Russia accuses Israel of backing ‘Neo-Nazis’ in row over Ukraine

  • Russia accuses Israel of supporting “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine as a row over Moscow’s claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins escalates.
  • Washington says Moscow plans to annex separatist republics in eastern Ukraine by mid-May.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce a new military support package for Kyiv worth nearly $400m.
  • Mariupol mayor says more than 200 civilians remain trapped in the besieged city’s steelworks.
  • Pope Francis says Russian President Vladimir Putin is yet to respond to his request for a meeting.

Here are all the latest updates:

Macron to speak with Putin by phone

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold talks with Putin by phone at around midday Paris time (10:00 GMT) on Tuesday, his office has said.

Macron last spoke to Russia’s president on March 29.

WHO to hold urgent meeting on impact of invasion on healthcare

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that its European branch will hold a special meeting next week on the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on health and healthcare.

“There will be a meeting on 10 May on the impact of war on Ukraine health system,” Tarik Jasarevic told reporters at the global health body’s headquarters in Geneva.

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Russia accuses Israel of supporting ‘neo-Nazis’ in row over Ukraine

Moscow has accused Israel of supporting “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine, further escalating a row which first erupted when foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made a baseless claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.

Israel lambasted Lavrov on Monday, with foreign minister Yair Lapid saying his claim – made when talking about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish – was an “unforgivable” falsehood that debased the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.

In response, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Lapid’s comments were “anti-historical” and suggested they largely explain “why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv”.

The ministry also reiterated Lavrov’s point that Zelenskyy’s Jewish origins did not preclude Ukraine from being run by neo-Nazis.

Israel has expressed support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February. But wary of damaging relations with Russia, a powerbroker in neighbouring Syria, it initially avoided direct criticism of Moscow and has not enforced formal sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

However, ties have grown more strained in recent weeks, with Lapid last month accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Lavrov made the Hitler assertion on Italian television on Sunday when he was asked why Russia said it needed to “denazify” Ukraine if Zelenskyy was himself Jewish [File: Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via AP]

Russia says it hit logistics centre near Odesa

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have struck a logistics centre located at a military airfield near Ukraine’s southwestern city of Odesa with high-precision missiles.

The ministry said the facility housed weaponry provided to Kyiv by its Western allies.

“Hangars containing unmanned Bayraktar TB2 drones, as well as missile weapons and ammunition from the US and European countries, were destroyed,” it said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Kyiv on the claims, while Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

Slovakia to seek exemption from any EU embargo on Russian oil

Slovakia will seek an exemption from any European Union embargo on Russian oil agreed by the bloc as part of a next set of possible sanctions against Moscow, the country’s economy ministry says.

“If it comes to an approved embargo of Russian oil as part of a further package of sanctions against Russia, then Slovakia will request an exemption,” the ministry said.

Russian forces pressing on Rubizhne and Popasna, Ukraine’s military says

Russian forces are trying to take over the key towns of Rubizhne and Popasna in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region as they continue their offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s military has said.

The Russians are seeking to press towards Lyman and Slovyansk in the north of the Donetsk region, which neighbours Luhansk, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook on Tuesday. The eastern wing of Ukraine’s armed forces is concentrated in Slovyansk.

The Russians are also trying to advance in the Izyum district of the northeastern Kharkiv region, Ukraine’s military said, but bad roads and wet soil are preventing them from making progress.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

More than 200 civilians still in Mariupol steel plant: Mayor

More than 200 civilians are still holed up with fighters in a huge steel plant in Ukraine’s southeastern city of Mariupol, according to its mayor.

Vadym Boychenko said that a total of about 100,000 civilians are still in the port city, which has been occupied by Russian forces.

Italy aims for independence from Russian gas by mid-2024: Minister

Italy aims to cut off its dependence on Russian gas by the second half of 2024, Italy’s ecological transition minister has said.

“We should be autonomous by the second half of 2024, we could do without importing Russian gas,” Roberto Cingolani said in an interview with daily La Repubblica.

Pope asked for meeting with Putin

Pope Francis says he asked for a meeting in Moscow with Putin to try to stop the war in Ukraine but has not received a response.

Francis, who made an unprecedented visit to the Russian embassy when the war started, told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that about three weeks into the conflict, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a message to Russia’s leader.

The pope said the message made clear he was willing to go to Moscow.

“Certainly, it was necessary for the Kremlin leader to allow an opening. We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting,” Francis added.

