Russia-Ukraine latest news: Quarter of Russian battle groups rendered 'ineffective'

·19 min read

The UK's Ministry of Defence has estimated that more than a quarter of the Russian battalion tactical groups sent to Ukraine have been rendered "combat ineffective".

In its daily intelligence update, the MoD said more than 120 such units had been committed to the Ukrainian invasion - around two-thirds of Russia's entire ground combat strength.

Most battalion tactical groups are thought to have 700-800 personnel, according to British security think tank RUSI.

Some of Russia's most elite units - including the VDV Airborne Forces - have suffered the "highest levels of attrition", the MoD added.

"It will probably take Russia years to reconstitute these forces," its tweet said.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

03:13 PM

That's all for today

Here are Monday's five key developments in Ukraine:

  1. The Ukrainian military said Russian troops resumed shelling Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works after a group of civilians was evacuated from there on Sunday evening.

  2. A Ukrainian Bayraktar drone destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea, near Snake Island, on Monday, Ukraine's military chief said.

  3. The UN human rights office said on Monday that the death toll of civilians killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion had exceeded 3,000 people. Meanwhile, the UN said more than 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began.

  4. Finland will decide to apply for Nato membership on May 12, according to a local media report.

  5. Israel denounced comments made by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who claimed that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots, and summoned the Russian ambassador to make an apology.

Thanks for following along with our live updates, and enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday. We'll be back tomorrow with more live coverage.

02:58 PM

Bullet the bomb-sniffing Jack Russell demines 262 Russian explosives in a day

A Jack Russell terrier has sniffed out a staggering 262 explosives left behind by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Patron - or Bullet in English - is a two-year-old dog working in the Chernihiv region, north of Kyiv, to remove the threat of unexploded ordnance.

He has been working since he was six months old, clearing the way for Ukrainians to return home safely without the risk of further injury or death.

It is thought that hundreds of explosives have been left behind by retreating Russian forces. Pictures shared widely on social media have shown booby-traps with grenades left in kitchen cupboards or tied to washing machines.

You can read the full story by Verity Bowman here

02:51 PM

Finland and Sweden to bar national ice hockey players from competing in Russian teams

Ice hockey players from Finland and Sweden who play in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and other leagues in Russia will not be selected for their national teams, the two countries' ice hockey associations said on Monday.

"The position of the Finnish Hockey Association is that players playing in Russia next season will not be able to play for the national team," the Finnish Ice Hockey Association said in a statement.

Finnish club Jokerit also withdrew from the KHL in late February, days after the invasion of Ukraine.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIF) said it was leaning towards not selecting Swedish players who compete in the KHL, but will make a formal decision after the season ends.

"But what we can now state is that none of the players who participated during the playoffs in the KHL are eligible for the World Cup tournament in Finland," the SIF said in a statement.

02:46 PM

Pictured: Evacuees from frontline town of Orikhiv arrive in Zaporizhzhia

Internally displaced people sit in a bus after arriving from the frontline town of Orikhiv, at the evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 02 May 2022.  - Roman Pilipey/Shutterstock
Internally displaced people sit in a bus after arriving from the frontline town of Orikhiv, at the evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 02 May 2022. - Roman Pilipey/Shutterstock
A dog peers from a car with people arriving to a reception centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Monday, May 2, 2022. - Francisco Seco/AP
A dog peers from a car with people arriving to a reception centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Monday, May 2, 2022. - Francisco Seco/AP
A family is processed at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 2, 2022. - Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu
A family is processed at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 2, 2022. - Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu

02:36 PM

Reports that historic school in Luhansk region destroyed by Russian shelling

The Kyiv Independent reports that a historic school in the Luhansk region of Ukraine has been destroyed by Russian shelling.

According to the newspaper, the Lysychansk Gymnasium school had survived two World War's and Russia's attack on the region in 2014.

