Ukraine-Russia war LIVE: Evil Putin ally slams invasion for 'dragging on' amid bloody battle to save Mariupol civilians

PUTIN's key ally has admitted Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "dragging on" amid a bloody final stand at Mariupol's Asovstal steel plant.

Long-time Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko attempted to defend the war in Ukraine in an interview- but indicated his frustration at Putin's strategy, which has not gone to plan.

Ruthless Lukashenko told AP Putin had no choice but to invade because Ukraine was "provoking Russia".

But he added: "I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it. I want to stress one more time: I feel like this operation has dragged on."

It comes as a Ukrainian commander said Putin VIOLATED ceasefires in Mariupol leaving Ukrainian wounded soldiers "dying in agony".

The Deputy Ukrainian commander has also accused the Russian troops of preventing evacuations of civilians from the Mariupol steelworks.

And Russian forces have reportedly practiced nuclear missile strikes and chemical attacks in chilling war games on NATO’s border.

Follow our Russia-Ukraine live blog below for up-to-the-minute updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    UK discusses sending long-range weapons to Ukraine

    According to reports Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the possibility of the UK sending long-range weapons to Ukraine.

    Downing Street have said that the pair spoke over the phone on Thursday about Ukraine's military needs and how the UK could support them.

    A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The leaders discussed developments on the battlefield and the Ukrainian armed forces' requirements, including the provision of longer-range weaponry to prevent the bombardment of civilians."

  • Louis Allwood

    Putin blasted by warlord

    CHECHEN warlord Ramzan Kadyrov has blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin for "going soft' on his targets in the Ukraine war.

    Regional leader Kadyrov – believed to be Russia’s wealthiest politician after Putin – is seen as part of a military and security bloc getting increasingly exasperated by the Kremlin leader.

    Kadyrov wants Putin to use firepower to grab and control Ukraine’s major cities – and believes the Russian military machine has been fighting with its hands tied, resulting in repeated humiliations.

    A general in the Russian national guard as well as head of oil-rich Chechnya, Kadyrov seemed unable to contain his frustration over Putin's tactics yesterday.

    In a video aimed at Moscow, the Chechen dictator said: "We need to start the second stage and enter other cities – Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, all cities, entirely, and install governance.

    “And then continue dialogue with other countries who want to have relations with us. If they want sanctions, we’ll fight against sanctions, if they want war – we’ll fight… As a warrior, I ask the leadership of the state to take this decision. The sooner the better.

    “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], we are waiting for the order. Comrade Supreme Commander, your footmen are 100% ready.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Putin practises NUCLEAR missile strikes

    VLADIMIR Putin's forces have practised nuclear missile strikes and chemical attacks in chilling war games on NATO's border.

    Moscow confirmed its troops ran simulated nuclear missile strikes in the western enclave of Kaliningrad on Wednesday amid heightening tensions over the war in Ukraine.

    The announcement came on the 70th day of Mad Vlad's blundering invasion of Ukraine which has seen thousands killed and more than 13 million displaced in the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.

    Ailing Putin has made outright threats to nuke NATO if it continues to arm Ukraine.

    During Wednesday's war games in the enclave wedged EU member states Poland and Lithuania, Russia practised simulated "electronic launches" of nuclear-capable Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems, the defence ministry said in a statement.

    They also boasted about conducting multiple strikes on mock missile systems, airfields, protected infrastructure, military equipment and command posts, the statement said.

    Military personnel are said to have carried out a manoeuvre to change their position in order to avoid "a possible retaliatory strike," the defence ministry added.

  • Louis Allwood

    Zelensky invites German leaders to Kyiv

    Volodymyr Zelensky has invited the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to meet him in Kyiv, the AFP news agency quotes the German president's office as saying.

    Zelensky made the invitation during a telephone call with Steinmeier, during which "past irritations were cleared up".

  • Louis Allwood

    'Intelligence will not stop Russia'

    The Kremlin was well aware that the US, UK and other Nato countries were constantly feeding intelligence to the Ukrainian military.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "Coupled with the flow of weapons that these countries are sending to Ukraine, these are all actions that do not contribute to the quick completion of the [Russian] operation [in Ukraine]."

    This would not stop Russia from achieving its objectives, he added.

  • Louis Allwood

    Not the first time Ukraine has launched a global fundraising campaign

    It is not the first such fundraising effort launched by the Ukrainian government.

    In mid-March, it launched an "Aid for Ukraine" website, found at donate.thedigital.gov.ua, in partnership with crypto-firms FTX and Everstake with all donations funnelled to Ukraine's central bank.

