Russia-Ukraine updates: Ukraine outgunned 20 to 1 in east, Zelenskyy says

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(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 24, 4:47 pm
Drone footage shows devastation inside Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Drone footage released by Russian media shows the devastation inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces fended off Russian troops for weeks amid intense fighting before surrendering.

The drone footage released by the Russian news outlet MIC Izvestia showed the collapsed walls of the plant and twisted metal and debris strewn about the entire facility.

The Russian Defense ministry on Friday said the last Ukrainian fighters defending Azovstal had surrendered, giving Russia full control of the port city of Mariupol.

The seizure of Mariupol, gives Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.

May 24, 4:21 pm
Canada announces plans to send artillery to Ukraine

Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand announced Tuesday that her country is sending Ukraine more than 20,000 artillery rounds of 155mm NATO-standard ammunition, to further support Ukraine’s military response to Russian leadership’s “illegal, and unjustifiable invasion.”

The ammunition, Anand said, has been sourced from the United States at a cost around $98 million and that work is underway to deliver it to Ukraine as quickly as possible.

The ammunition can be fired from M777 howitzer cannons that Canada and its allies have donated to Ukrainian forces.

“Canada stands with Ukraine and its people as they resist Putin’s illegal and unjustifiable assault,” Anand said. “Today’s announcement is another example of our unwavering commitment to provide Ukraine with the comprehensive military aid it needs to defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.”

May 24, 10:33 am
Tone in Kyiv shifts as Ukraine sharpens its language in pursuit of more US arms

The language being used by Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in relation to the war has changed significantly in the past couple of days and, to some extent, reflects the pressure Ukrainian forces are currently under as Russian forces make progress in the eastern Donbas region.

Marking the third month of the war, Zelenskyy’s said in a speech Monday night that the toughest battles in recent days have been in the Donbas, Bakhmut, Popasna and Severodonetsk areas of eastern Ukraine, where Russia has concentrated most of its efforts and is “trying to destroy everything living there.” He warned that the coming weeks of the war “will be difficult.”

“Yet we have no alternative but to fight — fight and win,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenksyy’s admission of 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers dying every day as of this past weekend and his revelation that more than 70 troops were killed in a single attack on a military base near Kyiv a week ago are a departure from the broad Ukrainian messaging up until now, which has been to stay silent on casualty numbers.

The shift in language on the Ukrainian side over the number of troops lost comes amid multiple reports in recent days suggesting Russia is making small but incremental gains in the Donbas. The latest assessment from the British Defense Ministry is that Russia has achieved “some localized successes.”

Zelenskyy and his top officials have ramped up calls for more weapons from Western nations, specifically the United States. As ABC News has reported, multilaunch rocket systems are at the top of the Ukrainians’ wish list. They also want Western-made fighter jets, such as F-16. However, training time and maintenance issues make the supply of fighter jets more complicated.

Ukrainian officials have publicly addressed Western concerns that Ukraine might use medium-range missile systems to hit targets in Russia, saying that Ukraine will only use them to hit targets within Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders. There has been no suggestion that Ukraine would strike targets in Crimea, which presumably would be seen by Western officials as carrying a similar risk of escalation with Russia.

The United States and some of its allies are concerned that Russia would use strikes in Russian territory with Western-supplied weapons as a pretext for direct confrontation with the West.

-ABC News’ Ian Pannell, Dragana Jovanovic and Tom Soufi Burridge

May 23, 4:49 pm
Russian troops have 20 times the military equipment of Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is outgunned 20-to-1 on the eastern front in a virtual speech to the Ukraine House in Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum is currently taking place.

“We do not have enough technical supplies because we are fighting against such a big country with a big army,” Zelenskyy said. “They have 20 times more equipment. Just imagine, now in Donbas, we have 1 to 20. You can just imagine what kind of people we have, how strong they are, what strong warriors we have.”

Zelenskyy has continuously pushed Western countries to increase the amount of military aid coming into the country to stave off the attack from Russia. He sent special thanks over the weekend to President Joe Biden for approving $40 billion in additional aid last week.

“I just don’t want hundreds of thousands of people to die, so we need weapons that will allow us to fight at a great distance,” Zelenskyy added in his speech to the Ukraine House.

Zelenskyy said over the weekend that 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day in the fighting.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 23, 4:24 pm
Russian UN diplomat resigns over Ukraine war: ‘Never have I been so ashamed of my country’

Boris Bondarev, Russia’s counselor to the United Nations in Geneva, has resigned, becoming the Kremlin’s most senior diplomat to defect since his country’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, according to a report from U.N. Watch, a nongovernment organization based in Geneva.

“Never have I been so ashamed of my country,” Bondarev wrote in a statement shared with diplomats in Geneva and published by U.N. Watch.

He said he started his diplomatic career in Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs in 2002 and began his most recent role at the U.N. in 2019.

