Russia has shifted a dozen crack units from the shattered port of Mariupol, redeploying them on the eastern battlefront, as Ukraine said it managed to bring supplies to the city’s besieged Azovstal steel works.
It comes as a Ukraine presidential adviser said Russian forces were trying to conduct operations to storm the area, which is the last stronghold of Ukrainian troops in the ruined southern city.
The adviser said Russia has resumed airstrikes on the site.
While Russia claims to have “liberated” Mariupol, the latest UK military intelligence suggests Russian troops have made no major gains in the country in the last 24 hours, with Ukrainian counter-attacks continuing to hinder their progress.
And Ukrainian authorities said the two sides are hurtling towards what could be a major fight for control of the country’s industrial heartland.
• The UK is going to reopen its embassy in Kyiv
• Moldova’s foreign ministry has summoned Moscow’s ambassador amid “deep concerns” that the country’s Russian-speaking population was being oppressed
• UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Moscow on Tuesday to discuss urgently bringing peace to Ukraine – and might visit Kyiv
• Russia’s defence ministry claims one sailor has died and 27 missing after the Moskva missile cruiser sank last week
President Putin has ordered a blockade of the Azovstal facility so tight that a “fly can’t get through” and his troops are keeping Ukrainian forces pinned there.
But Ukraine’s security chief Oleksiy Danilov said a night-time helicopter delivery brought weapons to the steel mill.
Mr Danilov said the main battles in the country are taking place in the Donbas region, the industrial heartland in the east, with Russia deploying more and more troops every day.
Russia eyes up Moldova
Heavy fighting continues to frustrate Moscow’s attempts to fully capture Mariupol and impedes their progress in the Donbas.
Overnight, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was just the beginning – and Moscow has ambitions to capture other nations.
It comes after Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu declared that the country intends to introduce new methods of warfare, with the conflict now entering its 59th day. UK military intelligence suggested this was a “tacit admission” that the war is not progressing as Vladimir Putin hoped.
On Friday, a Russian general said Moscow wants to seize all of southern and eastern Ukraine as a new phase of the invasion commences.
But despite this, British officials believe it will take time for Russia to adapt its tactics – and for now, “there is likely to be a continued reliance on bombardment as a means of trying to suppress Ukrainian opposition”.
This plan involves capturing the entire Donbas region, linking up with the Crimea peninsula, and controlling land that stretches as far as a breakaway Russian-occupied region of Moldova.
Moldova’s foreign ministry has summoned Moscow’s ambassador to express “deep concern” about these comments, which suggested the country’s Russian-speaking population was being oppressed.
“These statements are unfounded,” the foreign ministry said on its website.
“Moldova … is a neutral state and this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation.”
‘Realistic possibility’ of long war says PM
Speaking during his tour of India, Boris Johnson warned there is a “realistic possibility” that the war in Ukraine could drag on for a long period.
And while the security situation is improving in Kyiv, the prime minister accepted a Western intelligence assessment that suggests the conflict will continue for most of 2022 and end with a victory for President Putin.
‘Fighting, shelling, bombing do not stop’
The port city of Mariupol has been reduced largely to smoking rubble following weeks of bombardment.
Footage broadcast on Russian state television appeared to show the flag of pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on the city’s highest point – a TV tower.
Another video claimed to show the main building of the Azovstal steel plant in flames.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops remain holed up in the huge complex – vastly outnumbered by Russian forces – alongside 1,000 civilians.
President Putin has declared victory in the battle for Mariupol and has ordered his forces not to storm the plant. Instead, he told them to seal it off so those inside would have no choice but to surrender.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, said Russian troops were dropping several bombs on Azovstal every day, adding: “Fighting, shelling, bombing do not stop.”
Overall, more than 100,000 people are still believed to be trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat – and no humanitarian corridors were open on Friday because it was too dangerous.
An estimated 20,000 civilians there have been killed over the past two months, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has urged those who remain in Mariupol to “be patient” and “hang in there”.
Satellite imagery appears to show new mass grave
New satellite imagery from Maxar has uncovered the existence of a second cemetery in Vynohradne, east of Mariupol, that appears to have extended in recent weeks.
It includes several long trenches that are – or will likely become – new grave sites.
Local officials shared one photo of a mass grave that was 45 metres by 25 metres, and expressed fears it could hold the bodies of at least 1,000 people.
The discovery of mass graves has led to accusations that the Russians are trying to conceal the slaughter of civilians in the city.
Earlier this week, satellite photographs also appeared to show rows upon rows of freshly dug mass graves in the town of Manhush to Mariupol’s west.