Ukraine will attempt to evacuate people Saturday from the besieged port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram that authorities will try to get women, children and the elderly out of the city where Russian troops have thwarted previous evacuation efforts. It is unlikely that humanitarian corridors for the public will be open Saturday, authorities say. Officials estimate there are as many as 100,000 people remaining in Mariupol.
Meanwhile, France and Germany have previously armed Russia with nearly $300 million worth of military equipment that is “likely being used in Ukraine,” according to an exclusive report, based on European Commission data, in The Telegraph, a British newspaper.
The hardware was sent, the newspaper reports, despite a European Union-wide embargo on arms to Russia that was imposed following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Germany has defended the sales, saying the items were “dual-use” equipment and that Russia had said they were needed for civilian, not military use.
The newspaper said the equipment sent to Russia included “bombs, rockets, missiles and guns.” French firms also sent “thermal imaging cameras for more than 1,000 Russian tanks as well as navigation systems for fighter jets and attack helicopters,” The Telegraph reported.
At least 10 EU member states have sent almost $380 million worth of military equipment to Russia, The Telegraph reported, with 78% of that total coming from French and German companies.
Other European countries that sold arms to Russia include Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Italy, according to The Telegraph.
Cristian Terhes, a Romanian member of the European parliament shared with The Telegraph the EU analysis of the probe into what countries have sold military goods to Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday seized on remarks by a Russian general as evidence that Moscow would invade other countries if it succeeded in Ukraine. The general had said Russia aimed to capture all of southern and eastern Ukraine and link it to a breakaway province in neighboring Moldova.
“This only confirms what I have already said multiple times: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was intended only as a beginning,” Zelenskyy said in his evening address Friday.
He said comments earlier Friday by Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, show that Russia will not stop with Ukraine.
Russian state news agencies quoted Minnekayev as saying that Moscow wanted to seize Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region, provide a land corridor to link with the Crimean Peninsula, and capture the country’s entire south as far west as a Russian-occupied breakaway region of Moldova. That would mean carrying the offensive hundreds of kilometers past the current lines and to the border with Moldova.
Moldova summoned Russia’s ambassador Friday to express “deep concern” over the general’s comments.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter declined to comment on the Russian general’s statement but said Washington firmly supported Moldova’s sovereignty.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the comments by the Russian general showed that Russia’s previous claims that it had no territorial ambitions were not true.
“They stopped hiding it,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter, adding that Russia has “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said Russia had no intention of permanently occupying Ukrainian cities. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a move that was widely condemned by the international community.
Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged Friday for the first time that the crew of the missile cruiser Moskva suffered casualties when the ship sank last week.
It said one serviceman died and 27 were missing.
Ukraine and the United States said the ship was hit by Ukrainian cruise missiles, while Russia blamed the sinking on a fire.
Immediately following the incident, Russia said the entire crew of the ship had been rescued. Moscow said Friday that 396 crew members had been rescued.
The Pentagon said Friday that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will hold a meeting April 26 in Germany with defense officials and military leaders from more than 20 countries to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that about 40 nations were invited to the meeting and responses were still arriving.
He said the talks, which include both NATO and non-NATO countries, will be held Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base.
Zelenskyy said Friday that allies were finally delivering the weapons that Ukraine had sought to defend itself.
Canada announced Friday it had provided heavy artillery to Ukraine, following a pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In diplomatic activity Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Washington. The State Department said Blinken “reinforced our determination to help Ukraine successfully defend itself against Russia’s brutal and unjustified war of aggression.”
The U.N. announced Friday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Putin in Moscow on Tuesday. He’ll also hold meetings and have a working lunch with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Guterres will then travel on Thursday to Ukraine, where he will meet with Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The U.N. said he would also meet with staff of U.N. agencies to discuss the scaling up of humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians.
The U.N. chief wrote to Putin and Zelenskyy earlier in the week requesting meetings to discuss the next steps toward peace in Ukraine.
Guterres also appealed this week for a four-day humanitarian pause to coincide with Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated this Sunday in Ukraine and Russia. So far, those efforts have failed.
At a Friday press conference in Moscow, Lavrov said talks to end the fighting in Ukraine are at a standstill because Kyiv has not responded to Moscow’s latest set of proposals.
“Another proposal we passed on to Ukrainian negotiators about five days ago, which was drawn up with their comments taken into account; it remains without a response,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
However, Russia’s lead negotiator at the talks with Ukraine, Putin aide Vladimir Medinsky, confirmed that he had engaged in several lengthy conversations with the head of the Ukrainian delegation on Friday, The Associated Press reported.
Alleged war crimes
In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said Friday there was growing evidence that Russia had committed war crimes in Ukraine.
“Russian armed forces have indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, actions that may amount to war crimes,” said Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The U.N. said it appeared that Ukraine had also used weapons with indiscriminate effects.
VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.