Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Russia is trying to recruit conscripts from Crimea, as Kyiv denies being behind oil depot attack
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said the military situation in the country’s east remained extremely difficult. He repeated warnings that Russia was preparing for strikes in the Donbas region and Kharkiv. In a video address late on Friday, he said Russian troops in the north of the country were slowly pulling back.
Zelenskiy also said that Russia was trying to conscript troops from Crimea, but said that being drafted to fight in Ukraine was “guaranteed death for many young guys”. He warned their families: “We don’t need more dead people here. Save your children so they do not become villains. Don’t send them.”
Ukraine exchanged 86 members of their armed forces with Russia today, according to senior Ukrainian officials.
Russia says Ukrainian helicopters attacked an oil storage facility in Belgorod, Russia, about 16 miles from the border and close to Kharkiv, destroying fuel tanks. Ukrainian officials have denied their forces were involved.
The UK Ministry of Defence says the destruction of oil tanks at a depot in the Russian city of Belgorod means probable loss of fuel and ammunition supplies to invading forces. It will likely add more strain to Russia’s already stretched logistic chains. Supplies to Russian forces encircling Kharkhiv may be particularly affected.
The US department of defense will provide an additional $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, to include laser-guided rocket systems, drones, and commercial satellite imagery services.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, earlier spoke with Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kulebo today and discussed “ways the US allies and partners are helping Ukraine defend against Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war”, Blinken said.
The US State Department said Washington will continue to provide support to Ukraine and won’t push the country to make concessions in negotiations with Russia following a report that said Britain was concerned the US, France and Germany will push Ukraine to “settle” in a peace deal.
The US military has cancelled plans to test an intercontinental ballistic missile in an effort to reduce tensions with Russia.
Zelenskiy also said more than 3,000 people had been led to safety from the besieged city of Mariupol. More than 6,000 in total had been rescued from Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had been unable to reach the city but will try again to evacuate civilians on Saturday.
The Hollywood actor Sean Penn has called for a billionaire to come forward and buy two squadrons of F-15 or F-16 aircraft for Ukraine in an unlikely attempt to tip the scales against the Russian invaders in the five-week-old war.
European governments have more time to figure out how they are going to act on Russia’s demand to pay for Russia gas in rubles after the Kremlin said today that it would not immediately halt gas supplies
Around 200 Ukrainian national guard members have likely been taken prisoner by the Russian troops as they withdrew from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the mayor of Slavutych, Yuri Fomichev, said.