Intense fighting has been reported around the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk as Russian forces appear to be stepping up an offensive to encircle its Ukrainian defenders. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk – known collectively as the Donbas – were being turned into “hell” and warned that what he called the “final stage of the war” would be the bloodiest.
Russian troops fired on a school in Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region, killing three adults, according to a Ukrainian official. More than 200 people, including children, were sheltering at the school when the attack took place this morning, the head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration, Serhiy Haidai, said.
Ukrainian soldiers have finally ended their defence of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, according to the commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko. In a video statement, Prokopenko said civilians and heavily wounded Ukrainian fighters have been evacuated from the plant.
A Ukrainian fighter who shared a series of powerful photographs while defending the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol appears to have been taken captive by Russian forces. Dmytro Kozatskyi posted a link to a Google drive containing images he had taken inside the plant, writing: “Well, that’s all. Thank you from the shelter, Azovstal is the place of my death and my life.”
G7 industrialised nations have pledged $19.8bn (£15.9bn or €18.7bn) to bolster Ukraine’s public finances as Kyiv battles Russia’s invasion. Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, told reporters that $9.5bn of the total was mobilised at meetings of the G7 finance ministers in Königswinter, Germany, this week.
Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, warned that Moscow is forming 12 new units in its western military district in response to Finland and Sweden’s Nato bid. He also said that almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers who were barricaded in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have surrendered so far. The number of combatants who have surrendered has not been independently verified.
Russia will stop gas flows to neighbouring Finland on Saturday morning, Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum said. Gasum CEO, Mika Wiljanen, described the news as “regrettable” and sought to reassure customers that there would be enough gas in the coming months.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he will speak to Finland on Saturday regarding its bid to join Nato and maintained his opposition to Finland and Sweden’s membership bids. Erdoğan told reporters he had discussed the issue with the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and that he would also be speaking to Britain tomorrow.
A Russian tank commander who pleaded guilty earlier this week to shooting dead an unarmed Ukrainian civilian has said he will accept any punishment from the court. Vadim Shysimarin, 21, told courtroom No 201 of the Kyiv tribunal that he “was nervous about what was going on” on the day 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov died and said he “didn’t want to kill”. It was the third day of the first war crimes trial resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The United States has accused Russia of holding the world’s food supply hostage amid growing fears of famine in developing countries. Dmitry Medvedev, a former president of Russia, warned that Russia would not continue food supplies unless the west eased its sanctions on the Kremlin.
Russia’s lower house of parliament has published on its website a proposal to change the law to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military. Previously only Russians aged 18-40 and foreigners aged 18-30 could enter into a first contract with the military.
US intelligence officials are reportedly sceptical that Vladimir Putin would be persuaded to end the war in Ukraine even if there was a dramatic change in Russian public opinion. Officials also doubt the war is likely to lead to the removal of the Russian president from power, at least in the short term, CNN reports.