.

The majority of the Security Council's members, including China, the United States, Ireland, France and Mexico also called for an end to the months-old conflict.

Guterres recently visited Moscow and Kyiv to advocate for the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Russian airstrikes hit Kyiv during Guterres visit

Germany and the Czech Republic are planning an arms swap for Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala confirmed plans for an arms swap in order to supply Ukraine with weapons.

The Czech Republic is supposed to deliver Russian-made weapons to Ukraine, while Germany will help it to replace them with modern Western weapons, Scholz said on Thursday at a joint press conference with Fiala in Berlin.

Fiala said the planned cooperation is about "heavy equipment," but gave no further details.

According to the media reports, Germany has already agreed such an exchange with Slovenia. This country would send a large number of its T-72 Soviet-era battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany would then send Slovenia a number of Marder tanks and Fox wheeled tanks as replacements.

Donors pledged $6.5 billion in aid for Ukraine

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, participants at the high-level donor conference in Warsaw on Thursday pledged $6.5 billion (€6.2 billion) in aid to Ukraine.

"And this is good. But this is only part of what is really needed to restore normal life throughout the territory where Russia has brought the war," Zelenskyy said.

He said Ukraine needs up to $7 billion (€6.6 billion) a month to cover the state budget deficit.

"In total, it has been calculated that already more than $600 billion (€570 billion) is needed to rebuild what the Russian army destroyed. Just imagine this scale," the Ukrainian president said in a video address.

Zelenskyy also mentioned that since February 24 Russia has already used 2014 missiles against Ukraine, which contributed to the destruction of the infrastructure. "If we take only the medical infrastructure, to date, Russian troops have destroyed or damaged almost 400 health facilities," he said.

Zelenskyy says that Russian forces are storming Azovstal

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol continued on Thursday.

"More than 150 people from Azovstal and more than 300 people from Mariupol and its suburbs who were evacuated by the humanitarian corridor this week are already receiving all the help they need," Zelenskyy said.

He also said Russian forces were still storming and shelling the Azovstal plant, where civilians and military forces are sheltering. "We are doing everything to find a solution to save our military," the Ukrainian president said.

Azovstal is the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is largely occupied by Russian forces.

Evacuation from Mariupol is planned on Friday at noon

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that people would be evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol on Friday at 1200 local time (0900 GMT).

Vereshchuk made the announcement in a social media post. She said people would gather at the "Port City" shopping center but gave no further details.

Mariupol evacuees 'extremely traumatized'

Guterres says a third evacuation operation is underway in Mariupol

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the United Nations Security Council that a third operation is underway to evacuate civilians from Mariupol's besieged steel plant Azovstal and the city, which is surrounded by Russian forces.

According to Guterres, 101 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal plant along with 59 more from a neighboring area in the first operation that ended Tuesday. He also said that in the second operation, which was completed Wednesday night, more than 320 civilians were evacuated from the city of Mariupol and surrounding areas.

Scholz, Biden discuss action over Ukraine

US President Joe Biden discussed with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz further action on the war in Ukraine, according to Berlin and Washington.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Scholz and Biden spoke about the military situation and further support for Ukraine.

According to the White House, the leaders underscored their commitment to continue holding Russia accountable for its brutal actions in Ukraine.

Biden and Scholz also reviewed the ongoing efforts to provide security assistance to Ukrainian government and humanitarian aid to the millions of Ukrainians affected by the violence.

On Wednesday, Biden had announced that he would discuss further sanctions against Moscow with the G7 partners.

Reports of heavy fighting at Azovstal steel plant

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

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is due to travel to Kyiv "soon." 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed the war in Ukraine in a phone call, according to the Kremlin and Bennett's office. The call came after a diplomatic row sparked by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comments on the Holocaust. Lavrov had claimed Adolf Hitler may have had "Jewish blood" while speaking about Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has widened sanctions on Russia and said Moscow poses a threat not only in Europe but also in eastern Asia. Kishida said 140 individuals are to be added to a Russian asset freeze list, while Tokyo will also expand an export ban to Russian military firms.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has spoken by phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a spokesperson for the German presidency said. In their discussion, the pair were said to have resolved a recent diplomatic spat that led Chancellor Olaf Scholz to say he was not planning to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the near future.

Poland and Sweden have been co-hosting a donors' conference in Warsaw to raise funds for humanitarian efforts to help war-torn Ukraine. The High-Level International Donors' Conference for Ukraine is jointly organized by prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland and Magdalena Andersson of Sweden.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has launched a global crowdfunding platform to help Kyiv win its war with Russia. The fund would also be used to help Ukraine rebuild infrastructure, he said.

The president of Germany's lower house of parliament is set to visit Kyiv to jointly commemorate the victims of World War II. Bundestag President Bärbel Bas is the latest in a string of German politicians to announce a visit to Kyiv in a show of solidarity.

French Energy Minister Barbara Pompili has said she thinks European Union member states will be able to reach a consensus by the end of the week on how to end Russian oil imports. The ban, if introduced, would only take effect in six months for crude oil, and in eight months for diesel and other oil products.

Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees said more than 600,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country have arrived in Germany since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Of the total number, roughly 40% of those Ukrainian refugees are minors.

Sergey Kiriyenko, the deputy chief of staff in Russian President Vladimir Putin's office, visited the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is nearly entirely occupied by Russian forces.

rs, dh/aw, sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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