IN BRIEF: Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the Ukraine conflict, declaring the port of Mariupol “liberated” after nearly two months of siege, despite hundreds of defenders still holding out inside a giant steel works.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces control most of Mariupol, but Ukrainian troops remain in a part of it. Around 120 000 civilians were blocked from leaving the besieged city, he said.

He appealed for more heavy weapons.

Putin said the remaining Ukrainian troops at the Azovstal steel factory were free to lay down their weapons and surrender.

Russian forces are advancing from staging areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region towards Kramatorsk, which continues to be hit by rocket attacks, the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, said it was under intense bombardment.

US President Joe Biden pledged $800 million in more weapons for Ukraine on Thursday and said he would ask Congress for more money to help bolster support for the Ukrainian military.

Zelenskyy ruled out heading to Moscow for direct talks with Russian leaders on ending the war.

The Kremlin said Moscow was still waiting for Ukraine’s response to Russia’s latest written proposal in peace talks between the two sides. Zelenskyy said he had not seen it.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said any peace talks were likely to fail and compared holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiating with a crocodile.

Denmark and Spain’s prime ministers pledged to send more weapons to Ukraine during a trip to Kyiv.

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to Ukrainian counterpart:

Ukraine is working with a group of international lawyers on a mechanism to use frozen Russian funds to compensate for its losses suffered as a result of Moscow’s invasion, Justice Minister Denys Malyuska told Reuters.

Ukraine’s Central Bank Governor said the country expects to lose a third of its GDP in 2022 under a moderately optimistic scenario.

G7 finance ministers said they have provided and pledged together with the international community additional support to Ukraine exceeding $24 billion for 2022 and beyond, adding they were prepared to do more.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged countries that have not yet condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to do so and to avoid violating sanctions imposed on Russia.

World Bank President David Malpass said the food security crisis caused by the war was likely to last months and perhaps into next year.

“There’s no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities … Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through,” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If you have a helmet and a bulletproof vest, but you do not have a gun in your hands, you are doomed,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as he appealed for military aid.

Ukrainian’s vow to fight back as Russia is intensifying its fight: