Ukraine's government says all civilian women, children, and the elderly have now been evacuated from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol. There were up to a thousand people taking shelter in underground bunkers as Russian forces stepped up their bombardment of the sprawling Soviet-era plant but rescue efforts over the last week lead by the United Nations and the Red Cross have been trying to get them all to safety.
Meanwhile the leaders of the G7 nations will hold a video meeting with President Zelenskyy on Sunday, and the United Nations has unanimously adopted a statement expressing “strong support” for Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine. The statement does not mention the words "war", "conflict" or "invasion."
Follow Saturday's events as they unfolded in our live blog below, or click on the video player above for a recap of the main Ukraine war headlines.
Key points to know for Saturday:
- The government of Ukraine says all civilian women, children and elderly people have now been evacuated from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.
- The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights says the Russian military has committed 'staggering' human rights violations in Ukraine.
- Ukraine says it has sunk another Russian naval vessel in the Black Sea.
- The latest UK military intelligence assessment says the conflict in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll on some of Russia’s most capable units and most advanced capabilities.
- The US government has authorised the shipment of another $150 million (€142 million) in military assistance for Ukraine for artillery rounds and radar systems.
- Italy will impound a mega-yacht from sailing away from a Tuscan port, after investigations indicated the luxury vessel Scheherazade has links to “prominent elements of the Russian government.’’
- At least 50 civilians were evacuated from the steel plant in Mariupol, said Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk in a post on Telegram.
- Members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia, have agreed on a statement expressing “strong support” for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
That's our live blog coming to a close for Saturday evening.
We're back with all the latest developments on Sunday morning.
CIA director comments on Putin, China and nuclear weapons
The director of the CIA Bill Burns says China is "carefully" following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and will likely learn from the conflict and will adjust its plans to take control of Taiwan.
"Chinese leaders are carefully watching what lessons they can learn from Ukraine regarding their own ambitions and Taiwan," Burns said on Saturday.
Beijing was "surprised" by the setbacks the Russian army has suffered, and by the strong resistance in Ukrainian society, Burns said during a conference organised by the Financial Times newspaper.
“I think they were particularly struck by the way [NATO] came together to impose economic sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression,” he continued.
China was "troubled by the fact that Putin brought Europeans closer to Americans", according to Bill Burns.
“As to the conclusions drawn from this, that remains a question mark.”
According to Burns, Chinese leaders are studying "the costs and consequences" of a possible use of force to take control of Taiwan. The island's 23 million inhabitants live under the constant threat of an invasion by China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be taken back one day, by force if necessary.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has heightened fears on the Taiwanese side that Beijing will follow through on its threats of annexation.
Burns also said at the conference this stage, that the CIA didn't have "any concrete evidence that Russia is preparing the deployment or even the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons." He also said that Vladimir Putin "doesn't think he can afford to lose" the war in Ukraine.
All women, children and elderly evacuated from Mariupol steel plant
The Ukrainian government says all civilian women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
"The president's order has been carried out: all women, children and old people have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of Mariupol's humanitarian mission is accomplished," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna said on social media on Saturday evening.
The sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant is the last pocket of resistance for Ukrainian forces in the devastated port city on the Azov Sea, and has come under repeated bombardment over the last weeks by Russian forces.
Up to a thousand civilians were thought to be trapped there, sheltering in underground bunkers, but over the last week there has been a concerted effort to try and get them out, including convoys organised by the United Nations and Red Cross.
Ukraine claims it sank another Russian ship
Ukraine said on Saturday it had destroyed a Russian landing ship near Snake Island in the Black Sea, a small outcrop that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion launched in late February.
A Bayraktar TB2 combat drone, developed in Turkey, "hit a landing ship of the 11770 Serna project as well as two Tor surface-to-air missile systems," the Ukrainian navy said on Facebook, without specifying the date.
"The traditional parade of the Russian fleet on 9 May this year will take place near Snake Island at the bottom of the sea," the Ukrainian defence ministry quipped on Twitter.
Moscow has not confirmed the claim.
In videos published by the Ukrainian army, a ship can be seen anchored near a pier hit by an explosion and then ravaged by flames and spreading a large plume of smoke.
The 26-metre-long Serna is a Russian class of fast landing ship with a 45-tonne carrying capacity.
It is armed with 7.62 mm machine guns and Igla missile launchers and was designed for the landing of combat vehicles, as well as assault units.
Earlier, the Ukrainian army claimed in early May to have bombed two Russian Raptor-class patrol boats off Snake Island, which were also hit by Bayraktar TB2 combat drones.
In mid-April, the Russian flagship Moskva sank in the Black Sea after being hit by Ukrainian missiles, according to Kiev and Washington. Moscow had claimed that it was damaged by an explosion on board.
