According to Ukrainian officials, Russia launched missile strikes across southern and eastern Ukraine on Saturday, and some women and children were evacuated from a steel mill in the besieged city of Mariupol after taking refuge there for more than a week.
Moscow has shifted its focus to Ukraine's south and east after failing to conquer the capital Kyiv during a nine-week assault that leveled cities, murdered thousands of civilians, and displaced more than 5 million.
Its forces have seized the southern town of Kherson, establishing a foothold within 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Russia-annexed Crimea. They have primarily overrun Mariupol, a strategically located eastern port city on the Azov Sea.
On April 21, Russia declared victory in Mariupol, while hundreds of Ukrainian military and citizens sought refuge at the Azovstal steelworks. The United Nations has advocated an evacuation deal, and a Ukrainian fighter inside reported Saturday that approximately 20 women and children have escaped.
"We are getting civilians out of the rubble with ropes — it's the elderly, women and children," the fighter, Sviatoslav Palamar, explained, alluding to destruction within the 4 square km plant.
Palamar stated that both Russia and Ukraine were abiding by a local truce and expressed hope that the evacuated population would be moved to the northwest Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.
Russia and the United Nations did not comment on the evacuations. According to Ukrainian officials, hundreds of Ukrainians remain inside.
To the west, in Odesa, which has escaped the battle largely undamaged thus far, a Russian missile launched from Crimea wrecked the runway at the city's main airport, according to regional governor Maksym Marchenko. He noted that no one was harmed.
Ukraine's military stated that the airport was no longer operational. Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, swore to restore the airport in a late-night video message, adding, "Odesa will never forget Russia's behavior towards it."
Moscow made no reaction to the strike, even though its forces have targeted Odesa, Ukraine's third-largest city, on a sporadic basis. According to Ukrainian officials, eight people were killed in a Russian strike on the town last week.
Moscow's offensive in the south is partly intended to connect the territory to Crimea as part of its goal of complete control of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Before Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion, portions of Donbas' two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, were already under the hands of Russian-backed separatists.
Zelensky stated that Russia was "gathering additional forces for new attacks against our military in the east of the country" and "trying to increase pressure in the Donbas."
Moscow refers to its efforts as a "special operation" aimed at disarming Ukraine and eradicating the anti-Russian nationalism sowed by the West. Ukraine and the West allege that Russia initiated an unprovoked aggressive war.
On Saturday, despite weeks of peace discussions, both sides appeared to be as far away as ever.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, suggested the removal of Western sanctions against Moscow was a part of the negotiations, but senior Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak refuted this.
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president, maintains that sanctions must be increased and cannot be bargained. He warned on Friday that discussions could collapse due to what he referred to as Russia's "playbook on murdering people."
Ukraine claims Russian forces committed atrocities during their early April withdrawal from areas near Kyiv, and Moscow refutes the allegations. Negotiators last met in person on March 29 and have subsequently communicated by video link.
The US and its European allies have slapped broad restrictions on Russia's economy and armed and aided Ukraine.
US Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a $33 billion aid package for Kyiv, including $20 billion for arms. On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that his country would continue to "give the Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves."
Lavrov stated that if Washington and its NATO allies desired to resolve the conflict, they should halt weapons deliveries to Kyiv.
'All things are destroyed.'
The shockwave from Saturday's hit blasted the windows of an apartment building in Dobropillia, Donetsk, and left a massive crater in the yard.
According to one tenant who offered only his first name, Andriy, his spouse was in a room facing the yard during the attack and was knocked unconscious.
"Thank God the four children were in the kitchen," he stated as he stood in the charred remains of the living room.
Residents combed through their things, attempting to rescue what they could.
"At around 9:20 a.m. this happiness flew to our house," another resident, Oleh, joked. "Everything is destroyed."
On Saturday, Russia reported additional Ukrainian strikes on its territory.
Officials in Russia's Bryansk area, which borders Ukraine and Belarus, reported a Ukrainian aircraft was denied entry due to air defenses. According to them, the following shelling struck portions of a Russian oil station.