Efforts are still ongoing to rescue civilians trapped for weeks in a Mariupol steel plant with at least 50 more evacuated on Friday. Meanwhile the US has promised another $150 million military aid package to Ukraine.
The leaders of the G7 nations will hold a video meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, and the United Nations has unanimously adopted a statement expressing “strong support” for Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
The statement does not mention the words "war", "conflict" or "invasion."
Also, the latest UK military intelligence assessment said the conflict in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll on some of Russia’s most capable units and most advanced capabilities.
The latest intelligence assessment from the British Ministry of Defense said that the war in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll "on some of Russia’s most capable units and most advanced capabilities", and that it will take "considerable time" and expense for Russia to rebuild its armed forces after this conflict.
The MoD also said it will be "particularly challenging to replace modernized and advanced equipment due to sanctions restricting Russia’s access to critical microelectronic components."
In another news, Ukraine said on Saturday it had destroyed a Russian landing ship near Snake Island in the Black Sea, a small outcrop that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion launched in late February.
A Bayraktar TB2 combat drone, developed in Turkey, "hit a landing ship of the 11770 Serna project as well as two Tor surface-to-air missile systems," the Ukrainian navy said on Facebook
, without specifying the date.
"The traditional parade of the Russian fleet on May 9 this year will take place near Snake Island at the bottom of the sea," the Ukrainian Defense Ministry quipped on Twitter. Moscow has not confirmed the claim.
In videos published by the Ukrainian army, a ship can be seen anchored near a pier hit by an explosion and then ravaged by flames and spreading a large plume of smoke.
The 26-meter-long Serna is a Russian class of fast landing ship with a 45-ton carrying capacity.
It is armed with 7.62 mm machine guns and Igla missile launchers and was designed for the landing of combat vehicles, as well as assault units.
Earlier, the Ukrainian army claimed in early May to have bombed two Russian Raptor-class patrol boats off Snake Island, which were also hit by Bayraktar TB2 combat drones.
In mid-April, the Russian flagship Moskva sank in the Black Sea after being hit by Ukrainian missiles, according to Kiev and Washington. Moscow had claimed that it was damaged by an explosion on board.
Meanwhile, the US government has authorized the shipment of another $150 million (€142 million) in military assistance for Ukraine for artillery rounds and radar systems.
Italy will impound a mega-yacht from sailing away from a Tuscan port, after investigations indicated the luxury vessel Scheherazade has links to “prominent elements of the Russian government.’’
At least 50 civilians were evacuated from the steel plant in Mariupol, said Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk in a post on Telegram. The Ukrainian government said all civilian women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
"The president's order has been carried out: all women, children and old people have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of Mariupol's humanitarian mission is accomplished," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna said on social media on Saturday evening.
The sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant is the last pocket of resistance for Ukrainian forces in the devastated port city on the Azov Sea, and has come under repeated bombardment over the last weeks by Russian forces.
Up to a thousand civilians were thought to be trapped there, sheltering in underground bunkers, but over the last week there has been a concerted effort to try and get them out, including convoys organized by the United Nations and Red Cross.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic denounced on Saturday the "staggering" violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Russian army in Ukraine.
Her comments come at the end of a four-day visit to Kiev and its region. "The extent and gravity of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have taken place as a result of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine are staggering," Mijatovic said in a statement.
"The names of Bucha, Borodianka, Irpin or Andriivka have come to symbolize the horrible acts that have been committed here," she said.
"Unfortunately, their inhabitants are not alone in their suffering. There are many more people across Ukraine who have suffered unspeakable atrocities. Each of them deserves justice and must not be forgotten."
Mijativoc called on countries to support efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible, in coordination with Ukrainian authorities and the International Criminal Court.
Also, officials in Ukraine are warning citizens to heed air raid warnings, amid concerns that Russia might step up attacks ahead of Monday's Victory Day celebrations.
"These symbolic dates are to the Russian aggressor like red to a bull,” Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister, Yevhen Yenin, said. “While the entire civilized world remembers the victims of terrible wars on these days, the Russian Federation wants parades and is preparing to dance over bones in Mariupol.”
On Saturday morning Ukraine's Ministry of Defense cautioned, "the enemy does not stop its offensive".
"In Mariupol, the enemy continues to block Ukrainian defense units in the district of Azovstal" steel works, the ministry said, and highlighted the destruction of three road bridges by the Russians "to slow down the counter-offensive" in the Kharkov region as well.
Missile strikes have been reported in the past 24 hours in the Kharkiv region, in the city of Mykolaiv (south), in the Donetsk region. On Friday evening two rocket attacks hit Odesa, the major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea, but no casualties were reported.
The most intense fighting in recent days has befallen eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce race to capture territory not under their control.
Western military analysts said a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around the northeastern city of Kharkiv while the Russians made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.
Meanwhile, Russia held a dress rehearsal on Saturday for the military parade to commemorate Victory Day on May 9, when the country marks the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
This year’s Victory Day, which falls on Monday, won’t just honor a conflict that ended 77 years ago. Many Russians will be thinking about the thousands of troops in neighboring Ukraine.
Signs of support for the military have grown across the country since the Kremlin launched an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, with the letter “Z” appearing on billboards and signs in the streets and subways, and on television and social media.
On Saturday, an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile rolled through Red Square as part of the rehearsal in Moscow, with warplanes and helicopters flying overhead, troops marching in formation and self-propelled artillery vehicles rumbling past.
In another development, America's first lady Jill Biden praised the Romanian government and relief organizations for the range of humanitarian aid they are providing to Ukrainians who are fleeing Russia’s war against their country. She called the show of solidary “amazing" but also “just the beginning.”
Biden delivered her sober assessment on Saturday at the end of an hour-long briefing at the US Embassy in Bucharest on the massive relief effort.
She was told that Romania had “welcomed” nearly 900,000 refugees from Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor on 24 February, but most have since moved on to other countries. Women and children are the bulk of the refugees.
“It’s amazing. It’s solidarity here in Romania that you’re all working together,” Biden said. “I think this is really, unfortunately, just the beginning. Just the beginning.”
She also applauded Romanians for their generosity.
“The Romanian people are amazing, to welcome all these refugees into their homes and offer them food and clothing and shelter and give them their hearts,” she added. “I think the world knows that.”
Around 7,000 Ukrainians cross the border and arrive in Romania daily, said Pablo Zapata, the Romanian representative for the UN refugee agency.
UN and other agencies and the Romanian government are providing refugees with a range of services, including food, shelter, education, health and mental health care, and counseling, among other services.
President Joe Biden
on Friday authorized the shipment of another $150 million (€142 million) in military assistance for Ukraine for artillery rounds and radar systems in its fight against Russia’s invading forces.
Biden said the latest spending means his administration has “nearly exhausted” what Congress authorized for Ukraine in March and called on lawmakers to swiftly approve a more than $33 billion spending package that will last through the end of September.
“We are sending the weapons and equipment that Congress has authorized directly to the front lines of freedom in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. “US support, together with the contributions of our Allies and partners, has been critical in helping Ukraine win the battle of Kyiv and hinder Putin’s war aims in Ukraine.”
A US official said the latest tranche of assistance includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment and spare parts.