Live: First foreign cargo ship leaves Russian-occupied port of Mariupol – FRANCE 24 English

Ukrainian forces are facing “massive” and relentless artillery attacks in the strategic eastern city of Lysychansk, Kyiv warned on Wednesday, as Russian troops gained ground throughout the Donbas region. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times Paris time (GMT+2).


2:37pm: Moscow accuses Berlin of ‘Russophobic hysteria’

Russia on Wednesday issued a statement accusing Germany of anti-Russian sentiment.

“Russophobic hysteria is systematically fuelled by almost daily public attacks against our country by members of the German government,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

The statement, in which Moscow also said Berlin has “been undermining the process of historical reconciliation between Russians and Germans”, comes on the anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany’s troops in 1941.

1:45pm: Turkish cargo ship leaves Ukraine’s Mariupol

A Turkish cargo ship has left Ukraine’s Russian-occupied port of Mariupol after a round of “constructive” grain talks with Moscow, Turkey’s defence ministry said Wednesday, without specifying if it was carrying wheat.

“Just a few hours after the end of the long meeting, the Turkish dry cargo ship, which had been waiting for days, left the Ukrainian port.”

The statement added that the Azov Concord became the first foreign ship to leave the port in Mariupol – a city devastated by a weeks-long siege Ukrainian officials estimate claimed 20,000 lives – since Russia’s invasion in February.

11:55am: Drone strike suspected in Russian oil refinery fire

A drone strike may have caused a fire that broke out at the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Russia‘s southern Rostov region that borders Ukraine, the region’s governor has said.

“According to one version, the fire was caused by a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) attack on technical installations of the plant,” Vasily Golubev said on Telegram, adding that drone fragments were found at the site. He did not specify where the drones may have originated.

The fire has been put out and all plant personnel have been evacuated with no casualties, Golubev added. 

Moscow has repeatedly accused Kyiv of launching attacks near the joint border since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fire at the refinery comes days after Moscow accused Ukraine of firing at Black Sea drilling rigs off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea. 

11:35am: Fifteen killed as Russia rains rockets on Kharkiv

Two days of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s second largest city and surrounding areas have killed at least 15 people, Ukrainian officials have said.

Kyiv described the rocket attacks as a bid to force it to pull resources from the main battlefield to protect civilians.

The Russian strikes on Kharkiv, throughout Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday morning, were the worst for weeks in the area where normal life had been returning since Ukraine pushed Russian forces back in a major counteroffensive last month.

“It was shelling by Russian troops. It was probably multiple rocket launchers. And it’s the missile impact, it’s all the missile impact,” Kharkiv prosecutor Mikhailo Martosh told Reuters.

10:05am: Luhansk governor calls Severodonetsk battle ‘hell’

Russian forces are using all their firepower in the battle for Severodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai has said, describing the situation in Ukraine’s eastern industrial city as “hell”.

“For four months all our positions have been under fire from everything – and I just want to emphasise this – from all the weapons that the Russian army has,” Gaidai said in a statement on social media.

“It’s just hell out there,” he added, referring to Severodonetsk, which has been heavily shelled for weeks by Russian forces. “Our boys are holding their positions and will continue to hold on as long as necessary,” he said.

Gaidai said Russian forces were “trying to encircle” the nearby city of Lysychansk, separated from Severodonetsk by the river Donets, but that Ukrainian forces were still in control.

8:55am: Ukrainian journalist and soldier were ‘coldly executed’, Reporters Without Borders says

A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier who was accompanying him when they were killed in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion were “coldly executed” as they were searching Russian-occupied woodlands for the photographer’s missing image-taking drone, Reporters Without Borders has said, citing its findings from an investigation into their deaths.

The press freedom group said it went back to the spot where the bodies of Maks Levin and serviceman Oleksiy Chernyshov were found on April 1 in woods north of the capital, Kyiv. The group said it counted 14 bullet holes in the burned hulk of their car still at the scene.

The group said disused Russian positions, one of them still booby-trapped, were found close by. Also found were the remains of food rations, cigarette packets and other litter seemingly left by Russian soldiers. Some of Levin and Chernyshov’s belongings, including the soldier’s ID papers and parts of his bulletproof vest and the photographer’s helmet, were also recovered, Reporters Without Borders said.

A Ukrainian team with metal detectors also uncovered a bullet buried in the soil where Levin’s body had lain, it said. The group said that finding suggests “he was probably killed with one, perhaps two bullets fired at close range when he was already on the ground”.

6:50am: Russian forces pound strategic Donbas city

Ukrainian forces defending Lysychansk are facing “massive” artillery attacks in the battleground eastern city, Kyiv has warned, as Russian troops continue their advance throughout the Donbas region.

Moscow’s troops have been pummelling eastern Ukraine for weeks and are slowly advancing, despite fierce resistance from the outgunned Ukrainian military. 

With President Vladimir Putin’s forces tightening their grip on nearby Severodonetsk in the Donbas, its twin city of Lysychansk is now coming under heavier bombardment.

“The Russian army is massively shelling Lysychansk,” Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, which includes both cities, wrote on Telegram. “They are just destroying everything there … They destroyed buildings and unfortunately there are casualties.”

3:20am: The Chechens fighting on Ukraine’s side

Although militia under Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov are operating in Ukraine in support of the Russian invasion, hundreds of other Chechens have joined the fight on the side of Ukraine, risking not only their lives but the prospect of torture and imprisonment if they are captured, according to the fighters. FRANCE 24’s Sam Ball has the story.

Mansur, a Chechen commandant fighting in Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
Mansur, a Chechen commandant fighting in Ukraine against the Russian invasion. © AFP

2:05am: Zelensky says Luhansk region is the ‘toughest spot’

Ukrainian and Russian forces remained entrenched in eastern Ukrainian battlegrounds going into Wednesday, a day of commemoration in both countries to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Fighting in the months-long war has favoured Russia in recent weeks because of its huge edge in artillery firepower, a fact Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged in a late Tuesday night address.

“Thanks to tactical manoeuvres the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defences in the Luhansk region,” he said. “That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk.”

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)