Croatian citizen fighting for Ukraine, detained by Russia
A Croatian citizen who fought alongside Ukrainian troops in Mariupol has been detained by the Russian army, Croatian state media reported Saturday.
Croatia's Foreign Ministry also confirmed that it “has knowledge of a detained Croatian citizen," and is working with the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the situation. It offered no further information due to “sensitivity of the situation.”
The state HRT television reported that the Croatian man tried to flee Mariupol with other Ukrainian fighters but was caught by the Russians. No other details were immediately available.
The N1 regional television said the arrest was first reported by Russian media.
The strategic port of Mariupol has faced weeks of Russian bombardment. The attacks have intensified on embattled resisting troops in a steel factory in the city as Russian troops seek to fully conquer Mariupol in time for Russia's Victory Day celebrations on Monday celebrating the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.
Council of Europe: Russia has committed 'staggering' human rights violations in Ukraine
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, denounced on Saturday the "staggering" violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Russian army in Ukraine.
Her comments come at the end of a four-day visit to Kyiv and its region.
"The extent and gravity of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have taken place as a result of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine are staggering," Ms Mijatovic said in a statement.
"The names of Bucha, Borodianka, Irpin or Andriivka have come to symbolise the horrible acts that have been committed here," she said.
"Unfortunately, their inhabitants are not alone in their suffering. There are many more people across Ukraine who have suffered unspeakable atrocities. Each of them deserves justice and must not be forgotten."
Ms Mijativoc called on countries to support efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible, in coordination with Ukrainian authorities and the International Criminal Court.
Ukrainians warned of more attacks ahead of Russia's Victory Day
Officials in Ukraine are warning citizens to heed air raid warnings, amid concerns that Russia might step up attacks ahead of Monday's Victory Day celebrations.
"These symbolic dates are to the Russian aggressor like red to a bull,” Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister, Yevhen Yenin, said. “While the entire civilized world remembers the victims of terrible wars on these days, the Russian Federation wants parades and is preparing to dance over bones in Mariupol.”
On Saturday morning Ukraine's Ministry of Defense cautioned that "the enemy does not stop its offensive".
"In Mariupol, the enemy continues to block Ukrainian defense units in the district of Azovstal" steel works, the ministry said, and highlighted the destruction of three road bridges by the Russians "to slow down the counter-offensive" in the Kharkov region as well.
Missile strikes have been reported in the past 24 hours in the Kharkiv region, in the city of Mykolaiv (south), in the Donetsk region. On Friday evening two rocket attacks hit Odesa, the major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea, but no casualties were reported.
The most intense fighting in recent days has befallen eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce race to capture territory not under their control. Western military analysts said a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around the northeastern city of Kharkiv while the Russians made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.
Russia holds dress rehearsal for Victory Day parade
Russia held a dress rehearsal on Saturday for the military parade to commemorate Victory Day on 9 May, when the country marks the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
This year’s Victory Day, which falls on Monday, won’t just honor a conflict that ended 77 years ago. Many Russians will be thinking about the thousands of troops in neighboring Ukraine. Signs of support for the military have grown across the country since the Kremlin launched an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on 24 February, with the letter “Z” appearing on billboards and signs in the streets and subways, and on television and social media.
On Saturday, an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile rolled through Red Square as part of the rehearsal in Moscow, with warplanes and helicopters flying overhead, troops marching in formation and self-propelled artillery vehicles rumbling past.
US first lady praises Romania's refugee efforts
America's first lady Jill Biden praised the Romanian government and relief organizations for the range of humanitarian aid they are providing to Ukrainians who are fleeing Russia’s war against their country. She called the show of solidary “amazing" but also “just the beginning.”
Biden delivered her sober assessment on Saturday at the end of an hour-long briefing at the US Embassy in Bucharest on the massive relief effort.
She was told that Romania had “welcomed” nearly 900,000 refugees from Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor on 24 February, but most have since moved on to other countries. Women and children are the bulk of the refugees.
“It’s amazing. It’s solidarity here in Romania that you’re all working together,” Biden said. “I think this is really, unfortunately, just the beginning. Just the beginning.”
She also applauded Romanians for their generosity.
“The Romanian people are amazing, to welcome all these refugees into their homes and offer them food and clothing and shelter and give them their hearts,” she added. “I think the world knows that.”
Around 7,000 Ukrainians cross the border and arrive in Romania daily, said Pablo Zapata, the Romanian representative for the UN refugee agency.
UN and other agencies and the Romanian government are providing refugees with a range of services, including food, shelter, education, health and mental health care, and counseling, among other services.