Vladimir Putin says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was ‘inevitable’ to defend the ‘motherland’
But Ukraine staged its own propaganda coup, hosting a concert on Sunday night by U2’s frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge in Kyiv’s subway, even as US First Lady Jill Biden paid a surprise visit to her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska.
Determined to show success, Russian troops were pummelling the Azovstal steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand to save Mariupol from falling.
The mill is the only part of the city not overtaken by the invaders. Its defeat would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
The Ukraine General Staff warned on Monday morning Kyiv time of a high probability of missile strikes and said that in Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia, Russian troops were seizing “personal documents from the local population without good reason”. Ukraine’s military alleged Russian troops were seizing documents to force residents to join in Victory Day commemorations.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the anniversary, which marks Russia’s triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945, could bring a renewed onslaught.
“They have nothing to celebrate,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, said of the Russians, speaking on CNN. “They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO. And they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the globe.”
Battles were being waged on multiple fronts, but Russia was closest to victory in Mariupol.
Ukrainian fighters in the steel mill rejected Russian-set deadlines for laying down their arms as attacks continued by warplanes, artillery and tanks.
Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, a member of the Azov Regiment, said a couple hundred wounded soldiers were in the plant. He declined to say how many able-bodied fighters remained. Fighters lack lifesaving equipment and are having to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that collapsed under shelling.
“Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy,” Samoilenko said.
The last of the civilians who had taken shelter with fighters at the plant were evacuated on Saturday.
Bono and The Edge performed for 40 minutes ina Kyiv metro where people sheltered during the first weeks of the war and praised Ukrainians fighting for their freedom from Russia.
“Your president leads the world in the cause of freedom right now … The people of Ukraine are not just fighting for your own freedom, you’re fighting for all of us who love freedom,” Bono told a crowd of up to 100 gathered inside the Khreshchatyk metro station.
Bono rallied the crowd between songs during his performance, riffing on his 1984 song Pride (In the Name of Love).
“This evening, 8th of May, shots will ring out in the Ukraine sky, but you’ll be free at last. They can take your lives, but they can never take your pride,” he said.
Bono and The Edge, on acoustic guitar, performed U2’s With Or Without You and Angel of Harlem on the platform of the metro station. They were joined by Ukrainian band Antytila and its frontman Taras Topolia, in his army uniform, for the Ben King standard Stand by Me.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US first lady Jill Biden also made surprise visits to Ukraine on Sunday (Kyiv time).
Trudeau toured the northern town of Irpin, which had been heavily damaged by Russia’s attempt to take the capital of Kyiv at the start of the war.
Biden held a Mother’s Day meeting in western Ukraine with first lady Olena Zelenska. She travelled under a cloak of secrecy, becoming the latest high-profile American to enter Ukraine during its 10-week-old war against Russia.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden told Zelenska. “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Leaders from the Group of Seven developed democracies pledged on Sunday to phase out or ban the import of Russian oil as they met Zelensky for online talks.
The meeting was a show of unity for Ukraine on Victory in Europe Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s World War II surrender in 1945.
Cutting out Russian oil supplies “will hit hard at the main artery of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s economy and deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war,” the G7 countries – the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan – said in a statement.
Reuters, AP, Bloomberg
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