(Reuters) – Russian forces were battling for control of the last Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, while the EU proposed its toughest sanctions yet against Moscow, with a phased oil embargo.
* Oil prices jumped on the proposed EU ban on Russian oil imports, which needs approval by member states. The Kremlin said it was looking into various options in response. Germany said prices could go up considerably. [O/R]
* The Czech Republic and Bulgaria will seek exemptions from the ban, while Hungary and Slovakia say they need a three-year transition.
* US President Biden said he would speak with leaders from the G7 advanced this week about more sanctions.
* The number of people globally facing a severe lack of food increased by a fifth to 193 million last year. The Ukraine war means the outlook will worsen, a UN agency said.
* Ukrainian fighters inside Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant are fighting “difficult, bloody battles” against Russian troops, a Ukrainian commander said.
* More than 300 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine as part of a joint UN-Red Cross operation, the United Nations said.
* The United States has provided intelligence that has helped Ukrainian forces kill about 12 Russian generals, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
* The armed forces of Ukraine’s neighbor Belarus began suddenly large-scale drills to test their combat readiness.
* Russia is also trying to increase the tempo of its offensive in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s defense ministry said its forces had disabled six railway stations there used to deliver Western arms.
Reuters could not immediately verify reports of battlefield developments.
* The Kremlin dismissed speculation that President Vladimir Putin would declare war on Ukraine and announce a national mobilization on May 9. Russia describes its invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation”.
“My position is simple: every euro paid to Russia for gas, oil or other goods ends up as rounds of ammunition in Ukraine to kill my compatriots,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Austrian TV channel Puls 4.
(Compiled by Philippa Fletcher, Rosalba O’Brien and Michael Perry)