“I regret to admit that over all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry has been increasing all the time,” Bondarev said in his statement. “However, in most recent years, this has become simply catastrophic.”

He added, “Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country. Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy.”

ABC News has not independently verified the statement’s authenticity with Bondarev. The Associated Press spoke with him by phone and he confirmed his statement.

Kira Yarmysh, a spokesperson for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, shared the statement on her verified Twitter account and wrote, “It seems that there was one honest person in the entire Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

-ABC News’ Josh Margolin

May 23, 2:55 pm
Canadian artist turns bullet holes into beautiful flowers in Bucha

Canadian artist Ivanka Siolkowsky is trying to restore some beauty to the war-ravaged Ukrainian city of Bucha.

A former school teacher, Silokowsky has been painting flowers and butterflies around bullet holes she finds in fences, walls of buildings and homes, frequently soliciting children and other local residents to help her.

“The project began a few weeks ago. I only painted 5 fences, but my hope is that the people of Bucha and other formerly occupied cities in Ukraine will continue this project further,” Siolkowsky recently wrote on her Instagram page.

Bucha, which is northwest of Kyiv, is one of the most heavily bomb cities in Ukraine, where residents have told ABC News of witnessing numerous killings and torture at the hands of Russian forces.

Siolkowsky conceded that her paintings are not masterpieces and said someone commented on one of the Instagram posts, writing, “the paintings aren’t even good.”

“Believe me, I’m aware,” she wrote on Instagram. “But the point of this wasn’t to create masterpieces — it was to bring joy back into a city filled with darkness after the Russian occupation.”

May 23, 12:32 pm
Defense Secretary Austin convenes 2nd Ukraine Contact Group meeting

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened the second monthly meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group Monday morning, during which more than 40 nations participated virtually.

“This gathering is virtual, but our efforts together are making a very concrete difference on the battlefield,” Austin told the group as he faced two large monitors showing the virtual participants. “We’re all here today because of the extraordinary valor and resilience of Ukraine soldiers and citizens.”

The group was formed last month to help coordinate international efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invaders.

“For three months, Ukraine has been fighting with grit and tactical ingenuity against an entirely unprovoked invasion by its far larger neighbor,” Austin said. “And we’re here to help Ukraine for the long haul.”

Defense leaders from 44 countries and representatives of NATO and the European Union participated in the meeting. Several new nations joined the group since its first meeting, including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Ireland and Kosovo.

Ukrainian officials, including Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, also logged on to the virtual meeting.

“My friends, we’ve got your back — all of us,” Austin told the Ukrainian representatives. “President Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s leaders have made history, and your forces have inspired the free world with their courage and skill.”

May 23, 12:06 pm
Starbucks announces complete withdrawal from Russia

Starbucks announced on Monday its decision to exit the market in Russia.

“We continue to watch the tragic events unfold and, today, we have decided to suspend all business activity in Russia, including shipment of all Starbucks products,” Starbuck CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “Our licensed partner has agreed to immediately pause store operations and will provide support to the nearly 2,000 partners in Russia who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood.”

The announcement comes after the company suspended all business activity in Russia on March 8. Going forward, Starbucks said it will continue to pay its employees in Russia for six months.

Starbucks is one of multiple major U.S. and international companies that have put operations on hold in Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. Other companies that have suspended operations there include Pfizer, Apple, FedEx, McDonald’s and Amazon.

May 23, 11:26 am
Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison in first war crimes trial in Ukraine

A Ukrainian court in Kyiv sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison in the first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion began in February.

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin pleaded guilty and confessed in court last week to killing a 62-year-old Ukrainian man a few days into the Russian invasion.

During the trial, the widow of the man Shishimarin killed testified that her husband meant everything to her and said she believes the Russian soldier deserves life in prison.

However, the widow said she would support exchanging Shishimarin for any of the Ukrainian soldiers taken prisoner this month by Russia at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine.

“I feel very sorry for him,” the widow testified. “But for a crime like that I can’t forgive him.”

May 23, 10:08 am
Zelenskyy calls for preventative sanctions in virtual address at World Economic Forum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke Monday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling on the West to recognize as a mistake the refusal to impose preventive sanctions on Russia and take decisive steps in that direction.

“We must not react, but act preventively,” Zelenskyy told the forum in a virtual address. “And not only adapt what we have to the new realities, but create new tools. … Do not wait for fatal shots. Do not wait for Russia to use chemical, biological or, heaven forbid, nuclear weapons. Do not give the aggressor the impression that the world allegedly will not offer sufficient resistance. Protect immediately to the maximum freedom and a normal, useful world order.”

Zelenskyy said there are still no such sanctions against the Russian Federation, and listed them:

  • Complete embargo on Russian oil.
  • Complete blocking of all Russian banks.
  • Complete rejection of the Russian IT sector.
  • And complete cessation of trade with the aggressor.

Zelenskyy also called for freezing and confiscating Russian assets around the world and sending them to a special fund to pay compensation and restore Ukraine.

