Five developments as Putin orders Azovstal fighters to lay down their arms

Good evening. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, has called on Kyiv authorities to tell the remaining resistance fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel works to lay down their arms. 

Troops from the nationalist Azov battalion have vowed to fight to the death as Moscow ramped up attacks on the last pocket of resistance in the southern port city.

Elsewhere, Putin has apologised to his Israeli counterpart Naftali Bennett over Sergei Lavrov’s Hitler comments, according to the country’s Prime Minister’s office. 

The Russian Foreign Minister faced heavy backlash in Israel for claiming Hitler had “Jewish blood”, with Yair Lapid, Israeli Foreign Minister, slamming the remarks as a “horrible historic error”. 

Below are the key developments from this afternoon – you can follow more on our live blog here

1. Putin orders Azovstal fighters to lay down their arms

In a conversation with Naftali Bennett, Israeli Prime Minister, on Thursday, Vladimir Putin said Kyiv should order Ukrainian fighters holed up in the vast Azovstal plant to put down their weapons.

During the phone call, Putin said Russia was still ready to provide safe passage for civilians from the besieged steel works facility in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, the Kremlin said.

Ukrainian defenders trapped at the site have clung on desperately for weeks, while some civilians have made it to safety through humanitarian corridors but others remain inside.

A new UN convoy is heading to the facility, which has seen heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, to try to evacuate civilians on Thursday, its humanitarian chief said.

2. Putin apologises to Israel over Hitler comment

Vladimir Putin has reportedly apologised to his Israeli counterpart, Naftali Bennett, over Sergei Lavrov’s Hitler comments.

Mr Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, sparked outrage on Sunday when he claimed Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood”. Mr Lavrov also suggested that Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky is a “Nazi”, despite being Jewish.