Zelensky calls for evacuation of Ukraine’s Donetsk region

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Saturday for the evacuation of the eastern Donetsk region, which has been the scene of fierce clashes between his country’s forces and the Russian military. Earlier, Russian gas giant Gazprom announced that it had suspended gas deliveries to Latvia due to what it said were “violations of the conditions” of purchase. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our live blog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

10:01pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky calls for evacuation of Donetsk region 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Saturday for the evacuation of the eastern Donetsk region, which has been the scene of fierce clashes between his country’s forces and the Russian military.

“There’s already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk region,” he said in his daily address. “Please, follow evacuation. At this phase of the war, terror is a main weapon of Russia.”

9:29pm: Kyiv asks the Red Cross and UN to visit its trapped soldiers

Ukraine said it had asked the Red Cross and United Nations to visit its soldiers trapped by Russian forces, some 50 of whom died when the Olenivka prison in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine was bombed on Friday.

Ukrainian human rights officer Dmytro Lubinetsk told state television that he had asked the two institutions, which had overseen the negotiated surrender of defenders of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol with the Russians in May, to go to Olenivka. According to him, the Red Cross has made a request but has so far not received permission from the Russians. 

4:18pm: Lebanese prosecutor orders seizure of ship Kyiv says is carrying ‘illegal’ Ukrainian grain

A Lebanese prosecutor ordered the seizure Saturday of a Syrian-flagged ship that docked at a northern port with a cargo of Ukrainian grain Kyiv’s embassy in Beirut said was “illegal”.

Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat instructed police to investigate the Laodicea, which docked in Tripoli earlier this week, a judicial official said.

Oueidat “ordered the seizure of the ship until the investigation is completed”, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Lebanese police were also instructed to consult Ukraine’s embassy after it claimed that the grain aboard the Syrian-flagged ship was loaded from a region occupied by Russian forces.

Ukrainian ambassador Ihor Ostash told Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Thursday that “illegal barley from occupied Ukrainian territory” was on board the ship.

According to the Lebanese foreign ministry, the “Syrian-flagged ship is carrying barley and flour”.

4:09pm: Ukraine slams Russian call to ‘hang’ Azov fighters

Ukrainian officials on Saturday denounced a call by Russia‘s embassy in Britain for fighters from the Azov regiment to face a “humiliating” execution.

The Russian embassy’s tweet came as Moscow and Kyiv traded blame over a strike on a jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Russia-controlled territory in Ukraine that had killed around 50 people, reportedly including members of the Azov regiment. 

“Azov militants deserve execution, but death not by firing squad but by hanging, because they’re not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death,” Moscow’s diplomatic mission posted in a tweet overnight.

3:37pm: Latvia says Russia’s gas cutoff won’t have a big impact 

Latvia does not expect Gazprom’s decision to halt gas exports to the Baltic country to have any major impact, the deputy state secretary on energy policy at the Latvian ministry of economics, Edijs Saicans, said on Saturday.

Gazprom earlier said it had stopped supplying neighbouring Latvia with gas, accusing it of violating conditions for gas withdrawal.

11:40am: Fresh Russian strikes hit Ukrainian cities across front line

Fresh Russian strikes hit towns and cities across Ukraine‘s sprawling front line, killing at least one person in the south and hitting a school in Kharkiv, officials said Saturday.

The mayor of the southern city of Mykolaiv – close to where Ukrainian troops are seeking to stage a counteroffensive – said one person was killed when rockets pounded two residential districts overnight.

Six others were wounded in the strikes, which left “windows and doors broken, and balconies destroyed”, Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych wrote on Telegram.

11:27am: Russia ‘running out of steam’ in Ukraine, UK’s MI6 chief says

Russia is “running out of steam” in its assault on Ukraine, the chief of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency, Richard Moore, said in a brief comment on social media on Saturday.

Moore made the remark “Running out of steam…” above an earlier post on Twitter by Britain’s defence ministry, which described the Russian government as “growing desperate” and as having lost thousands of soldiers in its invasion of Ukraine.

9:28am: Gazprom says suspending gas supplies to Latvia

Russian energy giant Gazprom said Saturday it had suspended gas supplies to Latvia following tensions between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Ukraine and sweeping European and US sanctions against Russia.

“Today, Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia … due to violations of the conditions” of purchase, the company said on Telegram.

Gazprom drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity.

7:49am: ‘Green light from Russia’ awaited for Ukraine grain exports

Kyiv is ready to export grain and is awaiting the signal to proceed with the first shipment. But “we don’t know exactly” when this might be able to happen, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from Odesa.

“There was talk of it happening yesterday; the United Nations expressed hope that it would be possible already yesterday to have the first of these ships leaving port; that did not happen.”

“The Ukrainian side have said they are waiting for the green light from the United Nations and Turkey – who are really just the intermediaries in this discussion. I think it’s a green light from Russia that everybody is waiting for.”


7:36am: Russia looking to hold referendums in newly occupied areas of southern Ukraine

Russia-installed authorities in newly occupied territories in southern Ukraine are under pressure and possibly preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia later this year, the British military said on Saturday.

“Local authorities are likely coercing the population into disclosing personal details in order to compose voting registers,” the ministry of defence said in an intelligence update on Twitter.

Russia classifies these occupied areas as being under interim “civil-military administration”.

Ukraine has probably repelled small-scale Russian assaults from the long-established front line near Donetsk in the eastern region of Donbas, the intelligence update also said, while in the Kherson area, Russia likely has established two pontoon bridges and a ferry system to compensate for nearby bridges damaged in recent strikes.

5:35am: Russia intends to dissolve Ukraine from world map, says US envoy to UN

The US ambassador to the United Nations said Friday there should no longer be any doubt that Russia intends to dismantle Ukraine “and dissolve it from the world map entirely”.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council that the United States is seeing growing signs that Russia is laying the groundwork to attempt to annex all of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, including by installing “illegitimate proxy officials in Russian-held areas, with the goal of holding sham referenda or decree[s] to join Russia”.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “has even stated that this is Russia’s war aim”, Thomas-Greenfield said.

Lavrov told an Arab summit in Cairo on Sunday that Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime”.

12:35am: Ukraine’s Zelensky calls prison strike ‘deliberate Russian war crime’

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday the shelling of a prison in the Moscow-backed separatist controlled east holding Ukrainian servicemen was a “deliberate Russian war crime” that had claimed more than 50 lives.

“Today I received information about the attack by the occupiers on Olenivka (the prison’s location), in the Donetsk region. It is a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war. More than 50 dead,” he said in his daily address.

Russia and Moscow-backed separatists had earlier on Friday accused Kyiv’s forces of striking the jail, saying dozens of people died and scores were wounded. Ukraine denied targeting civilian infrastructure or prisoners of war.

Russian television showed what appeared to be destroyed barracks and tangled metal beds. It also showed blurred images of what looked like human bodies.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)