    Offering donors the chance to give in 10 cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, ether, tether and dogecoin, the campaign was an immediate hit with its official website tweeting on March 19: "Over $60M contributed, with $10M donated in a few days!"

    Kyiv has received Western military aid, but its army remains far smaller than Russia's.

    Zelensky, 44, has addressed parliaments around the world on an almost daily basis, appealing for support amid Moscow's attack.

  • Louis Allwood

    President Zelenksyy launches global crowdfunding platform

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday launched a global crowdfunding platform to help Kyiv win the war with Russia and rebuild the country's infrastructure.

    "In one click, you can donate funds to protect our defenders, to save our civilians and to rebuild Ukraine," Zelensky said in English in a video on his Twitter page, launching the United24 platform, which can be found here: u24.gov.ua

    "Every donation matters for victory."

    Nine weeks into Russia's invasion, Ukrainian cities have suffered vast destruction.

    "All funds will be transferred to the national bank of Ukraine and allocated to the relevant ministries," Zelensky said, indicating that his government would give an update "every 24 hours" about how the money was being used.

    The Ukrainian leader called on ordinary people around the world to help Kyiv defeat Moscow.

    "Only together we have the potential to stop the war and to rebuild what Russia has destroyed."

    He said Ukraine will "always remember" their contributions.

  • Louis Allwood

    UK schoolboy receives reply from Ukraine’s president

    A young British boy has been left overjoyed after he received a reply from President Zelenskyy after hidign a letter in a convoy.

    Thomas Handley, 12, was delighted to receive a reply from the President after he put a handwritten letter into a convoy of 270 parcels of medical supplies and clothing collected by Durham Trinity School heading to the war-torn country.

    Zelenskyy wrote: “Thank you for your letter of support. I am OK and thank you for your help.

    “We hope to bring peace to Ukraine and food to the citizens of all the country and rebuild the towns.

    “What you have said in our letter and what the United Kingdom does to support brings a smile to my face and to many others.”

  • Louis Allwood

    In pictures: Heavily damaged buildings in Borodyanka

    The image below shows a view of damaged buildings during debris removal works in progress in Ukraine.

    This building was damaged by Russian attacks in the Borodyanka region of the country.

    Communities north of Kyiv were square in the path of Russia's devastating but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital with forces deployed from Belarus.

  • Louis Allwood

    UK and Japan agree defence deal

    The UK and Japan have agreed a defence deal that will allow their national forces to "work more closely together", according to Boris Johnson.

    The Prime Minister, speaking in Downing Street alongside his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, said he is "so glad" the two nations have agreed a reciprocal access agreement (RAA) for armed services.

    He said allies in Europe and east Asia have to be unified in the face of "autocratic, coercive powers".

    Mr Kishida's first official visit at the invitation of the Government was marked with a guard of honour and an RAF flypast over Horse Guards Parade in central London.

    Before holding talks in No 10 on Thursday, the two leaders stood on a dais as they witnessed a Voyager and two Typhoon fighter jets soar over St James' Park and the parade ground.

    Mr Kishida was then invited in Japanese by the captain of the Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards, to inspect the troops.

    After the spectacle, Mr Johnson and Mr Kishida headed to Downing Street where the British leader announced that a military accord has been struck.

    The Prime Minister said the world has observed the "strong stance" the Japanese government has taken "against the Russian aggression in Ukraine".

    He added: "We in the UK recognise that our security in Europe is indivisible from the security, our collective security, in the Asia-Pacific, in the Indo-Pacific region.

    "And there is direct read across from the actions of autocratic, coercive powers in Europe, to what may happen in east Asia. And that's why we want to work more closely together. And today I'm so glad that we've agreed the reciprocal access agreement between our armed services."

  • Louis Allwood

    Fears escalate for WNBA star Brittney Griner 

    THE "Tom Brady of the WNBA" could be rushed through a sham Russian trial and sent to a labor camp if the US doesn't get her out soon, an expert warned.

    Brittney Griner – a megastar in women's basketball – has been "wrongfully detained" in an unknown Moscow jail since February, the Biden administration officially said on Tuesday.

    She seemingly vanished for about a month after playing in a tournament within the country's borders.

    Finally, reports surfaced in March that Russian law enforcement arrested Griner at an airport and accused her of smuggling drugs.

    The Biden administration officially condemned the arrest and said she was "wrongfully detained" in an emphatic statement.

    That means they believe the accusations are fabricated, legal expert Aron Solomon told The Sun.

  • Louis Allwood

    Chelsea slam ‘entirely false’ claims 

    ROMAN ABRAMOVICH has maintained he is NOT demanding the repayment of his £1.6billion loan to Chelsea.

