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Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 4

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Anna Shevchenko, 35, waters flowers that survived in her home's garden in near Kyiv, May 3, 2022. The house, built by her grandparents, was bombed in March during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of May 4
FIGHTING
* Air raid sirens sounded in cities across Ukraine and missile fire followed shortly after in the cities of Cherkasy, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.
* Russia said it had fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from a submarine in the Black Sea and reiterated a warning that it would seek to hit shipments of NATO weapons to Ukraine.
HUMANITARIAN
* Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk said the government planned four humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia if safety conditions were met.
ECONOMY
* Oil prices jumped as the European Union, the world's largest trading bloc, spelled out plans to phase out imports of Russian oil.
* Russian oil exports, excluding those to ex-Soviet states, rose on average to 4.88 million barrels per day in first four weeks of April, up more than 2% compared to March.
* Conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks increased the number of people facing a severe lack of food by a fifth to 193 million last year and the Ukraine war means the outlook will worsen without urgent action, a U.N. agency said.
DIPLOMACY
* Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there was a "problem" in Germany's relations with Ukraine after the German president was stopped from visiting Kyiv last month, adding that it was up to Ukraine to help resolve the row.
* The Kremlin said that no agreement had been reached on a possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis for talks about Ukraine.
SANCTIONS
* European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled a new package of sanctions that includes a ban on all Russian oil, with crude oil imports stopping within six months and imports of refined products by the end of the year.
* Hungary and Slovakia will be able to continue buying Russian crude oil until the end of 2023 under existing contracts, an EU source told Reuters.
* U.S. President Joe Biden said he would speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.
NUCLEAR
* Pope Francis and the prime minister of Japan, the only country to be hit by atomic bombs, met and discussed their common hope for a world free of nuclear weapons.
MEDIA
* Russian authorities have added one of the country's most well-known TV journalists and Kremlin critics to their wanted list amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent that has intensified since Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

9:02 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the death of a Ukraine journalist Alexander Makhov near Izium in the Kharkiv region. "He was 36 years old. My sincere condolences to relatives and friends. Let his son Vladyslav know: Russia will bear responsibility for this death. We will definitely gain victory for Ukraine."

8:08 p.m.: Senior American officials told The New York Times that the U.S. has been providing intelligence to Ukraine that has helped Kyiv’s forces target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the war. Ukraine said they have killed about 12 generals on the front lines, the Times reported. The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine, according to the newspaper.

7:16 p.m.: Sweden has received assurances from the United States that it would receive support during the period a potential application to join NATO is processed by the 30 nations in the alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in Washington on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Sweden and neighbor Finland stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, but Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine have led the countries to rethink their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly likely, Reuters reported.

Both countries are concerned they would be vulnerable during an application process, which could take up to a year to be approved by all NATO's members, according to the Reuters report.

6:20 p.m.: Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mike Repass, the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command in Europe, told CNN that the international community has to greatly increase its support for Ukraine if it is to drive out Russian forces. Repass, who has advised the Ukraine military for the past six years on a U.S. government contract, told CNN the Ukrainian supply chain for military equipment is inefficient and that additional military forces are required to drive the Russians out of Ukraine.

5:05 p.m.: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Wednesday published a photo gallery of images taken during the war in Ukraine earlier this week.

4:59 p.m.: Osnat Lubrani, the United Nation's Ukraine resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator, posted on Twitter:

Lubrani said, "Over 300 civilians from Mariupol, Manhush, Berdiansk, Tokmak and Vasylivka are now receiving humanitarian assistance in Zaporizhzhia. Many came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and we will now support them during this difficult time, including with much-needed psychological support."

4:17 p.m.: Oksana Balandina, a nurse, lost both her legs and four fingers on one hand in a mine explosion in March. She also lost her will to live, but her family has restored her spirits. At the hospital where she is being treated, they held a wedding ceremony for her and her partner Victor Vasylyev. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this story.

3:52 p.m.: "We still assess that in the maritime domain, there's, there are still blockades. They're (Russians are) still restricting the ability of Ukraine to trade economically," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during the Pentagon daily briefing, VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports. Kirby said the Pentagon also believes Russian progress in the Donbas, and even in the South, "has been uneven and it has been slower than we believe they anticipated" in general because they still haven't fixed logistics and sustainment issues, and also because of Ukrainian resistance.