“I fear that Putin cannot, and does not, want to have this meeting at this time. But how can you not stop so much brutality?”

Pope Francis reaches his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square to recite the Regina Coeli prayer at the Vatican, Sunday, May 1, 2022
Pope Francis at a window overlooking St Peter’s Square to recite the Regina Coeli at the Vatican, May 1 [Gregorio Borgia/AP]

Shelling kills three in Donetsk: Officials

At least three civilians were killed in the Russian shelling of the city of Vuhledar in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, according to Zelenskyy’s office.

Some other areas of Donetsk were under constant fire and regional authorities were trying to evacuate civilians from front-line areas, Reuters quoted the office as saying.

Russia unable to translate military ‘numerical strength into decisive advantage’: UK

Russia has not been able to take advantage, in Ukraine, of its more than decade-long military modernisation programme, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said Russia’s defence budget roughly doubled between 2005 and 2018, adding that “failures both in strategic planning and operational execution have left” Russia “unable to translate numerical strength into decisive advantage”.

Russia’s military is significantly weaker as a result of its war in Ukraine and “this will have a lasting impact on Russia’s ability to deploy conventional military force,” the ministry said.

Ukraine says 220 children killed amid war

At least 220 children have been killed amid the war in Ukraine and 406 others wounded, according to the office of the country’s prosecutor general.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Russian forces pause before assaults on Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia: Think-tank

There were no confirmed Russian ground attacks on Monday, with its forces instead shelling Ukrainian positions on the front lines, the Institute for the Study of War says.

It added that the Ukrainian artillery attack on Russian command headquarters near Izium on April 30 likely disrupted Russian operations on the Izium axis and may hinder Russian offensives from there for the next few days.

But the Institute said that Russian forces on the southern axis continued to regroup, likely in preparation for ground assaults in the direction of Kryvyi Rih, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhia.

Russia’s Bolshoi cancels shows by directors who spoke out over Ukraine

Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre has cancelled shows this week by directors who spoke out against the war in Ukraine, the Guardian reported.

The theatre dropped Timofey Kulyabin’s production of the opera Don Pasquale and Kirill Serebrennikov’s ballet Nureyev, which will be replaced by productions of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus.

Serebrennikov, who left Russia in March, told France 24 in an interview last month that “It’s quite obvious that Russia started the war,” and it was breaking his heart.

Kulyabin, who has also left Russia, expressed solidarity with Ukraine on Instagram and ridiculed Russia’s description of its actions there, the Guardian wrote.

Air raid sirens activated in Ukraine’s south and east

Air raid sirens have been activated across the south and east of Ukraine over the past hour, including in Kramatorsk district and the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Poltava.

Several residents of the Mykolaiv region reported explosions on social media. Al Jazeera could not independently verify these reports.

EU to pass new Russia sanctions: Borrell

The European Union hopes to pass the sixth round of sanctions against Russia at the next meeting of its Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the bloc’s chief diplomat has said.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, is expected to propose the sanctions package this week, including a potential embargo on buying Russian oil.

Josep Borrell, who chairs FAC meetings, told journalists in Panama city he hopes the EU will be able to take “measures to significantly limit these imports” but conceded so far there is no agreement from all members.

“But I am confident that, at least with regard to oil imports, this agreement will be possible between now and the next council meeting,” he added. The FAC has meetings scheduled for May 10 and May 16.

Nearly 2,000 children taken to Russia from Ukraine, Moscow says

More than 11,500 people, including 1,847 children, have been moved from Ukraine into Russia on Monday without Kyiv’s participation, Russia’s defence ministry said, adding that the tally is now nearly 200,000 children and 1.1 million people evacuated into Russia since February 24.

That number includes evacuations from Russian-backed breakaway regions of Ukraine, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, which Russia recognised as independent just before launching its invasion.

Russia says the people were evacuated at their own request, while Ukraine said Moscow has forcefully deported thousands to Russia since the war began.

Yehor, 7, stands holding a wooden toy rifle next to destroyed Russian military vehicles near Chernihiv.
Yehor, 7, stands holding a wooden toy rifle next to destroyed Russian military vehicles near Chernihiv, April 17, [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

Russia must be held accountable for sex crimes: Ukraine official

Ukraine’s ambassador-designate to Canada says Russia must be held accountable for its troops committing sex crimes, including against children.

Yulia Kovaliv told a Canadian House of Commons committee that Russia is using sexual violence as a weapon of war and said rape and sexual assault must be investigated as war crimes.

