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Ukraine war: Drone strikes, nuclear plant anxiety, Wagner stays in Bakhmut

Ukrainian servicemen take part in military exercises outside Kyiv on May 3, 2023.
Ukrainian servicemen take part in military exercises outside Kyiv on May 3, 2023. Copyright SERGEY SHESTAK/AFP or licensors
Copyright SERGEY SHESTAK/AFP or licensors
By Euronews with AP/AFP
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These are the latest developments from the Ukraine war today.

Russia batters Ukraine ahead of Victory Day celebrations

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Moscow launched dozens of missiles and drones towards Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on Sunday night, injuring at least five people. 

Russian missiles caused a huge fire at a foodstuff warehouse in the Black Sea city of Odesa, with blasts reported in several other Ukrainian regions early on Monday morning.

Ukraine’s top military brass said it shot down all 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones that were launched during the night. 

Five people were hurt in Kyiv, according to the city's major Vitali Klitschko. Two of these injuries were caused by drone wreckage falling in the west of the capital. 

The strikes came as Russia prepares for its annual Victory Day celebrations, which mark the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has played on Russia's victory in the Second World War in his narrative around the Ukraine invasion, calling leaders in Kyiv Nazis. 

“Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded civilians, high-rise buildings, private homes and other civilian infrastructure were damaged,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its daily update.

Air raid alerts blared for hours over roughly two-thirds of Ukraine on Sunday. 

Anxiety grows about Ukraine nuclear plant

Worries over Europe's largest nuclear power plant grew on Sunday after local authorities ordered civilians living nearby to evacuate.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has spent months trying to persuade Russian and Ukrainian officials to avert disaster at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, located in southeastern Ukraine. 

The facility was captured by Moscow early in the war but has been caught in the crossfire ever since. 

Evacuations were ordered by Yegeny Balitsky the Russia-backed governor of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia province, raising fears that fighting in the area would intensify. 

Balitsky on Friday ordered civilians to leave 18 Russian-occupied communities, including Enerhodar, home to most of the staff at the plant.

More than 1,500 people had been evacuated from two unspecified cities in the region as of Sunday, Balitsky said. 

Moscow's troops seized the plant soon after invading Ukraine last year, but Ukrainian employees have continued to run it during the occupation, at times under extreme duress.

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Ukraine has regularly fired at the Russian side of the lines, while Russia has repeatedly shelled Ukrainian-held communities across the Dnieper River. 

The fighting has intensified as Ukraine prepares to launch a long-promised counteroffensive to reclaim ground taken by Russia.

“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi warned on Saturday. 

“We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment. This major nuclear facility must be protected," he said.

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Analysts have for months pointed to the southern Zaporizhzhia region as one of the possible targets of Ukraine’s expected spring counteroffensive, speculating that Kyiv’s forces might try to choke off Russia’s “land corridor” to the Crimean Peninsula.

Moscow thwarts Ukrainian drone attack in Crimea

Russia says it has shot down Ukrainian drones attacking the Crimea peninsula on Sunday. 

The Russian administration in Crimea said it had repelled a night attack by a dozen Ukrainian drones, though Ukraine has not confined this. 

The unmanned ariel vehicles were launched on the port city of Sevastopol, capital of the peninsula and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. 

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According to Moscow, the drones were neutralised by anti-aircraft defences and electronic jamming.

"No infrastructure in the city was damaged," said Mikhail Razvojayev, the city governor.

Since the summer of 2022, the peninsula - annexed by Moscow in 2014 - has been regularly hit by drone attacks and alleged Ukrainian sabotage. 

At the end of April, one drone strike caused a huge fire in an oil depot in Sevastopol.

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Wagner stays put in Bakhmut

The boss of the Wagner mercenary group said on Sunday that Moscow had "promised" more support, allowing it to continue fighting in Bakhmut.  

On Friday, Yevgeny Prigozhin released an inflammatory video attacking the Russian military. In it, he vowed to withdraw his mercenary force from Bakhmut, the epicentre of fighting in the east, if they were not given more ammo. 

"Last night, we received a combat order. They promise to give us all the ammunition and armaments we need to continue operations," he said on Sunday in an audio message. 

Fighting over Bakhmut has raged since summer, with the small salt mining city town gaining a huge symbolic value.

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Russia is eager for a clear battlefield victory, especially on the eve of the Victory Day celebrations. 

Wagner's troops have played a key part in Russia's deadly assault on Bakhmut, which has ground the city to a ruin. 

Their forces are in control of 95% of the city, according to Prigozhin. 

But the Ukrainian army says it is clinging on, defending itself fiercely. It is hoping to exhaust Russian forces in Bakhmut, which has been likened to a meat grinder. 

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"The enemy is not going to change its objectives and is doing everything to control Bakhmut," said General Oleksandr Syrsky of the Ukrainian land forces. 

Russia accused of using phosphorus in Ukraine

Ukraine accused Russia of using phosphorus on Saturday, releasing a video that purported to show the telltale white fire of the destructive munitions.

International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus or other incendiary weapons in areas where there could be concentrations of civilians, though it can also be used for illumination or to create smoke screens.

Phosphorus munitions are designed to set fire to objects and cause horrific burn injuries.

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Euronews could not independently verify where the video was shot or when, but chemical weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British army colonel, said it was clearly white phosphorus.

“This is being fired directly at Ukraine positions and this would be a war crime,” he said.

"I expect because the Russians have failed to take Bakmut conventionally, they are now using unconventional tactics to burn the Ukrainian soldiers to death or to get them to flee.”

Russian forces haven't commented on the claim. 

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They have rejected previous accusations from Ukraine they had used phosphorus munitions.

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