2:58 p.m.: Journalist “Alexander Makhov was killed" in Russian shelling, the news site Ukraine24 posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. Several media reported that Makhov died near Izium, about 120 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv. “Alexander worked for many years on the channels ‘Ukraine’ and ‘Ukraine24’ and covered the events on the forefront. Alexander served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the post read.

2:30 p.m.: A senior U.S. defense official briefed reporters on the latest developments in Ukraine. He said Russian progress in the eastern Donbas region is “stalled.” Russian airstrikes in the western town of Lviv appear to be targeting critical infrastructure, specifically electricity, he said, but added that it had “no appreciable impact” so far. Russia has not impacted the delivery of U.S. and other Western aid to Ukraine, he noted. He said that about 2,000 Russian troops remain around the southern port city of Mariupol, but the rest of the battalion tactical groups have left and were trying to move north. VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin monitored the briefing and shared details on Twitter.

2:16 p.m.: Air raid sirens sounded in cities across Ukraine on Wednesday night and missile fire followed shortly after in the cities of Cherkasy, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, The Associated Press reported. In Dnipro, Mayor Borys Filatov said one strike hit the center of the city. The strikes in Dnipro also hit a railroad facility, authorities initially said, without elaborating. Ukrainian Railways said none of its staff were injured in the Dnipro attack. Complaining that the West is “stuffing Ukraine with weapons,” Russia bombarded railroad stations and other supply-line points across the country.

2:09 p.m.: Ukraine’s deputy speaker of parliament hosted the chairman of Moldova’s parliament on a visit to Ukraine Wednesday. They traveled together to the towns of Bucha and Irpin, once occupied by Russia.

2:01 p.m.: After two months in a bunker, Mariupol evacuee Tetyana Trotsak is feeling the sun on her face and staring up at the bright blue sky on her first day of freedom. But she can't forget the 42 people she believes are still stuck in a shelter they shared under Ukraine's besieged Azovstal steel works. The 25-year-old, her husband and parents were among the dozens of civilians who reached the Ukraine-controlled town of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday after being evacuated from the plant in Russian-occupied Mariupol where other civilians and the city's last defenders remain under siege, Reuters reported.

1:56 p.m.: Dozens of people evacuated from the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol finally reached the safety of Zaporizhzhia, a city controlled by Ukrainian government forces, on Tuesday. Many of the evacuees had been living for weeks underground in bunkers in the Avovstal steel plant. VOA’s Yan Boechat, who is in Zaporizhzhia, filed this report about their arrival.

Dozens of Ukrainians Arrive in Zaporizhzhia After Evacuation from Mariupol
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1:27 p.m.: Earlier in the war, Russian forces pressing south toward Kyiv occupied numerous towns and villages while pounding parts of the capital and the city of Chernihiv with bombs, rockets, and artillery. In many towns and villages, Russian forces abducted male residents, sometimes accusing them of passing information about their location to Ukrainian forces or being members of local defense units. After they withdrew, Russian forces left behind thousands of victims, and now the accounts of bereaved survivors are part of a growing body of evidence and allegations of war crimes that are being examined by Ukrainian authorities and international organizations. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty spoke to family members of victims and has this story.

1:04 p.m.:

12:32 p.m.: In Ukraine, where according to U.N. estimates over five million people have already left their homes to flee the war, there are other refugees who have been evacuated too – horses. VOA’s Yaroslava Movchan has this story.

Ukrainian Horses Evacuated to Dnipro, Out Of Harm's Way
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12:07 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he would speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine, according to Reuters. "We're always open to additional sanctions," Biden told reporters, when asked about U.S. plans after the European Union proposed its toughest sanctions yet against Russia on Wednesday, including a phased oil embargo. "I'll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we're going to do or not do," Biden added.