    And the sanctioned Blues owner insisted he has engaged with the Government to discuss how the promised charity donation from the sale should be carried out.

    Abramovich has come out fighting, with a statement posted on the Chelsea website that dismissed those claims.

    A spokesman for the Russian said: “Firstly, Mr Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed.

    “Since the initial announcement, Mr Abramovich’s team has identified senior representatives from UN bodies and large global charitable organisations who have been tasked with forming a Foundation and setting out a plan for its activities. 

    “The lead independent expert has had conversations with Government representatives presenting the structure and initial plans.

    “Mr Abramovich has not been involved in this work and it has been managed independently by experts with years of experience working in humanitarian organisations.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Help those fleeing conflict with The Sun’s Ukraine Fund

    PICTURES of women and children fleeing the horror of Ukraine’s devastated towns and cities have moved Sun readers to tears.

    Many of you want to help the five million caught in the chaos — and now you can, by donating to The Sun’s Ukraine Fund.

    Give as little as £3 or as much as you can afford and every penny will be donated to the Red Cross on the ground helping women, children, the old, the infirm and the wounded.

    Donate here to help The Sun’s fund

    Or text to 70141 from UK mobiles

    £3 — text SUN£3
    £5 — text SUN£5
    £10 — text SUN£10

    Texts cost your chosen donation amount (e.g. £5) +1 standard message (we receive 100%). For full T&Cs visit redcross.org.uk/mobile

  • Louis Allwood

    Japan’s PM condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine

    Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday he condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it amounted to war crimes.

    Kishida was speaking in London following an extended visit to Southeast Asia.

    Japan had hoped to hold talks on Russia’s invasion and consolidate responses in Southeast Asia, where only one nation, Singapore, has joined sanctions against Russia, officials say.

  • Louis Allwood

    Japan announce Russian sanctions

    Japan's Prime Minister has said that it is freezing the assets of 140 more Russian nationals whilst on a trip to London.

    Japan's Fumio Kishida also said they would be expanding its export ban to include Russian military firms.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, Kishida said there must be consequences to Russia's violence and that its aggression was not just a problem for Europe.

    "Ukraine might be East Asia tomorrow," Kishida said when asked if there were parallels between Russian aggression in Europe and China's assertion of its dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Louis Allwood

    Putin is under "incredible pressure"

    Admiral Sir Tony Radakin argued that Putin is under "incredible pressure" to pull off a victory in the Donbas region.

    He said: “I think what we're now seeing is incredible pressure – political pressure and military pressure – for a victory.

    "And I think we've got to wait and see whether or not doing that in such a rushed manner against a Ukrainian armed forces that are fighting for their country."

    "And that should give all of us encouragement about how this is going to be a tough fight. This is going to be a hard slog.

    “You're seeing the tactical fight, where he's trying to rush to a tactical victory, and then he'll push that with his own people”.

  • Louis Allwood

    'No counterattack before June'

    An adviser to the Ukrainian president has said that the Ukrainian army will not be ready to start a major military counterattack against Russia until late June at the earliest.

    Oleksiy Arestovych has said it will take time for Ukraine to receive weapons donated by Western allies and then train up its troops to use them.

    Ukraine needs "enough to fully arm at least several brigades" Arestovych said, and "only then we can start an offensive".

    "The first weapons that can stop the enemy will arrive in big numbers in late May or early June," he added.

  • Louis Allwood

    Humiliated Putin is running out of MISSILES in desperate bid to defeat Ukraine

    The head of Britain's Armed Forces has said that a humiliated Vladimir Putin is running out of missiles trying to defeat Ukraine.

    Admiral Sir Tony Radakin claimed that the Russian president could be running low on armaments due to firing more than expected on the brave Ukrainians.

    He also claimed that Russia have now lost 25 per cent of all its forces in Ukraine and are "struggling" to get any momentum in the Donbas region.

    It comes after reports that senior figures in the Russian army and security services have become increasingly frustrated with the sickly tyrant's handling of the deadly war.

    Sir Tony believes that Putin underestimated Ukraine before he ordered the initial Russian offensive.

    He said to TalkTV: "He potentially has a problem, because the rate of expenditure and the toughness of the fight is totally different to the one that he perceived on the 24th of February. 

    “I think there are several wars going on. There's a tactical, geographical war going on in Ukraine. There's a logistics war going on, in terms of how do you maintain that rate of expenditure.

    “We're talking severe impact on their armed forces. We’ve had 25% of their forces effectively being taken out – either through people being killed, or through the damage to their battalion tactical groups.” 