02:25 PM

Hungary moves embassy back to Kyiv

Hungary has moved its embassy in Ukraine back to Kyiv from Lviv due to the improving security situation in the capital, the country's foreign minister said on Monday.

Peter Szijjarto said in a video on Facebook that the move was finished over the weekend and the Kyiv embassy was already operating.

People enjoy the weekend at Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, amid Russian attacks across the country, on May 1, 2022. - Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu
People enjoy the weekend at Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, amid Russian attacks across the country, on May 1, 2022. - Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu

02:14 PM

'More than ever, we must remember our historic bond with Poland and Ukraine'

New discoveries by English Heritage shine a light on our three countries’ shared fight for freedom, writes Sir Tim Laurence.

Written in pencil on the wall of the candle store at Audley End House in Essex is a list. In the shadows for decades, this unassuming scrawl has now been deciphered as the names of six Polish men. Research by English Heritage – who now take care of the House – has revealed who they were and why they were there.

They include a 43-year-old father of two, fluent in five languages; a highly strung army officer who loved horse riding; a teacher; a film star and two young men in their early twenties.

Their fascinating story of heroism and sacrifice resonates with the current terrible events in Ukraine. Changing political boundaries and the movement of peoples within Eastern Europe over the centuries mean there are deep connections between Poles and Ukrainians. Of the six men whose names are scratched in pencil onto the wall in the candle store, one, Karol Dorwski, came from Lviv and another, Franciszek Socha, studied at university there. The warm welcome Ukrainian refugees have received in Poland today speaks to these historic connections and also reflects the Poles’ collective memory of destruction and displacement during WW2.

Yet their ties also extend to Britain.

You can read the full piece by Sir Tim here

02:00 PM

Germany ready to support Russian oil ban, says minister

Germany is ready to support a ban on Russian oil, but it must be properly prepared and should also take into account the dependence of other EU countries on Russian supplies, the country's economy and climate action minister said on Monday.

"The German position is that we need to prepare the steps well and not lead to an uncontrollable economic situation. Germany has taken great progress on coal and oil and is on course to do the same for gas. Other countries need a bit more time," Robert Habeck told reporters before an EU meeting on energy.

"Between consideration for countries' dependence on Russia and the need to proceed in a united way there is a corridor that we need to discuss," he added.

01:40 PM

Former Nato commander says 'amazing incompetence' behind top Russian military deaths

A former Nato commander has attributed the deaths of top Russian officers to its military's "amazing incompetence".

Admiral James Stavridis, formerly the Nato supreme allied commander for Europe, told a US radio station that Russia's invasion of Ukraine had been a "bad performance so far" and claimed they have lost at least a dozen military generals since the war started.

He accused Russia of "massacring" Ukrainian civilians and committing war crimes throughout its "illegal invasion of a neighbour".

A number of top-ranking Russian officers have died since the war started. The army's chief of staff, Valery Gerasimov, is believed to have travelled to the frontline in Ukraine personally over the past week before being evacuated from battle in Kharkiv yesterday.

In this photo from 2018, Russian president Vladimir Putin (centre) sits with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (right) in eastern Siberia. - Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik; The Kremlin
In this photo from 2018, Russian president Vladimir Putin (centre) sits with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (right) in eastern Siberia. - Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik; The Kremlin

01:18 PM

Poland says it is ready to be independent from Russian oil

Poland is prepared to be fully independent from Russian oil and is ready to support other countries to end their supply links with fossil fuels from Russia, the country's environment and climate minister said on Monday.

“Poland is proud to be on Putin’s list of unfriendly countries,” Anna Moskwa told reporters, prior to a meeting with fellow national ministers in Brussels.

01:14 PM

UN: More than 3,000 civilians killed in Ukraine so far

The UN human rights office said on Monday that the death toll of civilians killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion had exceeded 3,000 people.

3,153 civilians have been killed so far in the conflict, representing an increase of 254 from Friday.

OHCHR said that the real toll was likely to be considerably higher, citing access difficulties and ongoing corroboration efforts.