She said Russia had kidnapped Ukrainian children and taken them to Russian-occupied territories and now Russia itself. Ukraine is working with partners to find the children and bring them back.

“Russians, a few days ago, killed a young mother and taped her living child to her body and attached a mine between them,″ the ambassador said. She said the mine detonated.

Ukraine finds 1,202 bodies in Kyiv region

Ukraine says its law enforcement officers have found 1,202 bodies of Ukrainian citizens killed by Russian forces in the Kyiv region, Ukrinform reports.

“Unfortunately, we have horrible finds and record the crimes committed by the Russian army in Kyiv region almost every day. So far, 1,202 bodies of killed civilians have been … handed to forensic institutions to determine the final cause of death.

“Of them, 280 people are currently unidentified,” Kyiv region police chief Andriy Nebytov said during the nationwide telethon.

Pelosi signs US lend-lease bill

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has returned to Washington, after a surprise trip to Ukraine, to sign legislation which would streamline sending aid to Kyiv.

US President Joe Biden’s legislation passed last week by Congress would update a World War II-era military lend-lease law and bypass red tape in the process of sending aid to Ukraine. Biden is expected to sign it into law.

Russia kicked out of more football championships

The Union of European Football Associations has kicked Russian football teams out of the Women’s European Championship, the next men’s Champions League and the qualifiers for the 2023 women’s World Cup.

The latest round of sporting sanctions on Monday followed UEFA and FIFA suspending Russian national and club teams in February from playing in international competitions, including the men’s World Cup playoffs.

Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden will ban from their national ice hockey teams any players who appear in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League next season. Both ice hockey federations announced their decisions on Monday, two days after the Russian league’s season ended.

More than 3,000 dead in Ukraine, UN confirms

The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) has confirmed that the death toll of civilians killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 has exceeded 3,000 people.

The toll of 3,153 killed so far represents an increase of 254 from Friday, OHCHR said on Monday. It added the real toll is likely considerably higher due to access difficulties and continuing corroboration efforts.

Most of the victims were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, such as missile and air attacks, the rights office said, without attributing responsibility.

Russia plans to annex eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics by mid-may: US official

A senior official says the United States believes Russia is planning this month to annex large portions of eastern Ukraine and recognise the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told reporters in Washington that the suspected actions are “straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook” and will not be recognised by the White House or its partners and allies.

Carpenter said the US and others have information that Russia is planning “sham referenda” in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” that would attach the entities to Russia. He also said there were signs that Russia would engineer an independence vote in the city of Kherson.

Carpenter did not detail the information that led to the assessment, although there have been public reports that Russia is moving to exert greater control over areas that it already controls and occupies in eastern and southern Ukraine. He pointed to evidence that local mayors and legislators there have been abducted, that internet and cell phone service had been severed and that Russian school curricula is soon to be imposed.

More explosions in Russia’s Belgorod: RIA

Moscow’s state news agency RIA says one of its correspondents heard “a loud bang, similar to the sound of an explosion of medium strength”, in the centre of Belgorod city.

RIA added that several citizens also heard the “clap” and that “immediately after the incident, car alarms went off in the streets”.

The governor of the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, had reported two explosions on Sunday night. But he dispelled notions that “something flew in from the territory of Ukraine”, saying it was likely Russia’s air force was performing “combat tasks as part of its special military operation” in Ukraine.

Progress in negotiations is Russia ending war: Ukraine official

For Kyiv, progress in any negotiations would be for Russia to withdraw its troops and move out of occupied territories, the head of Ukraine’s president’s office said on CNN.

“For us, the fundamental things we are not ready to compromise on are our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Andriy Yermak told Fareed Zakaria on Monday night.

He confirmed that the majority of Russian troops are now concentrated in southeastern Ukraine, particularly in the Donbas.

Mariupol evacuation to continue Tuesday: Zelenskyy

The operation to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol will continue on Tuesday, Zelenskyy says.

“We continue to do everything to save our people from Mariupol,” he said.

“Tomorrow we also expect movement through humanitarian corridors from Berdyansk, Tokmak, Vasylivka,” Zelenskyy added in his address on Monday night.

People arrive at a reception centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia.
People arrive at a reception centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, May 2 [Francisco Seco/AP]

UK to give Ukraine nearly $400m in military aid

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a new package of military aid worth 300 million British Pounds ($374m), to support Ukraine’s defence. The package includes electronic warfare equipment, a counter-battery radar system, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices, according to a government statement.

