Russia is not looking to end its special military operation in Ukraine by Victory Day on May 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, as the country looks set to mark the anniversary.
Speaking with Italian outlet Mediaset on Sunday, Lavrov insisted Moscow would not rush to wrap up its "special military operation" in time for the anniversary, which celebrates Nazi Germany's surrender to allied forces－including the then Soviet Union－in 1945.
"Our military will not artificially adjust their actions to any date, including Victory Day," Lavrov said. "The pace of the operation in Ukraine depends, first of all, on the need to minimize any risks for the civilian population and Russian military personnel."
Lavrov noted the operation was particularly aimed at ensuring the safety of civilians and making sure that there were no threats from Ukraine to civilians and Russia, "which would be related to offensive weapons and the spread of Nazi ideas that the West is trying to downplay".
Media representatives in Moscow, including China Daily, have already received approval by the Kremlin for participation in this year's May 9 military parade in Red Square.
In total, 11,000 servicemen, 131 weapons, military and special equipment, as well as 77 aircraft and helicopters will take part in the Victory Parade, but Moscow did not invite any of the foreign leaders to Red Square, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Ukrainian civilians holed up inside a steel plant in Mariupol under siege by Russian forces for nearly two months began evacuating over the weekend and people sheltering elsewhere in the city were set to leave on Monday.
Video posted online on Sunday by Ukrainian forces showed elderly women and mothers with small children climbing over a steep pile of rubble from the sprawling Azovstal steel plant and eventually boarding a bus.
More than 100 civilians were expected to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday.
Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, urged groups like the United Nations and the Red Cross to ensure the safety of those being evacuated.
UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said civilians arriving in Zaporizhzhia, about 230 kilometers northwest of Mariupol, would get immediate support, including psychological services.
Separately, recent weeks have seen a number of fires and explosions in Russian regions near the border.
An explosive device damaged a railway bridge on Sunday in the Kursk region which borders Ukraine, and a criminal investigation has been started, the region's government said.
Later that day, a fire occurred on the territory of the Russian Defense Ministry's facility on the border of three municipalities of the Belgorod Region.
Agencies contributed to the story.
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