Most of the victims were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, such as missile strikes and air strikes, the rights office said, without attributing responsibility.

12:55 PM

Watch: Russian TV issues nuclear strike warning to UK

A Russian TV host has warned that Russia could "sink" Britain "once and for all" with a massive nuclear missile strike or a torpedo that would send a radioactive tsunami to obliterate the British Isles.

Dmitry Kiselyov, a state TV executive and one of Russia's most notorious propagandists, was the first Russian media figure to threaten nuclear war against the West back in 2014 when he claimed Moscow could "turn the United States into radioactive ash".

On his weekly show on Sunday, Mr Kiselyov latched on to Liz Truss's comments last week when the foreign secretary said Britain would "keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole Ukraine".

You can read the full story here

12:14 PM

US embassy hopes to reopen in Kyiv by end of May

The US embassy could reopen its embassy in Kyiv by the end of May if conditions permit, its charge d'affaires said on Monday.

US diplomats departed the Kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, moving some functions to the western city of Lviv before eventually relocating to neighbouring Poland.

"We listen to the security professionals, and when they tell us we can go back we will go back," Kristina Kvien told a news briefing.

11:52 AM

Bolshoi Theatre drops two directors who spoke out against war

Russia's Bolshoi Theatre has cancelled a series of shows set to take place this week, supposedly because their directors have spoken out against the war in Ukraine.

The theatre gave no official reason for cancelling Timofey Kuliabin's production of the opera Don Pasquale and Kirill Serebrennikov's ballet Nureyev.

However, Kuliabin has regularly expressed his support for Ukraine on social media, while Serebrennikov said last month that "it's quite obvious that Russia started the war".

"It's war, it's killing people, it's the worst thing (that) ever might happen with civilisation, with mankind... It's a humanitarian catastrophe, it's rivers of blood," he said.

Both directors are currently outside Russia.

The two shows have been replaced with The Barber of Seville and Spartacus. Ticket holders criticised the decision, with one woman, Valeria, calling it "disrespect to the spectators and artists" on Telegram.

11:30 AM

Zelensky: More than half a million Ukrainians taken to Russia 'against their will'

More than half a million Ukrainians have been "illegally taken to Russia, or other places, against their will," Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

In an interview with Greek state TV channel ERT, Zelensky said the civilians stuck in the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol are afraid to board evacuation buses because they believe they will be transported to Russia.

He said that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had assured him the evacuated civilians would be moved to an area controlled by the Ukrainian government.

"We want to believe this," he added.

11:08 AM

Hungary and Slovakia may be exempt from Russian oil embargo, European Commission says

The European Commission could exempt Hungary and Slovakia from an expected embargo on buying Russian oil because of their dependence on the commodity, Reuters reports.

The commission is expected to announce a sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia, inclusive of a ban on buying Russian oil.

Hungary has repeatedly said it will not sign up to sanctions involving energy, and has refrained from strongly criticising the Kremlin's military operation in Ukraine.

Slovakia is one of the EU countries most dependant on Russian crude oil.

An EU official told Reuters that the commission might offer the two countries "an exemption or a long transition period".

11:00 AM

Russian troops resume shelling of Azovstal steel plant

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

The Ukrainian military says Russian troops resumed shelling Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works after a group of civilians was evacuated from there on Sunday evening.

Denys Shlega, a Ukrainian National Guard brigade commander in Mariupol, told Ukrainian TV that Russians on Sunday night started shelling the plant after a two-day break.

“There are still hundreds of civilians including about 20 children in Azovstal’s bunkers, according to our calculations,” he said.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in response to numerous pleas to cease fire around the Azov Sea city that has been obliterated by weeks of Russian airstrikes insisted in recent days that Russia was no longer shelling Mariupol.

Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, said on Monday that Ukrainian authorities together with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross will try to evacuate more people out of the besieged plant later that day.

