LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russia’s decision to end its effort to take a staunchly defended steel plant in the city of Mariupol is an effort to free up troops for deployment in other parts of eastern Ukraine.
In an intelligence update posted Friday morning, the ministry says that “a full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness.”
The ministry says that heavy shelling and fighting continues in the Donbas region as Russia seeks to advance on the settlements of Krasny Lyman, Buhayikva, Barvinkove, Lyman and Popsana.
The ministry also says earlier losses are still affecting the Russian military, which is now being forced to ship damaged equipment back to Russia for repair while trying to reequip depleted forces.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Possible mass graves near Mariupol shown in satellite images
— Biden pledges $1.3B more for new weapons, economic aid to help Ukraine
— EXPLAINER: Why Washington is boosting heavy arms for Ukraine
— US to welcome Ukraine refugees but no longer through Mexico
— War in Ukraine spurs bid to take a closer look at UN vetoes
— EXPLAINER: Why the battle for Mariupol’s steel mill matters
— EXPLAINER: What’s the impact if Europe cuts off Russian oil?
— Britain to offer new weapons to India, hoping to wean it from Russia
— Zelenskyy gets John F. Kennedy award for defending democracy
— Follow all AP stories on Russia's war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
UNITED NATIONS — Russia and Ukraine squared off at the U.N. on Thursday over whether Russia’s war is to blame for rising food prices and hunger around the world.
Between them, the two countries account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley exports and millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia depend on them for affordable bread and noodles. Ukraine also is a major corn supplier and the biggest exporter of sunflower oil.
“As long as Russia persists in its efforts to invade Ukraine, the threat of hunger will be looming over many countries throughout the globe,” Ukrainian counsellor Natalia Mudrenko said Thursday at an informal U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss conflict and hunger.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov argued that sanctions, trade wars, the coronavirus pandemic and Western economic policies were shaking up the global food, energy and financial markets.
Chumakov said Russia’s critics were trying to deflect focus from sanctions and the “economic egoism of the developed countries during the pandemic.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the United States for the new package of $800 million in military aid, which he said was “just what we were waiting for.”
The latest military aid, announced Thursday by President Joe Biden, includes heavy artillery, ammunition and drones for the escalating battle in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Zekenskyy has urged Western countries to speed up the deliveries of weapons to help Ukraine fend off the Russian offensive.
“The occupiers continue to do everything possible to give themselves a reason to speak about at least some kind of victory,” Zelenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation. “They are building up their forces, bringing in new tactical battalions and trying even to begin a so-called ‘mobilization’ in the regions they occupy in Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy also warned Ukrainians in areas under Russian control not to provide troops with their IDs, which he said could be used “to falsify a so-called referendum on our land” to create a Moscow-friendly government.