“This is Ukraine’s finest hour, an epic chapter in your national story that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come,” Johnson will say in a speech to Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday, as the British embassy reopens in Kyiv.

The UK will also send heavy lift systems to provide logistical support to isolated forces. More than a dozen new specialised four-wheel drive cars will be sent to help protect civilian officials in eastern Ukraine and evacuate civilians from front-line areas, following a request from the Ukrainian government.

US must continue giving Ukraine military aid, intelligence: Legislator

US Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff says Washington “must do even more” to ensure that Ukraine gets the intelligence it needs from US agencies in the face of Russia’s continuing invasion.

“U.S. intelligence helped expose Putin’s plans to the world. That helped unite our allies around sanctions. We must do even more,” Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter.

He also said the US “must continue to give military aid to Ukraine”, as well as humanitarian assistance to those seeking refuge inside and outside of the country.

Ukrainian foreign minister thanks Slovakia

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has thanked neighbouring Slovakia for its support.

“Warm welcome for Ukrainians fleeing the war, humanitarian aid, arms supplies, support for granting Ukraine EU candidate status and allowing tariff-free exports to the EU,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “We are lucky to have Slovakia as a neighbor.”

Schumer joins world leaders in slamming Lavrov’s comments

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US, has condemned as “sickening” Lavrov’s comments about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I have only one word for this: Sickening,” Schumer said in the US Senate.

“You’re fooling no one,” he added. “The crimes of Russia are as plain as day for the world to see.”

US senator hopes for Senate action on Ukraine aid

Schumer says he hopes the Senate will take up Biden’s request for $33bn in emergency aid for Ukraine soon.

“It is my hope that a bipartisan agreement can be reached very soon and that the Senate can begin processing this aid package on the floor as early as next week,” the Democratic Party leader said in remarks opening the Senate.

“Quickly approving this emergency funding is essential to helping the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russia,” Schumer said.

Zelenskyy denounces deadly Russian attack in Odesa

Zelenskyy says the Russian missile that hit a dwelling and a church in Odesa killed a 14-year-old boy and injured a 17-year old girl.

“What is this? What for? How did these kids and this dormitory threaten Russia?” the president said.

Russia reroutes internet traffic in occupied Kherson

Russia has rerouted internet traffic in the occupied Ukrainian region of Kherson through Russian communications infrastructure, the internet service disruption monitor NetBlocks has said.

“Connectivity … has been routed via Russia’s internet instead of Ukrainian telecoms infrastructure and is hence likely now subject to Russian internet regulations, surveillance, and censorship,” NetBlocks said on its website.

The London-based group said it had tracked a near-total internet blackout across Kherson on Saturday, which affected various Ukrainian providers. Connection was restored after several hours, but metrics showed traffic was going through Russia.

Zelenskyy slams Lavrov’s comments on Hitler

Zelenskyy has slammed Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments on Jewish people and Adolf Hitler, which included a false claim that Hitler was Jewish.

“Such an anti-Semitic attack by their minister means that Russian authorities have forgotten all the lessons of World War II, or maybe they never learned those lessons,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly address.

“These words mean that Russia’s top diplomat puts the blame on the Jewish people for Nazi crimes. I have no words,” he said.

Germany wants to keep Russia sanctions until peace deal is signed

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Putin signs a peace deal with Ukraine.

“We won’t withdraw the sanctions unless he reaches an agreement with Ukraine, and he won’t get that with a dictated peace,” Scholz said on ZDF public television.

He also said Germany also would not accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

US first lady to travel to Romania and Slovakia

Jill Biden has said she is heading to Romania and Slovakia later this week to visit with Ukrainian families who fled for their lives.

“As a mother myself, I can only imagine the grief families are feeling,” said the mother of three. “I know that we might not share a language, but I hope that I can convey … that their resilience inspires me, that they are not forgotten, and that all Americans stand with them still.”

Jill Biden is scheduled to depart Washington late on Thursday on the five-day trip.

Italy approves stimulus measures

Italy approved a new stimulus package worth $14.71bn to shield firms and families from the economic effects of the war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

The measures will not push up the country’s budget deficit this year and will partly be financed by increasing a windfall tax on energy companies, Draghi told reporters after cabinet approved the government decree.

Biden has no current plans to visit Ukraine: White House

Biden would “love to visit Ukraine” but there are no current plans for him to do so, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki said the White House would continue to assess the situation, and underscored the Biden administration’s objective to reopen the US Embassy and have US diplomats on site.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read the updates from Monday, May 2 here.

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