War in Ukraine: Zelensky announces the death of some 23,000 Russian soldiers since the start of the conflict (Update)

9:25 a.m.: Nancy Pelosi on surprise visit to Kyiv, meets Zelensky

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday during a surprise visit to Kyiv.

“Thank you to the United States for helping to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our State”, tweeted the Ukrainian president to accompany a video where we see him, flanked by armed guards, welcoming Ms Pelosi and a congressional delegation in front of the presidency in kyiv and then in a meeting with the American delegation.

7:46 am: Millions of tonnes of grain blocked in Ukraine

Millions of tons of food cannot currently be used in Ukraine. “Almost 4.5 million tonnes of grain are today blocked in Ukrainian ports and on ships,” said the director of the United Nations World Food Program in Germany, Martin Frick. Ports and sea lanes are closed due to war. Until the start of the conflict, Ukraine was one of the largest producers of wheat and maize in the world. According to United Nations figures, more than 30 million tonnes of maize and nearly 25 million tonnes of wheat were harvested in 2020. Many countries, especially in North Africa, are dependent on cheap wheat from Ukraine . The cereal is also crucial for global food aid. “There is an urgent need for Ukrainian resources,” comments Mr. Frick.

Since the start of the war on February 24, WFP has provided food aid to approximately 2.5 million Ukrainians. The challenge is twofold, explains the Program Manager. “We need to get food to people stuck in Ukraine and in need, but also to continue the work elsewhere in the world in order to avoid an international food crisis.”

The WFP must be able to access populations and ports in order to relaunch the export of food. “Hunger cannot be a weapon”, concludes the director.

6:35 a.m .: Germany would finally support Russian oil import ban

The German government would ultimately support plans to ban Russian oil imports from Europe, German news agency DPA has learned from EU diplomats in Brussels. As part of the preparation of a sixth set of sanctions, Germany would indeed have come out in favor of the introduction of an embargo. An EU decision in this direction has therefore become more likely.

At present, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Spain, Italy and Greece are still among the countries diplomatically holding back such action. It would particularly represent a problem for Slovakia and Hungary, two countries still heavily dependent on Russian oil supplies. In southern European countries, there are concerns about rising energy prices for consumers.

The German orientation could have a link with the progress made in the search for alternative suppliers. Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday that Germany’s dependence on Russian oil was down to just 12%, down from 35% before the war began.

6:08 am: First evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal factory, in Mariupol

A first group of civilians was extracted overnight from Saturday to Sunday from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine, a region where the Russian army concentrates most of his strengths.

The exit of twenty civilians from the underground of this huge industrial complex represents a great first, all previous evacuation attempts having failed, in this port city in the south-east almost completely destroyed after weeks of siege.

The Azov regiment, which defends this industrial zone, spoke of “twenty civilians, women and children”. “They have been transferred to an agreed place and we hope that they will be evacuated to Zaporizhia, in the territory controlled by Ukraine,” said Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the regiment in a video on Telegram.

A few hours earlier, the official Russian agency Tass had announced that a group of 25 civilians, including six children, had been able to get out of Azovstal, where according to kyiv hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are buried in underground galleries dating from the Soviet era.

“The Azov regiment continues to clear the rubble to get civilians out. We hope that this process will continue and that we will succeed in evacuating all the civilians”, also advanced Sviatoslav Palamar.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to it in his video address on Saturday evening, saying: “We are doing everything to ensure that the evacuation mission from Mariupol is carried out.”

According to new satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken on April 29, almost all buildings in Azovstal have been destroyed.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, visiting kyiv on Thursday, assured his side that the organization was doing “everything possible” to evacuate civilians stuck in the “apocalypse” of Mariupol, which had a half -million people before the Russian invasion launched at the end of February.

The total capture of this city would allow Moscow to connect the territories conquered in the south, in particular the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014, to the pro-Russian separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east.

2:50 am: Antony Blinken confirms American support for Ukraine

(Belga) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed US “robust support” for Ukraine in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmitro Kuleba, US authorities report.

Mr. Blinken also hinted that work is continuing towards the return of American diplomats to Ukraine. He spoke of first visits to the western city of Lviv, but Americans also want to return to the capital kyiv “as soon as possible”. A few days ago, the Secretary of State himself was in kyiv, accompanied by his colleague at Defense, Lloyd Austin. The two men then promised additional support against the Russian attack. On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced he wants Congress to vote on an additional $33 billion aid package.

12:45 a.m .: Zelensky announces the death of some 23,000 Russian soldiers since the start of the conflict

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, 23,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In addition, more than 1,000 Russian tanks and nearly 2,500 other military vehicles were destroyed, he said in his daily speech on Saturday evening.

However, it is difficult to estimate the real extent of the losses. Moscow has previously admitted that more than a thousand Russians have been killed since the war began on February 24, and puts the number of Ukrainian fighters killed at more than 23,000.

Volodymyr Zelensky also said he expected Russia to muster “additional troops” for attacks in eastern Ukraine. He appealed to the Russian military during his speech. “Every Russian soldier can still save his life. It is better for you to survive in Russia than to die in our country.”

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