Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his country in Moscow as millions of Russians desperately wait to hear what the leader’s next move in Ukraine will be.
As the president speaks, Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine, seeking to seize Mariupol, the crucial southern port city, as Moscow prepared to celebrate its Victory Day national holiday.
Determined to show success in a war now in its 11th week, Russian troops targeted a sprawling seaside steelworks where around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand to keep Mariupol from falling.
The mill is the only part of the city not overrun by the invaders, and its defeat would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized at Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the worsening attacks could be linked to Victory Day, which marks Russia’s greatest triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945. Russian President Vladimir Putin may wish to proclaim a victory in Ukraine when he addresses the troops marching in Red Square.
Although fighting continues on several fronts, Russia is closest to victory in Mariupol.
Ukrainian fighters at the steelworks rejected Russian deadlines for laying down their arms even as attacks continued by fighter jets, artillery and tanks.
The last civilians sheltering with fighters at the factory were evacuated on Saturday. They arrived Sunday evening in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s first major city beyond the front lines, and spoke of constant shelling, dwindling food, rampant mold – and the use of hand sanitizer as cooking fuel .
Elsewhere in Ukraine, more than 60 people are believed to have been killed after a Russian bomb leveled a school used as a shelter in the eastern village of Bilohorivka, Ukrainian officials said.
Authorities said around 90 people had taken shelter in the school’s basement when it was attacked on Saturday. Emergency teams found two bodies and rescued 30 people, but “it is highly likely that the 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, wrote on the app. Telegram messenger.
Russian shelling also killed two boys, aged 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, Haidai said. Luhansk is part of Donbass, the industrial heart of the east that Russian forces are trying to conquer.
On the Ukrainian coast, explosions again echoed in the main port of Odessa on the Black Sea. The Ukrainian military said Moscow was focusing its main efforts on destroying airfield infrastructure in eastern and southern Ukraine.
In a sign of the fierce resistance that sustained the fighting in its 11th week, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the early days of the war. A satellite image from Planet Labs showed smoke rising from two sites on the island.
But Moscow’s forces showed no signs of backing down in the south. Satellite photos show Russia stationing armored vehicles and missile systems at a small base on the Crimean peninsula.
The heaviest fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, the country’s second city, is making “significant progress”, according to the Institute for the Study of Warfare, a Washington think tank.
However, the Ukrainian army has withdrawn from the besieged eastern town of Popasna, regional authorities said.
Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin breakaway Lugansk People’s Republic, said his forces and Russian troops had captured most of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.
The Kharkiv regional administration said three people were killed in the shelling of the town of Bogodukhiv, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Kharkiv.
South of Kharkiv in Dnipropetrovsk province, the governor said a 12-year-old boy was killed by a cluster munition he found after a Russian attack. An international treaty prohibits the use of such explosives, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has signed the agreement.
“This war is treacherous,” Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on social media. “It’s close, even when it’s invisible.”
New signs of support
As VE Day approached and the spotlight turned to Mr. Putin, Western leaders showed new signs of support for Ukraine.
The industrial democracies of the Group of Seven have pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil.
The United States also announced new sanctions against Russia, cutting off Western advertising from Russia’s three largest television channels, banning American accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia’s industrial wood products sector, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.
US First Lady Jill Biden meets with her Ukrainian counterpart. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his country’s flag outside his embassy in Kyiv. And U2’s Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed at a Kyiv metro station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song Stand by Me.
Mr Zelensky released a video address marking Allied Victory Day in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism. The black-and-white footage showed Mr Zelensky standing in front of a crumbling building in Borodyanka, a Kyiv suburb.
He said generations of Ukrainians understood the meaning of the words “never again,” an expression often used as a vow not to allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.