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Ukraine says fighting in the eastern regions of the country is at its fiercest level yet as Russia seeks gains. Meanwhile, Moscow says it will help tackle a global food crisis, if sanctions are lifted.
This live updates article is now closed. For the latest on the war in Ukraine, please click here.
The military situation in eastern Ukraine is even worse than people say it is, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
He took part in a question and answer session with Twitter users.
Kuleba said his country needs heavy weapons now to fight Russia effectively.
In an earlier post, he said he spoke to Germany's Annalena Baerbock and briefed her about the dire situation in Donbas.
"We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), to repel Russian attacks," he told her.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West that supplying weapons to Ukraine capable of hitting Russian territory would be "a serious step towards unacceptable escalation."
In an interview with state-run news outlet RT Arabic that was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website, he said the West is, "already, in fact, waging a proxy war with the Russian Federation."
"The West has called for Russia to be defeated on the battlefield, and in order to do this, it must continue the war, pumping weapons into the Ukrainian nationalists and the Ukrainian regime, including weapons that can reach the Russian Federation," Lavrov added.
"These are the weapons that [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy publicly demands," he said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he is forming a southern military command and sending "battalion tactical groups" to the Ukraine border.
Lukashenko gave no further details, but such groups normally consist of mechanized infantry, including tanks.
Belarus allowed its territory to be used for attacks on Ukraine when Moscow's forces invaded, but the Belarusian military did not participate in Russia's ground operation.
Ukrainian authorities have previously expressed concern that Belarus could agree to take more of a role alongside Russia in the war.
Wearing a military uniform, Lukashenko addressed a televised meeting of defense officials.
"A new front has opened and we can't fail to pay attention to it," he said in the meeting, adding that the new command had been proposed last year.
He said it now needed to be established immediately
"Even before creating it, we are obliged today — quickly, on the run, to work out the defense of our southern borders," said Lukashenko.
Even a build-up of Belarusian forces on the border with Ukraine would further stretch Kyiv's defenses as it fends off Russian attacks in the Donbas region.
Member states of the World Health Organization have strongly condemned Russia's war in Ukraine and attacks on healthcare facilities.
The rebuke came in a resolution overwhelmingly adopted on Thursday, further isolating Moscow on the international stage.
The resolution was approved by 88 votes to 12 at the WHO's annual assembly, with 53 abstentions.
"The outcome "sends a clear signal to the Russian Federation: stop your war against Ukraine. Stop attacks on hospitals," said Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko.
"The World Health Assembly confirmed that the responsibility for the health crisis in Ukraine rests exclusively with the Russian Federation," Filipenko said.
The resolution "condemns in the strongest terms" Russia's "military aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on healthcare facilities."
It called on Russia to "immediately cease any attacks on hospitals" and other healthcare facilities.
The resolution, brought by Ukraine, was co-sponsored by nations including the United States, Britain, Japan, Turkey and European Union countries.
A Russian resolution on the health crisis in Ukraine — which made no reference at all to Russia's full-scale invasion — was rejected by 66 votes to 15, with 70 abstentions.
Kyiv says the fighting in the eastern part of the country is now at its most intense, while urging Western allies to match the ferocity of the Russian attack with support for Ukraine.
"The fighting has reached its maximum intensity," Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar told a press briefing.
"Enemy forces are storming the positions of our troops simultaneously in several directions," Malyar said, speaking about the battle in the Donbas region. "We have an extremely difficult and long stage of fighting ahead of us."
On Thursday, both Britain and Germany said Russian President Vladimir Putin must be defeated in the conflict, now in its fourth month. Kyiv, meanwhile, has called on the West to urgently supply more heavy weapons for its outgunned forces.
Russia says it is prepared to make a "significant contribution" to avoid a looming food crisis, if the West lifts tough economic measures imposed on it since the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly made the comments in a phone call to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
A Kremlin statement after the call said that Putin had emphasized Russia's willingness to help with the flow of grain and fertilizer.
However, it said, this was "subject to the lifting of politically motivated restrictions by the West."