10:36 AM

Russian rocket hits key bridge near Odesa

A Russian rocket strike has hit a bridge across the Dniester estuary in the Odesa region of Ukraine, local authorities have said.

The strategically important bridge, which has already been targeted twice by Russian forces, provides the only road and rail link on Ukrainian territory to a large southern area of the Odesa region.

Serhiy Bratchuk, the region's administrative spokesman, reported the strike on Telegram, but gave no further details.

10:26 AM

The war in Ukraine, in pictures

A boy from Mariupol looks out through the smashed windscreen of his family's car after arriving with his family at an evacuation point for people fleeing Mariupol, Melitopol and the surrounding towns under Russian control on May 02, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. - Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe
A boy from Mariupol looks out through the smashed windscreen of his family's car after arriving with his family at an evacuation point for people fleeing Mariupol, Melitopol and the surrounding towns under Russian control on May 02, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. - Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe
Savelii, 10 years old, stands near his father Igor's grave, who died defending the city of Irpin as a member of the territorial defence unit in Irpin, Kyiv region on May 1, 2022. - Mykhaylo Palinchak/Zuma Press
Savelii, 10 years old, stands near his father Igor's grave, who died defending the city of Irpin as a member of the territorial defence unit in Irpin, Kyiv region on May 1, 2022. - Mykhaylo Palinchak/Zuma Press
A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organised by the Russian military shows Russian servicemen on guard at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine, 01 May 2022. - Sergei Ilnitsky/Shutterstock
A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organised by the Russian military shows Russian servicemen on guard at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine, 01 May 2022. - Sergei Ilnitsky/Shutterstock

10:05 AM

Russian border region hit with two explosions that Ukraine calls 'karma'

Two explosions took place in the early hours of Monday morning in Belgorod, a Russian region bordering Ukraine, but there was no damage or security threat, the region's governor said.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said he "wanted to dispel apprehensions among inhabitants of the region that someone or something flew in from the territory of Ukraine".

"That is not the case. Our military aviation was performing combat tasks as part of the special military operation," he added.

Ukraine has not accepted direct responsibility for the incident, but officials described them as payback and "karma" for Russia's invasion.

09:39 AM

Hundreds remain trapped in Azovstal steel works despite evacuations

Humanitarian organisations worked to evacuate more civilians from Mariupol on Monday, but hundreds of people remain trapped in the Azovstal steel works, which has been under constant siege from Russian forces.

A plant official said Russian shelling had resumed as soon as the evacuation buses had left the plant on Sunday.

"Yesterday, as soon as the buses left Azovstal with the evacuees, new shelling began immediately," Petro Andryushchenko told Ukrainian television.

People trapped in the steel works are running low on water, food and medicine, with the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereschuk, calling it a "humanitarian catastrophe".

One woman stuck in the steel works said she had not seen any sunlight for two months, and said she thought she would not survive.

Azovstal steel plant employee Valeria hugs her son Matvey after being evacuated from Mariupol, as they meet at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine on May 1, 2022.  - Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Azovstal steel plant employee Valeria hugs her son Matvey after being evacuated from Mariupol, as they meet at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine on May 1, 2022. - Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Mother and daughter Dina (R) and Natasha (L) from Mariupol react as they arrive in their own vehicle, separate from a larger convoy expected later, at a registration and processing area for internally displaced people arriving from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia on May 2, 2022. - Ed Jones/AFP
Mother and daughter Dina (R) and Natasha (L) from Mariupol react as they arrive in their own vehicle, separate from a larger convoy expected later, at a registration and processing area for internally displaced people arriving from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia on May 2, 2022. - Ed Jones/AFP

09:11 AM

Finland will reportedly apply for Nato membership on May 12

Finland will decide to apply for Nato membership on May 12, according to a local media report.

The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reports that the decision to apply for the military alliance will come into force that day, with president Sauli Niinisto set to announce his approval before parliamentary groups lend their approval for the application.

