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.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trevor Reed says US should trade Viktor Bout if it will free Americans held in Russia

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(NEW YORK) — Trevor Reed, the former U.S. Marine recently released after nearly three years in Russian captivity, has called on the U.S. government to negotiate a prisoner swap like the one that freed him to bring Americans Paul Whelan, a former Marine, and WNBA player Brittney Griner, who are both being detained in Russia.

Reed and his parents, Joey and Paula Reed, told ABC News if it meant freeing Whelan and Griner, the United States should trade the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence, and who Russia has floated as a possible candidate for a swap.

“I think that the United States should make any type of agreement to get Paul out. And if that includes an exchange, I think they should absolutely do that,” the 30-year-old Reed said in a lengthy interview with ABC News on Saturday, one of the first he has given since being freed.

Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death” by the media and a notorious weapons trafficker, was pursued for over a decade by Western governments and is widely believed to have ties to Russian intelligence. He was finally captured during a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Thailand and extradited to the U.S.

He was convicted in 2012 on federal narco-terrorism charges for agreeing during the sting to sell millions of dollars in weapons to Colombian terrorists who were purportedly targeting Americans. In reality, the supposed Colombian arms buyers were part of the DEA undercover sting.

From the moment of his arrest, Russia has sought to return Bout, attempted to block his extradition in 2008 and Russian state media and officials for years have pressed for his release. Since Whelan was seized in 2018, Bout has repeatedly been suggested by Russian state media as a possible trade for him and Reed and last week for Griner.

“Viktor Bout has already been in prison for 15 years,” said Reed, adding that any value he had for Russian intelligence was long since blown. “He’s no longer a threat. He’s paid for that crime. Maybe not as long as, you know, the U.S. government would have liked him to, but he has paid for that.”

Reed said the United States should try to get the two Americans, who are both facing long sentences in Russia, freed in exchange for a man who will likely be released from prison in a few years.

“Fifteen years is not a joke in prison. And, you know, the fact of the matter is that Paul has another 13 years left in prison. And Brittney, who knows how long she’s gonna be sentenced for? She may have ten years in prison. So you’re getting two Americans who are going to have a huge amount of time left on their sentences for a guy who is getting out soon — who has already been in prison for 15 years,” he said.

“And I think that they need to do that,” he said. “If that’s for Viktor Bout, I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s 100 Victor Bouts. They have to get our guys out.”

Whelan was arrested in December 2018 while visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding and charged with espionage by Russian intelligence officials. He is being held on espionage charges that the U.S. government says were also fabricated to take him as a bargaining chip. Whelan is in a prison camp in Mordovia, sentenced to 16 years.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was visiting Russia to play basketball in the off-season and was arrested in February at a Moscow area airport for allegedly having vape cartridges in her luggage that contained hashish oil — an illegal substance in Russia.

The U.S. government considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained” in Russia, the State Department said.

“With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News this month.

Reed was released from a Russian prison on April 27 when the Biden administration orchestrated a prisoner exchange with the Russian government for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot from Russia who was sentenced in 2011 to 20 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

American administrations are traditionally reluctant to make prisoner exchanges, fearing that it sets a precedent that encourages hostile governments to seize more Americans.

Reed rejected that position, saying such governments would continue to target Americans regardless and were already doing so.

“That’s completely inaccurate. That’s not a concern at all, because, you know, countries like, you know, Russia, China, Venezuela, Rwanda, Iran, Syria, places like that need absolutely no incentive to kidnap Americans,” he said.

“Even if they didn’t get anything out of it, just for the simple fact that they could show the United States that we have your citizens here and that we’re not scared of you,” he said.

Reed’s father, Joey Reed, who spent more than a year in Russia trying to free his son and picketed the White House, said he believed the government needed to move with more urgency.

“Don’t get me wrong; we’re super thankful that President Biden made the decision to trade for Trevor. And what we want is we want that to continue,” Joey Reed said. “If there’s no other way to bring an American citizen home, do it. Don’t wait until they’ve been there 20 years. Don’t wait until they’re near death.”

In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Paul Whelan’s brother, David, said Paul spoke with his parents after Reed’s release and said the news hit him hard.

“He asked, ‘Why was I left behind?'” David Whelan said. “And we still don’t really have a good answer for that.”

Trevor Reed told ABC News that he’s speaking out “in order to make the American people aware that this is not an isolated situation.”

“We have political prisoners all over the world who are suffering and who need our help,” Reed said.

Speaking of Whelan, Reed became emotional.

“He was in some worse prisons than I was. His situation is a lot worse than mine and we need to do everything possible to get him out at any cost,” Reed said.