11:58 a.m.: Bulgaria’s parliament voted on Wednesday to allow repairs of Ukrainian heavy military equipment and seek ways to help Ukrainian exports of grains and electricity, sidestepping proposals to provide direct military aid to Kyiv, Reuters reported. European Union and NATO member state Bulgaria has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supported sanctions against Moscow, refused to pay for Russian gas with rubles and hosted over 90,000 Ukrainian refugees.

11:46 a.m.: Amid all the horrors that have unfolded in the war on Ukraine, the Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol on March 16 stands out as the single deadliest known attack against civilians to date. An Associated Press investigation has found evidence that the attack was in fact far deadlier than estimated, killing closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. The AP investigation recreated what happened inside the theater on that day from the accounts of 23 survivors, rescuers, and people intimately familiar with its new life as a bomb shelter. The AP investigation also refutes Russian claims that the theater was demolished by Ukrainian forces or served as a Ukrainian military base.

11:27 a.m.:

11:03 a.m.: The European Commission has proposed freezing the assets of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a diplomat said on Wednesday. The Patriarch has been added to a draft blacklist that already includes hundreds of military officers and businessmen close to the Kremlin whom the EU accuses of supporting the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported. The sanction, which would entail an asset freeze and a travel ban, needs the backing of EU states to be adopted. EU diplomats are set to meet this week to discuss this and other proposed sanctions, which are part of a wider package proposed by the European Commission earlier on Wednesday including an oil embargo and restrictions on Russian banks.

10:45 a.m.: Ukraine's defense ministry said on Wednesday that Russia was attempting to increase the tempo of its offensive in the east of the country, Reuters reported. Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Moscow had conducted nearly 50 air strikes on Tuesday alone. He also said Russian artillery fire and air strikes were continuing periodically on the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, where Mayor Vadym Boichenko reported ongoing fighting Wednesday. Motuzyanyk also said that Russian strategic bombers had fired 18 rockets from airspace above the Caspian Sea at targets in Ukraine "with the aim of damaging our country's transport infrastructure."

10:23 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent on Wednesday published an in-depth report on the continuing tensions between Ukraine’s government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

10:04 a.m.: The Russian Orthodox Church scolded Pope Francis on Wednesday for using the wrong tone after he urged Patriarch Kirill not to become the Kremlin's "altar boy", cautioning the Vatican that such remarks would hurt dialogue between the churches, Reuters reported. Francis told Italy's Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Kirill, who has given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine his backing, "cannot become [President Vladimir] Putin's altar boy." The Russian Orthodox Church said it was regrettable that a month and a half after Francis and Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, had spoken directly, the pope had adopted such a tone.

9:57 a.m.:

9:51 a.m.: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday his administration will not impose sanctions on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported. "We want to remain neutral," Lopez Obrador said, calling for dialogue.

9:46 a.m.: Russian authorities have added one of the country's most well-known TV journalists and Kremlin critics to their wanted list amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent that has intensified since Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine more than two months ago. Aleksandr Nevzorov's name appeared on the Interior Ministry's registry of wanted persons on Wednesday. According to the ministry, the former lawmaker, who is currently out of Russia in an unspecified country, is suspected of the "distributing false information about the Russian armed forces." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

9:27 a.m.:
Pope Francis and the prime minister of Japan, the only country to be hit by atomic bombs, met on Wednesday and discussed their common hope for a world free of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. "They talked of nuclear weapons and how their use and possession is inconceivable," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said. A separate Vatican statement said that in discussions afterwards with top Vatican diplomats, particular attention was given to the war in Ukraine, "stressing the urgency of dialogue and peace and expressing the hope, to this end, for a world free of nuclear weapons." Since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24, Francis has several times spoken of a possible nuclear conflict resulting from the war.

9:13 a.m.:

9:07 a.m.: Russian oil exports, excluding those to ex-Soviet states, rose on average to 4.88 million barrels per day in first four weeks of April, up more than 2% compared to March, a source familiar with the data told Reuters on Wednesday. The increase in exports is an indicator of how Russia's commodity exports, a key source of its budget revenues, is resilient in the face of sweeping Western sanctions over what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine. However, traders have warned about new forthcoming challenges to the Russian oil exports as major global trading houses plan to reduce purchases from Russia's state-controlled oil companies as early as May 15 to avoid being in breach of European Union sanctions on Russia.