The decision will be confirmed in a meeting between the president and the government’s key ministers after the president and parliament’s initial announcements, Iltalehti reports.

The report has not been independently verified.

Finland and Sweden, both traditionally militarily neutral nations, have become increasingly open to applying for Nato membership since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine over concerns for their own security.

09:02 AM

UN: More than 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine

More than 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said.

Natalia reacts after arriving from Mariupol to an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 02 May 2022.  - Roman Pilipey/Shutterstock
Natalia reacts after arriving from Mariupol to an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 02 May 2022. - Roman Pilipey/Shutterstock

08:31 AM

Israel denounces Russian minister's Hitler comments

Israel denounced comments made by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who claimed that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots, and summoned the Russian ambassador to make an apology.

Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, said the Russian ambassador to Israel would be summoned for a "tough talk" over the comments, which Lavrov made on Sunday in an interview with an Italian television network.

"It is an unforgivable, scandalous statement, a terrible historical mistake, and we expect an apology," Lapid said.

During the interview, Lavrov was asked how Russia could claim that it needed to "de-Nazify" Ukraine when the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was Jewish.

He replied: "When they say 'What sort of Nazification is this if we are Jews', well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing."

Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, called Lavrov's remarks "an insult and a severe blow to the victims of the real Nazism".

Speaking on Israel's Kan radio, Dayan said Lavrov was spreading "an antisemitic conspiracy theory with no basis in fact".

08:12 AM

Pictured: Brazilian town welcomes Ukrainian refugees

A Brazilian woman of Ukrainian descent, and a member of the folk group Vesselka, reacts during the welcoming ceremony of the first Ukrainian refugees, in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022.  - Pilar Olivares/Reuters
A Brazilian woman of Ukrainian descent, and a member of the folk group Vesselka, reacts during the welcoming ceremony of the first Ukrainian refugees, in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022. - Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Ukrainian refugees sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a welcome ceremony in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022.  - Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Ukrainian refugees sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a welcome ceremony in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022. - Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Brazilian dancers of Ukrainian descent perform during a welcome ceremony in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022.  - Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Brazilian dancers of Ukrainian descent perform during a welcome ceremony in the city of Prudentopolis (also known as "Little Ukraine") in Parana, Brazil on May 1, 2022. - Pilar Olivares/Reuters

07:49 AM

Ukraine destroys two Russian patrol boats near Snake Island

A Ukrainian Bayraktar drone destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea on Monday, Ukraine's military chief said.

"Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi (Snake) Island," the Chief of General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on Telegram.

07:36 AM

Ukrainian officials identify Belarusian forces in border regions

Ukraine's general staff has identified units from the armed forces of Belarus in the Ukrainian border regions of Volyn and Polissya, it said on social media.

In a Facebook post, the office said: "The threat of missile strikes on military and civilian infrastructure from the territory of the republic of Belarus by the Russian enemy remains".

It also claimed Ukrainian forces had thwarted 10 Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and had destroyed military equipment including two tanks, 17 artillery systems and 38 armoured combat vehicles.

07:24 AM

MoD: Quarter of Russian battle units likely rendered 'combat ineffective'

07:22 AM

Here's five key developments this morning

  1. Nancy Pelosi visited Kyiv on Saturday as the most senior American lawmaker to travel to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

  2. Russian forces fired on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol again on Sunday night, breaking a ceasefire that has allowed around 100 people to be evacuated.

  3. Russia's defence ministry said on Sunday it had struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the US and European countries and destroyed a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odesa.

  4. First Lady Jill Biden will visit Romania and Slovakia from May 5-9 to meet with US service members and embassy personnel, displaced Ukrainian parents and children, humanitarian aid workers, and teachers, her office said on Monday.

  5. Russia may have averted default as it announced it had made several overdue payments in dollars on its overseas bonds, shifting the market's focus to upcoming payments and whether it would stave off a historic default.

You can read more details on those developments here, and we'll be posting live updates throughout the day to keep you informed.