Russia has taken control of the Azovstal steel plant, the country’s defence ministry said on Friday evening. Ukrainian soldiers had finally ended their defence of the site in Mariupol, according to the commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko. In a video statement, he said civilians and heavily wounded Ukrainian fighters have been evacuated from the plant. The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the Ukrainian combatants would be treated in line with international norms for prisoners of war, though several senior Russian politicians demanded this week they be put on trial and one called for their execution.
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, Luhansk, 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.
At least seven people, including a child, have been injured in a Russian missile attack on the town of Lozova in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, according to reports. The missile had targeted “the newly renovated House of Culture” in Lozova, Zelenskiy said in a statement on social media.
Zelenskiy proposed a formal deal with the country’s allies to secure Russian compensation for damage its forces have caused during the war. Zelenskiy, who says Russia is trying to destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as it can, said such a deal would show nations planning aggressive acts that they would have to pay for their actions. “We invite partner countries to sign a multilateral agreement and create a mechanism ensuring that everybody who suffered from Russian actions can receive compensation for all losses incurred,” he said in a video address on Friday.
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 Koenigswinter, Germany, this week.
Moody’s on Friday cut Ukraine’s debt rating for the second time in three months and lowered the outlook to negative due to the growing risk the Russian invasion will affect the nation’s debt sustainability. The US Congress on Thursday approved a $40bn aid package for Ukraine to help fight Russia and keep the government operating, adding to aid packages and loans from the IMF and World Bank. Zelenskiy said his government needs $7bn a month to keep its economy afloat, while Moody’s estimates Ukraine faces financing needs of around $50bn this year.
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 of inside the plant, writing: “Well, that’s all. Thank you from the shelter, Azovstal is the place of my death and my life.”
Russian gas giant Gazprom’s exporting arm, Gazprom Export, has confirmed it will suspend gas sales for Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, starting from Saturday. The 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 would speak to Finland tomorrow 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 that he “didn’t want to kill”, on the third day of the first war crimes trial resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The US 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.
Senior Russian officials have proposed a new law that would eliminate age limits for military contract soldiers, in another sign the country is facing a shortage of infantry to continue its offensive in Ukraine. Currently, Russians aged 18-40 and foreigners aged 18-30 can enter into a first contract with the army.