A message of “peace” for the war in Ukraine was seen in Syntagma Square, which was decorated on the occasion of May Day with 13,600 flowers.
The post of Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis states: “This difficult spring, this sad working May Day, our prayers are united with the 13,600 flowers that form the world symbol – the sign of Peace in Syntagma Square, in a call to end this relentless war soon.”
Meanwhile, Russia has bombarded Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, as part of its renewed push in the east of the country, while claiming the “draft of a possible treaty” between the two countries is being discussed on a daily basis.
One person was killed and five were injured “as a result of enemy artillery and mortar strikes”, Kharkiv’s regional military administration said on Telegram. Despite the bombardment, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said: “The situation in the Kharkiv region is tough. But our military, our intelligence, have important tactical success.”
Ukrainian forces said they had recaptured a “strategically important” village of Ruska Lozova, near Kharkiv, and evacuated hundreds of civilians.
One Kharkiv resident, Antonina, told AFP she returned home to find a rocket had smashed through her building and lodged in her bathroom. “When I came home, everything was destroyed … It was scary,” she said.
Three months into an invasion that failed in its short-term aim of capturing Kyiv, Russia is now intensifying operations in the eastern Donbas region and tightening its stranglehold on the devastated southern port city of Mariupol.
Ukraine’s president called for a stronger global response to Thursday’s strikes on the capital Kyiv, which immediately followed his talks in the city with the UN’s secretary general, António Guterres. “It is unfortunate, but such a deliberate and brutal humiliation of the United Nations by Russia has gone unanswered,” he said.
Guterres had also toured Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs where Moscow is alleged to have committed war crimes. Russia denies killing civilians. Guterres posted online afterwards: “I was moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine. My message to them is simple: we will not give up.”
Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, claimed that a million people had fled Ukraine for Russia. Ukraine says people have been taken over the border against their will.
Discussing the peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv, Lavrov, said the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia was part of the negotiations. He said talks were “difficult” but continued daily by video conferencing.
Kyiv, though, has warned that talks are in danger of collapse, and Zelensky has insisted since the invasion that western sanctions on Russia needed to be strengthened and could not be part of negotiations. Ukraine and Russia have not held face-to-face peace talks since 29 March.
In his latest address, Zelensky also said Ukraine would soon stamp out fuel shortages, even though Russian forces had damaged a number of oil depots.
This week, Russia struck Ukraine’s main fuel producer, the Kremenchuk oil refinery, as well as several other large depots.
“Queues and rising prices at gas stations are seen in many regions of our country,” Zelenskiy said. “The occupiers are deliberately destroying the infrastructure for the production, supply and storage of fuel.
“Russia has also blocked our ports, so there are no immediate solutions to replenish the deficit.
“But government officials promise that within a week, maximum two, a system of fuel supply to Ukraine will be at work that will prevent shortages.”
The economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, said the shortages would be eliminated within a week, as Ukraine’s operators had secured contracts with European suppliers.