Ukraine update: Russia’s intercontinental missile threat and Mariupol on cusp of collapse


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Civilians and soldiers waiting for evacuation in Ukrainian port city Mariupol fear they are just hours away from being captured by Russia.

Meanwhile, as other countries pledge support for Ukraine, Moscow has tested its intercontinental Sarmat missile which can travel up to 18,000 kilometres.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted the missile would make Moscow’s enemies “think twice”.

The latest punishments directed at Russia include Wimbledon organisers announcing tennis players from Russia and Belarus won’t be able to take the court when the tournament starts in late June.

Mr Putin also claimed he has made Ukraine an offer to end the war – but Ukraine’s president said he hasn’t received the list of demands.

Here’s what you need to know on Thursday morning.

Mariupol likely to fall

The Ukrainian commander of the remaining marines defending Mariupol has asked for an evacuation to a third country.

“The enemy outnumbers us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, said in a one-minute video message posted to Facebook.

“This is our appeal to the world. It may be our last. We may have only a few days or hours left.”

Russia has advantages in the air, artillery, ground forces, equipment and tanks, Mr Volyna said.

The Ukrainian side is defending only one site, the Azovstal Steel Works, where civilians and soldiers are sheltering.

Mr Volyna asked for an “extraction procedure” and urged that everyone – soldiers from the Mariupol garrison, more than 500 wounded combatants and hundreds of civilians – be taken to safety on the territory of a third country.

Sarmat missile launched

Russia said it has successfully tested its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – a weapon nicknamed “Satan II”.

The American government has played down the threat, explaining that Moscow had warned them it would be testing its nuclear weapon.

The missile was first unveiled by Mr Putin in 2018.

According to the CSIS Missile Defense Project, the Sarmat is a three-stage, liquid-fueled missile with a range of 18,000 km – meaning it can travel over continents.

“I congratulate you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile,” Mr Putin told the army in televised remarks after the military confirmed the test.

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats, and make those who – in the heat of aggressive rhetoric – try to threaten our country think twice.”

RS-28 Sarmat. Photo: CSIS Missile Defense Project

Russia makes demands

The Kremlin also said it had presented to Ukraine a written offer for a negotiated settlement to the war.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he has not seen the document.

“Our draft document has been handed over to the Ukrainian side, which contains clear and elaborate formulations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

He did not provide details on the contents.

Mr Zelenskiy said he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks.

Talks between officials in Moscow and Kyiv began on February 28, four days after the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s demands include the secession of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as the recognition of the Crimean peninsula as Russian.

Ukraine categorically refuses to relinquish territory.

Incremental progress in the talks was derailed earlier this month when hundreds of bodies of civilians were found strewn on the streets of a Kyiv suburb after Russian troops withdrew.

Mr Peskov reiterated the Russian side’s dissatisfaction with the pace of negotiations so far, saying that it left “much to be desired”.

Wimbledon bans Russians

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus won’t be allowed to compete at this year’s Wimbledon due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), organisers of the world’s most famous tennis tournament, revealed their stance in a statement on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the AELTC had said it was in talks with the British government on the participation of players from Russia and Belarus in the grasscourt grand slam.

“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” Ian Hewitt, chairman of the AELTC said in the statement.

Mr Hewitt said the AELTC had “carefully considered” alternative measures that might be taken within British government guidance.

“But given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player [including family] safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis,” he said.

The organisers had earlier planned to announce a decision in mid-May before the entry deadline for the June 27-July 10 event.

A ban on Russian players prevents world No.2 Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth, from competing in the men’s draw.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is 15th in the women’s rankings.

Women’s world No.4 Aryna Sabalenka and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, the two top players in Belarus, will also be barred.

Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion.

Individual players are contractors and many do not reside in their country of birth.

Russian and Belarusian players had been allowed to compete on tours but not under the name or flag of their countries.

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told the country’s Sport Express newspaper earlier that there was nothing it could do.

“I think this decision is wrong but there is nothing we can change,” Tarpischev said. “The [Russian] Tennis Federation has already done everything it could.

“I don’t want to talk about this, but I will say that this decision goes against the athletes… We are working on the situation, that’s all I can say.”

Wimbledon has not banned athletes from countries since after World War Two, when players from Germany and Japan were not allowed to compete.

Earlier, Ukrainian players Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk had issued statements calling for a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events.

International athlete-led pressure group Global Athlete said banning players from the two countries would also “protect these athletes who have no choice to remove themselves from competitions.”

“These athletes must follow the orders from their countries’ leaders,” it added.

British sports minister Nigel Huddleston said last month that he would not be comfortable with a “Russian athlete flying the Russian flag” and winning Wimbledon in London.

– with wires

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