The Italian government said the call had been "dedicated to developments in Ukraine and efforts to find a common solution to the ongoing food crisis, as well as the severe repercussions for the world's poorest countries."
The West imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia after Putin ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24.
Both sanctions and fighting have disrupted the supplies of fertilizer, wheat, and other commodities.
Together, Russia and Ukraine account for about 30% of global wheat supplies.
Russian troops came in the east, but were beaten back after seizing positions on the last highway out of two Ukrainian-held cities, Ukrainian authorities said.
Moscow has poured thousands of troops into its assault, attacking from three sides in an attempt to surround Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
The two cities straddle the Siverskiy Donets river, and their fall would bring almost all of Luhansk province under Russian control.
After abandoning its assault on the capital, Kyiv, Russia is trying to consolidate control of the eastern Donbas region, where it has been backing a separatist revolt since 2014.
The governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Haidai, said about 50 Russian soldiers had reached the highway and that they had "managed to gain a foothold for some time. They even set up some kind of checkpoint there".
"The checkpoint was broken, they were thrown back. That is to say, the Russian army does not control the route now, but they are shelling it," he said in an interview posted on social media. Haidai hinted at further Ukrainian withdrawals, saying: "We need to win the war, not the battle."
"It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions — we need to hold back this horde," he said.
With fighting having moved away from the capital to the east, there is a sense of normality returning to Kyiv, DW correspondent Rebecca Ritters reports.
She said feelings ranged from frustration and fatigue with the war to a hopefulness about the outcome.
"People here really still believe Ukraine can win this war. They say the other option is just too horrible to think about. People are remaining hopeful."
"There is still some fear here — the sirens are still sounding. But there is a sense of relief now that the troops have left the surounds of Kyiv. "
"It definitely feels like more of a normal city, if you will. More restaurants and cafes are open, and you see more people out in the streets."
"For all intents and purposes you could almost be forgiven for forgetting that the war is on from time to time — except that people are talking about it. It is the main topic of conversation, people are still very worried."
Local authorities say at least four civilians were killed and several wounded in a new Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv.
Kharkiv, which is Ukraine's second-biggest city, had been relatively quiet in recent days as Ukrainian forces regained territory around it in northeastern Ukraine.
The city had restarted its metro service on Tuesday, asking hundreds of people who had used the underground as a bomb shelter to free up the train carriages.
However, many were already too scared to return home even ahead of the latest attacks.
"The occupiers are shelling the regional center again," Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app, urging residents to go to shelters.
Journalists from Western media houses have been threatened with expulsion by Russia's Foreign Ministry if its weekly broadcasts on YouTube are blocked.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the warning during a roundtable discussion according to Russian state media.
"A few of my briefings were blocked. What we did is we went ahead and said: if you block a briefing one more time, one journalist or one US outlet will go home," Zakharova said.
YouTube has deleted a number of pro-Kremlin channels since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Russian lawmakers have passed a bill which affords prosecutors the power to shut down foreign media bureaus if they're deemed "unfriendly" to Russian media.
Ukrainian prosecutor's are seeking 12 year prison terms for two Russian soldiers who are on trial for war crimes.
The two were accused of bombing civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region and have pleaded guilty.
Ukraine's prosecutor's office said that the two were responsible for firing shells that hit residential buildings in the village of Kozacha Lopan in Kharkiv Oblast on February 24.
The defense lawyer representing the two soldiers has asked for leniency, arguing that they had been following orders and had repented. A verdict is expected on May 31.
The latest war crimes trial comes after a Ukrainian court sentenced another Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian, in the country's first war crimes verdict over the conflict.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos that he was convinced that Russia would not win the war in Ukraine.
"Putin must not win his war in Ukraine, and I am convinced that he will not," Sholz told delegates on Thursday.
The German chancellor said: "We must make Putin realize that there will not be a dictated peace, Ukraine won't accept it, and we neither."
Scholz said that €100 billion ($106 billion) would be made available enhance Germany's defensive capabilities.
The German leader also said dependence on Russian energy was coming to an end and that Putin's war had given more reason to shift from fossil fuels.
