Russian advance slowed by Ukraine’s strong defense, West says; Mariupol residents ‘begging to get saved’: Live updates – USA TODAY

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While Russian forces have continued strikes across Ukraine in its bid to seize the Donbas after refocusing its resources, its progress has been slower than expected, according to Western officials. 

A senior U.S. Defense official, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said that Ukraine’s strong defensive efforts have stalled Russia’s advance by “at least several days.” 

“We also assess that because of this slow and uneven progress, again, without perfect knowledge of every aspect of the Russian plan, we do believe and assess that they are behind schedule in what they were trying to accomplish in the Donbas,” the official said.

The British military also said in a tweet on Friday: “Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces.”

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Latest developments:

►Former U.S. marine Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was killed while working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine, his family told CNN, making his the first known death of an American citizen while fighting in the war against Russia.

►A Russian missile strike targeting Kyiv killed at least one person following a meeting between U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called the attack an attempt to “humiliate” the U.N. Vira Hyrych, a journalist for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe, died in the attack.

►The United Nations General Assembly will hold a vote next month on a country to replace Russia on its human rights council after suspending the nation for its actions in Ukraine.

LVIV, Ukraine — Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow has evacuated over 1 million people from Ukraine since the war there began.

The comments Saturday by Sergey Lavrov in an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua come as Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcefully sending Ukrainians out of the country. Lavrov said that figure included more than 300 Chinese civilians.

Lavrov offered no evidence to support his claim in the interview.

Lavrov also said that negotiations continue between Russia and Ukraine “almost every day.” However, he cautioned that “progress has not been easy.”

Lavrov in part blamed “the bellicose rhetoric and inflammatory actions of Western supporters of the Kyiv regime” for disrupting the talks. However, Russian state TV nightly has had guests suggest that Moscow use nuclear weapons in the conflict.

– Associated Press

A matter of hours, not days: Mariupol residents ‘begging to get saved’

The situation in Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city that has been under siege by Russian attacks, is like a “Russian concentration camp among the ruins,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. 

Residents and Ukrainian fighters left in Mariupol have been under constant threat of attack and of starvation, as they hold out in a massive steel mill. They are running out of food, water and medicine, according to Mayor Vadym Boichenko on Friday.

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People in the Avozstal steel plant, the last holdout still under Ukrainian control in the city, are protected to an extent by underground bunkers in the Soviet-era facility. But Russians have been dropping “bunker buster” bombs, making the situation more dire.

“Locals who manage to leave Mariupol say it is hell, but when they leave this fortress, they say it is worse,” Boichenko said, according to a translator. “They are begging to get saved.”

He added: “There, it’s not a matter of days, it’s a matter of hours.”

Zelenskyy: Russia trying to destroy Donbas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to destroy the Donbas and all who live there.

“The constant brutal bombardments, the constant Russian strikes on infrastructure and residential areas show that Russia wants to empty this territory of all people. Therefore, the defense of our land, the defense of our people, is literally a fight for life,” he said late Friday in his nightly video address to the nation.

He said the cities and towns of the Donbas will survive only if Ukraine remains standing.

“If the Russian invaders are able to realize their plans even partially, then they have enough artillery and aircraft to turn the entire Donbas into stones. As they did with Mariupol,” he said.

Ukrainians using cheap drones against Russian forces

Consumer-grade drones, costing about $1,000 and modified to drop explosives on Russian troops and fighting vehicles, have been taking center stage in Ukraine’s resistance against the Russian invasion.

Videos of such attacks are widely available on Twitter, proudly shared by Ukrainian fighters and their supporters. Unlike the sophisticated drones that many militaries use, the drones are widely available at stores like Best Buy, easily modified and hacked to turn them into lethal weapons.

And experts say such drones are opening up a new front for both warfare and terror attacks. Now, the Biden administration is renewing efforts to protect domestic infrastructure from potential drone attacks. Read more about the use of drones in the war, and its implications in the U.S.

-Trevor Hughes

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Russian advance slowed by Ukraine’s strong defense, West says; Mariupol residents ‘begging to get saved’: Live updates – USA TODAY

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