Civilians leave steel mills as Ukraine prepares for new offensive

Ukrainian soldiers have launched a counter-offensive against the invading Russian forces in the east of the country

All vulnerable civilians have been evacuated from Mariupol, Ukraine said on Saturday, presaging a standoff between kyiv’s last soldiers and besieging Russian forces ahead of celebrations marking the Soviet victory in World War II.

The Azovstal steelworks, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the devastated port city, took on symbolic value in the war. kyiv fears a renewed intensity of the Moscow offensive.

Fighting continues on many fronts and Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it destroyed another Russian ship, a Serna-class landing craft, in the Black Sea.

Earlier, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces had resumed their assault on the Azovstal site, despite talks of a truce to allow trapped civilians to flee.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin will celebrate the Soviet victory in World War II over Nazi Germany with a traditional Victory Day parade.

Despite doomsday nuclear threats being aired by Russian state media, the CIA said on Saturday it saw no indication that Moscow was preparing to use tactical atomic weapons in the Ukraine conflict.

Burns also warned that Putin thought he could not afford defeat in Ukraine and could “double down” on his offensive.

The Russian campaign has been met with fierce resistance – and has galvanized kyiv’s Western allies to comprehensively sanction the Russian economy and Putin’s inner circle.

– “Massive bombings” –

Donetsk Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported “massive shelling” along the front line.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces launched a counter-offensive.

And British intelligence said Ukrainian forces equipped with high-end weaponry by Western allies were able to destroy at least one of Russia’s most advanced tanks, the T-90M.

β€œIt will take a lot of time and money for Russia to rebuild its armed forces following this conflict,” he said, adding that sanctions on advanced components would make it more difficult for Russia to re-arm.

The West is stepping up arms deliveries to Ukrainian forces, with US President Joe Biden announcing $150 million in military aid.

Biden urged Congress to approve a new $33 billion package, including $20 billion in military aid, “to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”

Biden’s wife, US First Lady Jill Biden, was in Romania on Saturday to meet with Ukrainian refugees.

Ambassadors from EU member states are meeting in Brussels on Sunday to discuss their sixth round of economic sanctions against Moscow, which this time is expected to include a phased ban on Russian oil imports.

The last Ukrainian soldiers from the devastated Black Sea port of Mariupol are believed to have holed up in the tunnels and bunkers beneath Azovstal.

Taking full control of Mariupol would allow Moscow to create a land bridge between the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and breakaway regions ruled by Russian puppets to the east.

In nearby Lugansk, Ukrainian officials said Friday that Russian forces had nearly surrounded Severodonetsk – the easternmost town still held by kyiv – and were trying to storm it.

A senior Russian parliament official, Andrey Turchak, said during a visit to the city on Friday that Russia would stay “forever” in southern Ukraine.

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