8:54 a.m.:

8:46 a.m.: Oil prices jumped on Wednesday as the European Union, the world's largest trading bloc, spelled out plans to phase out imports of Russian oil, Reuters reported. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed a phased oil embargo on Russia over its war in Ukraine, as well as sanctioning Russia's top bank, in a bid to deepen Moscow's isolation. The Commission's measures include phasing out supplies of Russian crude within six months and refined products by end-2022, von der Leyen said. She also pledged to minimize the impact on European economies.

8:37 a.m.: Mikhail Nesvat, a Russian activist from the southwestern city of Novocherkassk, has fled Russia fearing for his safety amid an ongoing crackdown by the state on anyone questioning Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Nesvat told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Wednesday that he is currently in the United States, where he has applied for political asylum. He said he reached the United States via Serbia, Turkey, and Mexico. The last time police detained Nesvat was on March 10 after he assisted activists in the city of Rostov-on-Don where he had been detained at unsanctioned rallies against the war in Ukraine.

8:23 a.m.: Hungary and Slovakia will be able to continue buying Russian crude oil until the end of 2023 under existing contracts, an EU source told Reuters on Wednesday, benefitting from exemptions from an oil embargo proposed by the European Commission. The EU executive on Wednesday proposed a ban on EU imports of Russian crude oil within six months, and on refined oil products by the end of the year. In a bid to convince reluctant countries not to veto the proposal, Brussels has proposed a longer period to implement the embargo for Hungary and Slovakia, the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. The exception would concern existing contracts for crude oil signed by Hungary and Slovakia with Russia.

8:17 a.m.: Conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks increased the number of people facing a severe lack of food by a fifth to 193 million last year and the Ukraine war means the outlook will worsen without urgent action, a U.N. agency said on Tuesday. The Global Network Against Food Crises, set up by the United Nations and the European Union, said in its annual report that the number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent, life-saving food assistance had nearly doubled in the six years since 2016 when it began tracking it. Looking ahead, the report said Russia's invasion of Ukraine - both countries are major food producers - poses serious risks to global food security.

8:11 a.m.: Europe will continue buying Russian oil via third countries once it introduces an embargo, RIA news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of Russian upper house's international affairs committee, as saying on Wednesday. The European Union's chief executive on Wednesday proposed a phased oil embargo on Russia, as well as sanctioning Russia's top bank and banning Russian broadcasters from European airwaves, Reuters reported.

8:08 a.m.: Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday there was a "problem" in Germany's relations with Ukraine after the German president was stopped from visiting Kyiv last month, adding that it was up to Ukraine to help resolve the row, Reuters reported. "It is a problem for the German government and for the German people that the president was asked not to come," Scholz told reporters following talks with his cabinet. "Ukraine must also play its part," Scholz said when asked how the tensions could be defused, but he did not give concrete examples on what Kiev could do to improve the situation.

7:57 a.m.: Russian forces pounded targets across Ukraine, taking aim at supply lines for foreign weapons in the west and intensifying an offensive in the east, The Associated Press reported. The Russian military said Wednesday it used sea- and air-launched precision guided missiles to destroy electric power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also struck troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots. The defense minister repeated that Russian forces have blocked off a steel mill in Mariupol – the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in that city. Another official denied they were storming the plant, as its defenders said a day earlier. Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, said attacks in the eastern Donbas region left 21 civilians dead.

7:36 a.m.: Lyman, a town in the north of Ukraine's Donetsk region, has been under intense Russian shelling, with some areas reduced to rubble. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Levko Stek accompanied Ukrainian police officers, who evacuated civilians from the Ukrainian town in the path of Russia's offensive.

7:13 a.m.: The Kremlin on Wednesday dismissed speculation that President Vladimir Putin planned to declare war against Ukraine and declare a national mobilization on May 9 when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union's victory in World War Two, Reuters reported. Putin has so far characterized Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "special military operation", not a war. But Western politicians and some Russia watchers have speculated that he could be preparing for a major announcement next Monday with a range of possible scenarios ranging from an outright declaration of war to a declaration of victory. Asked about speculation that Putin will declare war against Ukraine on May 9, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "There is no chance of that. It's nonsense."

