Latest Ukraine updates today
According to deputy defence minister Hannah Maylar, 53 seriously injured personnel have been taken to the town of Novoazovsk which is under the control of Russia-backed separatists.
Ms Maylar said a further 211 people were evacuated from the sprawling plant via a humanitarian corridor to Olenivka.
She later tweeted that the Ukrainian defenders were exchanged for captured Russian soldiers, referring to the latter as “captured racists”.
Ms Maylar’s reports have since been backed up by president Zelensky, who in his nightly address added: “We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys.”
It followed witness accounts that five buses and an armoured personnel carrier carrying Ukraine’s servicemen from the vast plant arrived late on Monday in Novoazovsk.
A witness claimed a number of the evacuees were carried out of the buses on stretchers and transported into a hospital.
Lviv rocked by loud explosions
The western Ukrainian city of Lviv has been rocked by number of loud explosions after midnight on Tuesday.
Witnesses counted at least eight explosions accompanied by distant booms, with the smell of burning apparent some time later. The city is under curfew from 11pm to 6am.
Makysym Kozytskyy, chairman of the Lviv Regional Military Administration confirmed the firing by Russian troops on the military infrastructure in the Yavoriv district, located about 15km from the Polish border.
The city’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, said on Facebook that there was no confirmed information about the missiles hitting the city.
“Let’s thank those who protect our sky for this!” the mayor said. “In the morning we will give more accurate information. Take care of yourself and do not ignore air alarms!”
‘Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive’
Ukrainian forces have completed their “combat mission” in the besieged city of Mariupol, leading to the evacuation of 260 fighters under Russia.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks.
“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle” said Mr Zelensky adding that the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help.
According to military experts, the number of fighters at the plant are anywhere from few hundred to a thousand.
Before Monday’s evacuations began, the Russian defence ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the mill for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.
Images capture buses carrying service members of Ukrainian forces from the besieged Azovstal steel mill as they drive away under escort of the pro-Russian military.
Torture and terror in Ukraine’s occupied towns – On The Ground
‘We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,’ Zelensky says
In his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky put the spotlight on the evacuation of the Azovstal steelworks defenders.
“Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military – the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” he said.
“Among them are the seriously wounded. They are being provided with medical aid.
“I want to emphasise: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words.”
Work “to bring the boys home” is continuing in Mariupol, he added.
Azovstal defenders dubbed ‘heroes of our time’
The Azovstal defenders who were earlier evacuated from the beseiged Mairupol steelworks have been described as “heroes of our time” by the Ukrainian army’s general staff.
Posting on Facebook, top military offficials said the troops had “hindered the implementation of the plan for the rapid capture of Zaporizhzhia”.
“Forging the enemy’s core forces around Mariupol has given us the opportunity to prepare and create the defensive frontiers on which our troops are still present today and give a decent counterpoint to the aggressor.
“We got the critically needed time to build reserves, regroup forces, and get help from partners,” military chiefs went on.
The post added that some fighters remain trapped at the plant and said measures to “rescue defenders who remain in the territory of Azovstal are ongoing”
Lviv ‘under heavy attack’, says Ukraine MP
A Ukrainian MP has said that the city of Lviv in the west of the country is currently under “heavy attack.”
Tweeting 25 minutes ago, Lesia Vasylenko MP said: “Lviv is under heavy attack right now. Friends say it has never been this loud. This is WEST Ukraine. Very close to Poland.”
Zelensky confirms Azovstal evacuations
Azovstal fighters were ‘exchanged’ for captured Russian troops
The 264 defenders rescued from Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks were exchanged for captured Russian soldiers, according to a tweet from Ukraine’s deputy defence minister.
In the same post, Hannah Maylar described the Russian troops as “captured racists”.
Turkey won’t approve Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids, Erdogan says
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has poured cold water on Sweden and Finland’s “historic” announcements that they will to apply to join Nato in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, as he insisted that Ankara would not approve their bids.
Sweden’s premier Magdalena Andersson followed Finland on Monday in saying that Stockholm would bring 200 years of neutrality to an end in seeking to join the western military alliance, with all but two of the Nordic nation’s eight parliamentary parties now backing the move.
Despite Vladimir Putin appearing to back down significantly on the issue by insisting Russia had “no problem” with the countries’ Nato bids, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and France all joined the UK in pledging to defend the two nations in the event of an attack prior to their accession – a “vulnerable” period which Ms Andersson suggested could last up to a year.
Andy Gregory reports:
President tells Stockholm and Helsinki not to bother sending delegations to Ankara, as Putin issues softened warning