Ukraine war: Russian forces likely suffering from 'weakened morale', UK says

A local resident walks past a destroyed building in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, April 29, 2022.
A local resident walks past a destroyed building in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, April 29, 2022.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov
By Euronews  with AP, AFP

Russia is still facing "considerable challenges" in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence said, with many troops likely suffering from "weakened morale".

Many Russian military units are "likely suffering from weakened morale", the UK said in its latest defence intelligence update, stating that Russia has been forced to "merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units".

The Kremlin is seeking to capture Ukraine's eastern Donbas region but the US has warned that the offensive is going slower than planned.

The mayor of Mariupol meanwhile said trapped civilians are "begging to get saved" from a vast Soviet-era steel complex which is the last holdout of Ukrainian forces in the southern port city.

Read more about the most important events on Saturday in the blog below:


Key updates from Saturday:

  • Many Russian forces are "likely suffering from weakened morale," the UK defence ministry said.

  • A Russian airstrike destroyed the runway at Odesa's airport, an official said.

  • The mayor of Mariupol says civilians are "begging to get saved" from a steel mill in the city where they've been trapped for weeks amid ongoing Russian bombardment.

  • The EU "is ready" for a possible Russian gas embargo, internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said in an interview with French public radio.

  • Ukrainian forces are cracking down on people accused of helping Russian troops. In the Kharkiv region alone, nearly 400 have been detained.

  • The Russian Central Bank said Russia’s economy is expected to contract by up to 10% this year, and the outlook is “extremely uncertain.”


Russian airstrike destroys runway at Odesa airport, Ukrainian official says

The airport in the port city of Odesa was hit on Saturday by a Russian strike, the regional governor announced.

The strike destroyed the runway but there were no casualties, according to Maksym Marchenko.

Eight people were killed a week ago by a strike in Odesa, which has so far been relatively spared from the fighting. The city is located on the Black Sea.

The Russian army said they had targeted with "high precision missiles" a large depot of weapons delivered to Ukrainian forces by the United States and European countries, near Odesa.



Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie visits Ukraine

Multiple social media posts showed Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in Lviv, Ukraine on Saturday.

Ukrainian Railways added that the actress visited and thanked the station volunteers, psychologists and doctors at the station in Lviv where refugees arrive from other areas of the country.

Ukrainian Railways via Telegram


Ukraine says prisoner exchange agreed with Russia

A Ukrainian official said that a prisoner exchange was agreed with Russia.

"We are bringing home 14 of our people: 7 military and 7 civilians," said Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, on Telegram.

She added that one of the female soldiers who is part of the exchange is pregnant.


Ukraine reports vast grain seizures by Russia

Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister says Russian forces are seizing vast amounts of grain in territory they hold, while its president says the war-torn country is facing fuel shortages.

“Today, there are confirmed facts that several hundred thousand tons of grain in total were taken out of the Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” minister Taras Vysotsky told Ukrainian television on Saturday.

Ukraine is one of the world's major grain producers and the Russian invasion has curtailed exports, pushing up world grain prices and raising concerns about severe grain shortages in importing countries.

Ukraine is also facing fuel shortages as Russia destroys its fuel infrastructure and blocks its ports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday night.



France to 'reinforce' military equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that France would "reinforce" its military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The newly re-elected French president also said that the mission of French experts gathering evidence related to Russian crimes would continue.

The United States, France, the Czech Republic and other allies have provided Kyiv with hundreds of long-range artillery pieces to help it counter Moscow's offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Macron insisted on "his desire to work actively during his second term to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

He also mentioned "France's readiness to contribute to an agreement providing security guarantees to Ukraine," the Elysée said.



EU 'is ready' for possible Russian gas embargo, says commissioner Thierry Breton

The EU's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, said that the EU was "ready" with solutions to stop its dependence on Russian gas, adding that this team has been preparing for the scenario.

"We import 155 billion cubic meters per year of Russian gas and so we immediately started to build a plan just in case," Breton said in an interview with French public radio.

"Today we have a dependence (on Russian gas). But we will end this dependence," Breton said, adding that sanctions should continue to increase pressure on Russia. 

"We have a whole range of solutions for the year," he said in terms of the EU's gas dependence, including increasing gas from existing pipelines in Azerbaijan or southern Europe.


Ukrainian women train in Kosovo to find, clear landmines

Six Ukrainian women travelled to Kosovo to attend a course in clearing landmines amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

The 18-day training camp takes place at a range in the western town of Peja where a Malta-based company regularly offers courses for job-seekers, firms working in former war zones, humanitarian organisations and government agencies.

Anastasiia Minchukova, an English teacher in Ukraine, said in an interview with the AP that there was a "huge demand on people who know how to do demining because the war will be over soon."

“We believe there is so much work to be done.”

Kosovo was the site of a devastating 1998-99 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian forces that killed about 13,000 people and left thousands of unexploded mines in need of clearing.

Instructor Artur Tigani, who tailored the curriculum to reflect Ukraine's environment said he was glad to share his small Balkan nation's experience with the Ukrainian women. Though 23 years have passed, "it’s still fresh in our memories, the difficulties we met when we started clearance in Kosovo,” Tigani said.


Demining instructor Artur Tigani, left, briefs a group of Ukrainian female emergency services personnel for specialist training in explosive ordnance disposal and survey training in the western Kosovo city of Peja. AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu

Russian offensive in Ukraine slower than planned, US official says

A senior US defence official said on Friday that the Russian offensive is going much slower than planned in part because of the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.

“We also assess that because of this slow and uneven progress, again, without perfect knowledge of every aspect of the Russian plan, we do believe and assess that they are behind schedule in what they were trying to accomplish in the Donbas,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment.

He said the US believes the Russians are “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east.

As the troops try to move north out of Mariupol so they can advance on Ukrainian forces from the south, their progress has been “slow and uneven, and certainly not decisive in any, in any event,” the official said.



Regional official urges residents in Kharkiv not to leave shelters

The regional governor in Kharkiv Oleh Synyehubov urged residents on Saturday not to leave shelters "unnecessarily" and said they should refrain from visiting cemeteries and mass gatherings despite a reduction in shelling.

The country's second-largest city has been subject to heavy shelling for weeks. Synyehubov said Russian troops had "fired only three artillery shells at Kharkiv" in the past 24 hours.

He claimed that Russian troops were also unsuccessful in their attempts to advance in the eastern areas of the Kharkiv region, near the city of Izyum.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid the rubble of a building heavily damaged by multiple Russian bombardments near a frontline in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 25, 2022. AP Photo/Felipe Dana

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