  • Louis Allwood

    UK discusses sending long-range weapons to Ukraine

    According to reports Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the possibility of the UK sending long-range weapons to Ukraine.

    Downing Street have said that the pair spoke over the phone on Thursday about Ukraine's military needs and how the UK could support them.

    A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The leaders discussed developments on the battlefield and the Ukrainian armed forces' requirements, including the provision of longer-range weaponry to prevent the bombardment of civilians."

  • Louis Allwood

    Putin blasted by warlord

    CHECHEN warlord Ramzan Kadyrov has blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin for "going soft' on his targets in the Ukraine war.

    Regional leader Kadyrov – believed to be Russia’s wealthiest politician after Putin – is seen as part of a military and security bloc getting increasingly exasperated by the Kremlin leader.

    Kadyrov wants Putin to use firepower to grab and control Ukraine’s major cities – and believes the Russian military machine has been fighting with its hands tied, resulting in repeated humiliations.

    A general in the Russian national guard as well as head of oil-rich Chechnya, Kadyrov seemed unable to contain his frustration over Putin's tactics yesterday.

    In a video aimed at Moscow, the Chechen dictator said: "We need to start the second stage and enter other cities – Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, all cities, entirely, and install governance.

    “And then continue dialogue with other countries who want to have relations with us. If they want sanctions, we’ll fight against sanctions, if they want war – we’ll fight… As a warrior, I ask the leadership of the state to take this decision. The sooner the better.

    “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], we are waiting for the order. Comrade Supreme Commander, your footmen are 100% ready.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Putin practises NUCLEAR missile strikes

    VLADIMIR Putin's forces have practised nuclear missile strikes and chemical attacks in chilling war games on NATO's border.

    Moscow confirmed its troops ran simulated nuclear missile strikes in the western enclave of Kaliningrad on Wednesday amid heightening tensions over the war in Ukraine.

    The announcement came on the 70th day of Mad Vlad's blundering invasion of Ukraine which has seen thousands killed and more than 13 million displaced in the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.

    Ailing Putin has made outright threats to nuke NATO if it continues to arm Ukraine.

    During Wednesday's war games in the enclave wedged EU member states Poland and Lithuania, Russia practised simulated "electronic launches" of nuclear-capable Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems, the defence ministry said in a statement.

    They also boasted about conducting multiple strikes on mock missile systems, airfields, protected infrastructure, military equipment and command posts, the statement said.

    Military personnel are said to have carried out a manoeuvre to change their position in order to avoid "a possible retaliatory strike," the defence ministry added.

  • Louis Allwood

    Zelensky invites German leaders to Kyiv

    Volodymyr Zelensky has invited the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to meet him in Kyiv, the AFP news agency quotes the German president's office as saying.

    Zelensky made the invitation during a telephone call with Steinmeier, during which "past irritations were cleared up".

  • Louis Allwood

    'Intelligence will not stop stop Russia'

    The Kremlin was well aware that the US, UK and other Nato countries were constantly feeding intelligence to the Ukrainian military.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "Coupled with the flow of weapons that these countries are sending to Ukraine, these are all actions that do not contribute to the quick completion of the [Russian] operation [in Ukraine]."

    This would not stop Russia from achieving its objectives, he added.

  • Louis Allwood

    Fears escalate for WNBA star Brittney Griner 

    THE "Tom Brady of the WNBA" could be rushed through a sham Russian trial and sent to a labor camp if the US doesn't get her out soon, an expert warned.

    Brittney Griner – a megastar in women's basketball – has been "wrongfully detained" in an unknown Moscow jail since February, the Biden administration officially said on Tuesday.

    She seemingly vanished for about a month after playing in a tournament within the country's borders.

    Finally, reports surfaced in March that Russian law enforcement arrested Griner at an airport and accused her of smuggling drugs.

    The Biden administration officially condemned the arrest and said she was "wrongfully detained" in an emphatic statement.

    That means they believe the accusations are fabricated, legal expert Aron Solomon told The Sun.

  • Louis Allwood

    Russian forces preventing evacuation

    A Deputy Ukrainian commander has accused Russian troops of preventing evacuations of civilians.

    In a video posted on Telegram, Capt Sviatoslav Palamar said: "It's day three since the enemy entered the Azovstal factory, where heavy, bloody fighting continues".

    "Yet again, the Russians have broken their promises of a ceasefire and did not allow the evacuation of civilians who continue to shelter from the shelling in the factory's basements.

    "Our enemy observes no ethical norms, conventions or laws".

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