7:02 a.m.: When U.S. President Joe Biden visited an Alabama facility that manufactures anti-tank Javelin missiles on Tuesday, he put the spotlight on a weapon produced there that has helped Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion. He also pushed his request for $33 billion in supplemental aid for Ukraine, which includes substantial military assistance. VOA’s White House correspondent Anita Powell has this report on U.S. defense assistance and weapons production capacity.

Biden Urges Supplemental Ukraine Funding on Visit to Missile Facility
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6:46 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Wednesday that no agreement had been reached on a possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis for talks about Ukraine. Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he had asked for a meeting in Moscow with Putin to try to stop the war in Ukraine but had not received a reply, Reuters reported.

6:37 a.m.:

6:31 a.m.: Kyiv will be ready if Belarus's armed forces join Russia's war effort in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Border Service said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Belarus, a close ally of Russia, said its military had begun large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness and that they posed no threat to its neighbors. "We do not rule out that the Russian Federation could at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine," said Andriy Demchenko, spokesperson for Ukraine's State Border Service. "Therefore, we are ready," he said, adding that the border with Belarus had been strengthened since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

6:24 a.m.: European Council President Charles Michel has promised to boost military aid to Moldova, whose Moscow-backed separatist region of Transdniester has reported several incidents that led to accusations Russia is seeking to destabilize the former Soviet republic and possibly involve it in its war against Ukraine. "This year we plan to significantly increase our support to Moldova by providing its armed forces with additional military equipment," Michel told a press conference with Moldova's President Maia Sandu during a visit to Chisinau on May 4. Michel also pledged support for Moldova against cyberattacks and disinformation, adding that avoiding escalation in Transdniester is of critical importance. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

6:18 a.m.: Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic” scenarios, President Maia Sandu said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Fears have grown in the past week that Moldova could be drawn into the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, after pro-Russian separatists in a breakaway region reported a number of attacks and explosions there, which they blamed on Kyiv. Sandu and her pro-Western government have blamed incidents in the breakaway region on “pro-war” separatist factions. She has also denounced comments by a Russian general that one of Moscow’s war aims was to seize Ukrainian territory to link up with the separatists in Moldova.

6:14 a.m.:

6:09 a.m.: After suffering significant setbacks in the earliest weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, failing to seize Kyiv or other major cities, and incurring major casualties, Russian commanders and political leaders have recalibrated, shifting nearly all military units eastward for an offensive in the Donbas. So how is it going? By all accounts, slower than anticipated. Why? That’s a more complicated question. Mike Eckel with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this analysis.

5:53 a.m.:
Reporter Borys Sachalko comes under shellfire as he accompanies a Red Cross team attempting to evacuate a village that lies between Russian-occupied Kherson and Ukrainian-held Mikolayiv in southern Ukraine. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report.

5:41 a.m.: Russia said on Wednesday it had fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from a submarine in the Black Sea and reiterated a warning that it would seek to hit shipments of NATO weapons to Ukraine, Reuters reported. The defense ministry published video footage of the cruise missiles being launched from the Black Sea, and said they had hit unspecified ground targets in Ukraine. Russia previously said it had mounted similar strikes from a submarine on April 29.

5:35 a.m.:

5:28 a.m.: Russia says it has barred entry to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kisida and more than 60 others, including cabinet ministers, media members and intellectuals, for the government's sanctions against Moscow over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement on Wednesday that the ban is permanent. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

5:23 a.m.:
The Pope’s Ukraine diplomacy has become a political and spiritual tightrope walk, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. His appeals for an Orthodox Easter truce in Ukraine went unheeded. His planned meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was cancelled. A proposed visit to Moscow? Nyet. Even his attempt to showcase Russian-Ukrainian friendship fell flat. Pope Francis hasn’t made much of a diplomatic mark in Russia’s war in Ukraine, seemingly unable to capitalize on his moral authority, soft power or direct line to Moscow to nudge an end to the bloodshed or at least a cease-fire. While the long list of dead ends would indicate a certain ineffectiveness, it is par for the course for the Vatican’s unique brand of diplomacy that straddles geopolitical realities with spiritual priorities, even when they conflict.