“There should be a precedent for punishing the aggressor. … Russian assets scattered across different jurisdictions should be found, arrested or frozen, and then confiscated and sent to a special fund, from which all victims should receive compensation,” Zelenskyy said.

He warned it will not be easy, but added that various aggressors will definitely not be motivated to do what Russia has done and continues to do in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said he believes the world is at a turning point and that the future of not only Ukraine, but the whole world, depends on the resistance to brutal force.

“This year, the words ‘turning point’ are not just a rhetorical figure of the speech,” Zelenskyy said. “Now is really such a moment when it is decided whether brutal force will dominate the world. If it dominates, then our thoughts are not interesting to it, and we can no longer gather in Davos. For what? Brutal force is looking for nothing but subjugation of those whom it wants to subdue, and it does not debate, but kills immediately, as Russia is doing in Ukraine right now — at this time when we are talking to you.”

May 22, 3:21 pm
Lithuania becomes first EU country to suspend all Russian energy imports

Lithuania is suspending all imports of Russian oil, natural gas and power, the country’s energy minister Dainius Kreivys announced in a statement Sunday, making it the only country in the European Union to suspend all imports on Russian energy.

Lithuania is now receiving liquified gas from the U.S. after becoming the first EU country to suspend Russian gas imports in April, Kreivys said. The country is now generating electricity via local power generation and local EU imports via existing connections with Sweden, Poland and Latvia.

It is unclear what alternate source of oil Lithuania will rely on, but Kreivys’ statement indicates that its sole importer of oil, Orlen Lietuva, refused to import Russian oil more than a month ago, Kreivys said.

The move is an expression of solidarity with Ukraine, Kreivys said, adding that it cannot allow its money to finance a Russian war machine.

The EU stated in March that it would end its dependency on fossil fuels imports from Russia and made plans to phase out Russian oil, gas and coal. The European Commission presented details on how it plans to achieve that last week.

May 22, 2:54 pm
50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers killed every day, Zelenskyy says

While Ukraine has rarely reported on its combat losses since the Russian invasion began in late February, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced during a press briefing Sunday that 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are being killed every day.

The last time Zelenskyy revealed military death toll figures was in April, when he said that around 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in action and around 10,000 wounded. Zelenskyy did not provide a total figure for combatants killed in action on Sunday.

Since the start of the invasion, most Ukrainian men ages 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country. On Friday, a petition calling for the government to cancel the ban was registered with the president’s office.

The petition surpassed the 25,000-signature threshold that requires the president to address it on Sunday. Zelenskyy acknowledged the petition during Sunday’s briefing.

“How would I explain that to relatives of our defenders who are fighting at the most difficult positions in the East, where 50 to 100 troops lose their lives every day?” he said.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to extend martial law through Aug. 23. Zelenskyy’s office has a few weeks to consider the petition.

May 22, 12:41 pm
Zelenskyy welcomes president of Poland amid Ukraine’s bid to join EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy extended a warm welcome to Polish President Andrzej Duda on Sunday amid his bid to have his country join the European Union.

During a parliamentary session, Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to all Poles for their support, making it clear that he’s pushing full steam ahead to ensure Ukraine is granted candidate status.

“I am sure that all the necessary decisions will be made first for the status of a candidate for Ukraine, and then for full membership,” he said. “In particular, thanks to Poland’s many years of protection of Ukrainian interests on the European continent.”

Shortly after Zelenskyy and Duda addressed lawmakers, the parliament session was briefly interrupted when air sirens sounded in Kyiv, and members of parliament were moved to a shelter. The Ukrainian regional military administration later confirmed a Russian missile was intercepted over the Kyiv region.

France’s Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune in his interview with France TF1 radio said on Sunday that it could take 15 to 20 years for Ukraine to become an EU member state, adding that Kyiv could enter the European political community proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron in the meantime.

May 22, 12:07 pm
Recent attacks have killed more than 200 Ukrainians, Russian military claims

The Russian Defense Ministry provided updates to what it described as the “special military operation in Ukraine” on Sunday, saying that hundreds of Ukrainians were killed in recent attacks.

High-precision air missiles and other attacks launched in Donetsk, Lugansk and Krasnyi on Sunday hit command posts, areas where Ukrainian manpower and military equipment are concentrated and ammunition depots, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The attacks killed more than 210 Ukrainian nationals and destroyed as many as 38 armored motor vehicles, the ministry claimed.

Russian air defense also shot down 11 Ukrainian aircraft and intercepted “multiple launch rockets” in the Kharkov region, according to the defense ministry.

The ministry claimed that, in total, 174 Ukrainian aircraft and 125 helicopters, 977 unmanned aerial vehicles, 317 anti-aircraft missile systems, 3,198 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 408 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,622 field artillery and mortars and 3,077 units of special military vehicles were destroyed during the operation.

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