Five developments as Russia loses 65 per cent of ground combat strength

Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Good morning. More than a quarter of the 120 battalion units Russia committed to Ukraine have now been rendered “combat ineffective”, said the Ministry of Defense.

The losses represent approximately 65 per cent of Russia’s entire ground combat strength and include elite units.

“Some of Russia’s most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces.”

Meanwhile, the first evacuees evacuated from the ruined Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol were due to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday morning, said President Volodymyr Zelensky, after the UN confirmed a “safe passage operation” was in progress.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said hundreds of civilians remain trapped in the steelworks in a situation that has “become a sign of a real humanitarian catastrophe”, as food, water and medicine becomes scarce.

Here’s what happened overnight.

1. Pelosi and other US lawmakers visit Kyiv with “Weapons, weapons and weapons.” in mind

Nancy Pelosi visited Kyiv on Saturday as the most senior American lawmaker to travel to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

Accompanying her was Rep. Jason Crow, a US Army veteran and a member of the House intelligence and armed services committee, who said he was there with three things in mind: “Weapons, weapons and weapons.”

Ms Pelosi visit came just days after Russia launched rockets at the capital during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

RZESZOW, POLAND - MAY 01: Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference next to US members of congress after a visit to Kyiv in Rzeszow, Poland on May 01, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) - Anadolu Agency

RZESZOW, POLAND – MAY 01: Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference next to US members of congress after a visit to Kyiv in Rzeszow, Poland on May 01, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) – Anadolu Agency

2. Russian forces fire on Azovstal steel plant, CNN reports

Russian forces fired on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol again on Sunday night, breaking a ceasefire that has allowed around 100 people to be evacuated.

Speaking on local television, a Ukrainian soldier said the Russians were using “all kinds of weapons” to attack the steel plant, CNN reported.

The alleged attack followed the much-anticipated rescue of civilians from the besieged steelworks, where the last pocket of resistance remains in the city.

About 100 civilians were evacuated to safety on Sunday with further evacuations planned for Monday.

It is unclear whether the renewed attacks will hinder these plans, said CNN.

3. Russia strikes US weapons at airfield near Odesa, defense ministry says

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday it had struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries and destroyed a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odesa.

The ministry said it used high-precision Onyx missiles to strike the airfield, after Ukraine accused Russia of knocking out a newly-constructed runway at the main airport of Odesa.

Odesa regional governor Maksym Marchenko said Russia had used a Bastion missile, launched from Crimea.

The reports could not be independently verified.

4. Jill Biden to meet with Ukrainian refugees during visit to Romania and Slovakia

First lady Jill Biden will visit Romania and Slovakia from May 5-9 to meet with US service members and embassy personnel, displaced Ukrainian parents and children, humanitarian aid workers, and teachers, her office said on Monday

On Sunday, celebrated as Mother’s Day in the United States, Biden will meet with Ukrainian mothers and children who have been forced to flee their homes because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, her office said.

The wife of President Joe Biden will meet with US military service members at Mihail Kogalniceau Airbase in Romania on May 6, before heading to Bucharest to meet with Romanian government officials, US embassy staff, humanitarian aid workers, and teachers working with displaced Ukrainian children.

The trip also includes stops in the Slovakian cities of Bratislava, Kosice and Vysne Nemecke, where Biden will meet with government officials, refugees and aid workers, her office said.

First lady Jill Biden attends the annual White House Correspondents'  Association dinner, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) - Patrick Semansky /AP

First lady Jill Biden attends the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) – Patrick Semansky /AP

5. Russia swerves to avoid default

Russia may have averted default as it announced it had made several overdue payments in dollars on its overseas bonds, shifting the market’s focus to upcoming payments and whether it would stave off a historic default.

Russia’s $40 billion in international bonds and the chance of a default have become the focus of global financial markets since it was hit with sanctions from the United States and its allies after its invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Dubbed a “special military operation” by Russia, the invasion has turned Russia into a pariah, including in financial markets, and has entangled its ability to pay its debts.

The chance of default increased in early April when the United States stopped the Russian government from using frozen reserves to pay some $650 million to its bondholders.

Russian ruble banknotes - REUTERS/Kacper Pempel//File Photo

Russian ruble banknotes – REUTERS/Kacper Pempel//File Photo

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