5:20 a.m.: Photos from before and during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine highlight the devastating toll suffered by the southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, which was a relatively prosperous industrial city before the war. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has compiled this photo gallery of Mariupol, as it was, and as it is now.

5:17 a.m.: Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk said the government planned four humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday if safety conditions were met, according to the Kyiv Independent.

5:12 a.m.:
In the Ukrainian countryside near Zaporizhzhia, wheat fields are nestled along the front lines and farmers wear body armor issued by the Ukrainian military as they work. The remnants of missiles are often found in these fields, farmers say, with recent attacks as close as next door. The region, one of Ukraine’s key food producers, usually generates an estimated 2.7 million tons of wheat. This year, farmers anticipate roughly 260,000 tons, if nothing else goes wrong. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports that farming has become the next front in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

5:06 a.m.:

5:00 a.m.: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday the Russian military would consider NATO transport carrying weapons in Ukraine as targets to be destroyed, RIA news agency quoted him as saying according to a Reuters report.

Shoigu also said that the Ukrainian fighters holed up in the sprawling Azovstal plant in Mariupol were kept under secure blockade after President Vladimir Putin ordered that they be hermetically sealed off, Reuters added.

4:15 a.m.: Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of the independent state of Belarus and one of the signatories of the decree dissolving the Soviet Union, died Wednesday at the age of 87, according to his wife, Iryna.

In 2016, Shushkevich spoke about Putin’s territorial ambitions during an interview with VOA. “It is not the Soviet Empire that he [Putin] wants to restore, but the Russian one,” he said. “He wants to make Russia dominate those lands and those countries that it used to dominate.” VOA’s Daniel Schearf has the story.

3:30 a.m.: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled a new package of sanctions that includes a ban on all Russian oil, with crude oil imports stopping within six months and imports of refined products by the end of the year. The package must be unanimously approved by EU members.

“Let’s be clear, it will not be easy because some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil, but we simply have to do it,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

The sanctions also include removing Russia's biggest bank Sberbank from the international SWIFT transaction and messaging system, and listing high-ranking military officers “who committed war crimes in Bucha and those responsible for the inhuman siege of Mariupol.”

3:00 a.m.: The European Union considered new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, including measures targeting Russia’s oil and banking industries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed for more extensive European actions to cut off imports of Russian energy, and said earlier this week that a new EU package “should include clear steps to block Russia’s revenues from energy resources.”

Inside Ukraine, Russia intensified its shelling in the eastern and southern parts of the country, actions that Zelenskyy characterized as Russian forces reacting “with great anger to our successes.”

“The sheer scale of today’s shelling clearly does not indicate that Russia has any special sort of specific military aim,” he said in a Tuesday evening address.

Russia’s targets included the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, where the last remaining Ukrainian troops have been holed up in the Azovstal steel plant along with several hundred civilians.

2:30 a.m.: Reuters reported that the armed forces of Belarus began sudden large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness, the defense ministry of Ukraine’s neighbor said.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia, which invaded Ukraine in late February immediately after holding joint drills with Minsk which had allowed it to move more forces closer to the Ukrainian border. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.”

“It is planned that the (combat readiness) test will involve the movement of significant numbers of military vehicles, which can slow down traffic on public roads,” the Belarusian ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the exercise posed no threat to its neighbors or the European community in general, Reuters report said.

2:00 a.m.: A judge in Fiji has ruled that U.S. authorities can seize a Russian-owned superyacht — but has put a hold on his order until at least Friday while defense lawyers mount a challenge. The Associated Press has the story.

1:30 a.m.: Smoke rises above the Ukrainian city of Lviv after multiple Russian strikes in this video report from Agence France-Presse.

12:02 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discussed support for Ukraine in a telephone call. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the diplomats talked about “additional security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and continued transatlantic unity,” as well as “economic consequences for those who continue to provide financial or material support that aids the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.”

After intensified Russian shelling Tuesday in eastern and southern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces were reacting “with great anger to our successes.

“The sheer scale of today’s shelling clearly does not indicate that Russia has any special sort of specific military aim,” he said in an evening address.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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