Russia's central bank has reduced its key interest rate again in a bid to ease monetary policy.
The Bank of Russia announced on Thursday that it would be reducing the interest rate by three percentage points to 11%, making it the third consecutive rate reduction since April.
At the end of February, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the central bank hiked the key interest rate by 10.5 percentage points to 20% in a bid to counter the devaluation of the ruble.
"Inflationary pressures are easing due to the dynamics of the ruble exchange rate
as well as the noticeable decline in inflation expectations of households and businesses," the bank said in a statement.
The central bank is aiming for an inflation rate of 4%.
Ukraine's armed forces say that Russian troops have attacked more than 40 towns the Donbas region, which is putting the last major civilian escape route at risk.
According to a Facebook post from Ukraine's military, more than 47 civilian structures were destroyed or damaged.
"As a result of the shelling, five civilians were killed and 12 injured," the post read.
Russia state media is meanwhile reporting that around 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war are being held in the Russian-backed separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. That figure cannot be independently verified.
The latest intelligence update from the UK's Ministry of Defense (MOD) highlights the performance of Russia's airborne forces — the VDV.
The MOD briefing states that the branch of Russia's armed forces "have been heavily involved in several notable tactical failures since the start of Russia's invasion."
These include the attempted advance on Kyiv via the Hostomel Airfield, stalled progress in Izium, and the botched crossings of the Siverskyi Donets river.
The MOD says the failures of the 45,000 strong force "reflects a strategic mismanagement of this capability and Russia's failure to secure air superiority."
Marina Ovsyannikova, the Ukrainian-born Russian journalist who staged an anti-war protest during a live broadcast on Russian TV has been awarded the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.
Osyannikova interrupted a live news bulletin on Russian state TV during the first few weeks of the invasion, holding up a sign which called for "no war."
In a tweet, Osyannikova dedicated the award to Ukrainians who have been displaced by Russia's invasion.
The award for creative dissent was established by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and honors those who engage in creative ways of dissent to challenge injustice.
The prize is named after the late HRF chairman, Vaclav Havel, who led a nonviolent revolution which ultimately freed the former Czechoslovakia from communist rule.
The award ceremony took place in Oslo on Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed suggestions that Kyiv cedes control of some areas occupied by Russian forces as a compromise to reach a peace deal.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had suggested this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Ukraine should let Russia keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
"You get the impression that Mr. Kissinger doesn't have 2022 on his calendar, but 1938, and that he thinks he is talking to an audience not in Davos but in Munich back then," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Wednesday.
Zelenskyy was referring to a pact signed in Munich by Britain, France, Italy and Germany that gave Adolf Hitler land as part of a failed attempt to persuade him to abandon further territorial expansion.
The Ukrainian leader also called out a New York Times editorial that suggested a negotiated peace might require Kyiv to make some hard decisions, arguing that a military victory was not realistic.
"Those who advise Ukraine to give something to Russia, these 'great geopolitical figures,' never see ordinary people, ordinary Ukrainians, millions living on the territory they are proposing to exchange for an illusory peace."
Talks between Ukraine and Russia have been stalled for some time, more than a month according to Russia, with Moscow blaming Kyiv for this.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the procedure for residents of the southern Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, largely under Russian control, to get a fast-tracked Russian passport.
Ukraine accused Putin of "criminal" behavior over the announcement.
Meanwhile, the governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine said at least six civilians were killed by fresh Russian shelling.
In the southeastern city of Mariupol, Russian forces who had seized control of the strategic port have now allowed its operating "on a daily basis," the Russian Defense Ministry claimed.
The European Commission proposed to make breaking EU sanctions against Russia a criminal offense. This would aid in confiscating the assets of companies and individuals flouting the measures.
The Commission said it was seeking a unified approach to deal with sanction evasion.
Meanwhile, Russia called for the easing of international sanctions on Moscow to avoid far-reaching threats to the global food supply.
Moscow said it would allow vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions, a proposal that Kyiv labeled as "blackmail."
To read Wednesday's live updates in full, click here.
kb, fb/msh, rs (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)