Reed said that when he found out his release was part of a prisoner exchange, he assumed Whelan would be freed, too. But Whelan was left behind.

“I thought that that was wrong, that they got me out and not Paul,” Reed said. “I knew that as soon as I was able to that I would fight for him to get out and I would do everything I could to get him out of there. The United States got me out, but they left him there. I can’t describe to you how painful that feeling is.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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

John Moore/Getty Images

(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 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.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine updates: Russia publishes list of Americans banned from country

OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

(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 21, 11:42 am
Biden signs $40 billion Ukraine aid bill into law

President Biden signed the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill into law Saturday, the White House announced in a press release.

The bill provides supplemental emergency funds to Federal agencies to respond and provide assistance to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden on Twitter for the aid.

“The leadership of US, President Biden & the American people in supporting Ukrainians fight against the Russian aggressor is crucial. Look forward to new, powerful defense assistance. Today it is needed more than ever,” Zelenskyy said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Max Uzol

May 21, 10:44 am
Russian Foreign Ministry publishes list of Americans banned from entering Russia

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday published a list of American citizens who are barred from entering the Russian Federation on a permanent basis.

Russia said the move was in retaliation for anti-Russian sanctions currently imposed by the U.S.

The list published on the ministry’s website comprises 963 U.S. citizens, including President Joe Biden.

May 20, 5:00 pm
More than 40 countries to take part in next Ukraine Contact Group meeting

More than 40 countries will be represented at the second meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, formed last month to coordinate international support for Ukraine, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Monday’s meeting “will allow us to continue to dip into a process to get Ukraine, or at least to make other nations available and knowledgeable about what Ukraine needs as the fight is ongoing,” Kirby told reporters during a briefing Friday.

More than 40 nations attended the first meeting both virtually and in-person at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. New countries will attend the second, which will be strictly virtual, Kirby said.

“There are some countries that have shown an interest in participating that weren’t in the first meeting,” said Kirby, who called the first iteration “a true global community” of countries in NATO and beyond.

May 20, 3:41 pm
Russian Ministry of Defense claims it has taken complete control over Azovstal steel plant, Mariupol

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Friday it has taken complete control of the Azovstal plant and Mariupol from the Ukrainian forces, expelling them from the port city.

The underground facilities of the plant, in which the Azov National Regiment militia were hiding, came under the complete control of Russian forces, the ministry claimed.

The commander of the Azov Regiment was reportedly taken out of the territory of the plant in an armored car, the ministry said.

Russia claims 2,439 Ukrainian servicemen have laid down their arms and surrendered since May 16.

May 20, 1:10 pm
Russia to cut off Finland’s natural gas Saturday morning

Gasum, Finland’s natural gas company, announced Friday that it was informed its imports from Russia’s Gazprom Export will be cut off on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time.

The move by Russia comes days after Finland submitted its application to join NATO.

“It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted. However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation and provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months,” Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.

Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources though the Balticconnector pipeline, which connects Finland with Estonia, the company said in a statement.

Gasum said its gas-filling stations in the network area will continue in normal operation.

May 20, 8:57 am
US-supplied howitzers to Ukraine lack accuracy-aiding computers

Dozens of artillery systems supplied by the United States to Ukraine were not fitted with advanced computer systems, which improve the efficiency and accuracy of the weapons, ABC News has learned.

The M777 155mm howitzers are now being used by the Ukrainian military in its war with Russia.

The Pentagon did not deny that the artillery pieces were supplied without the computers but said it had received “positive feedback” from the Ukrainians about the “precise and highly effective” weapons.

That positive sentiment was echoed by a Ukrainian politician, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity. However, the politician also expressed frustration that the artillery pieces had not been the fitted with the digital computer systems.

Artillery is currently playing a crucial role in the fighting across eastern Ukraine, as Russia continues its offensive in that part of the country. U.S. officials recently confirmed that all but one of the 90 howitzers promised to Ukraine had now been delivered, along with tactical vehicles used to tow them.

If fitted to a howitzer, the digital computer system enables the crew operating the weapon to quickly and accurately pinpoint a target. Howitzers without a computer system can still be fired accurately, using traditional methods to calculate the angle needed to hit a target.

Modern computer systems, however, rule out the possibility of human error. Why the artillery pieces supplied to Ukraine did not have the digital targeting technology installed is unclear. The Pentagon said it would not discuss individual components “for operational security reasons.”

-ABC News’ Tom Burridge and Luis Martinez

May 20, 6:58 am
1,700 Ukrainian soldiers likely surrendered from Mariupol plant, UK says

As many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers have likely surrendered from the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in war-ravaged Mariupol this week, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

“An unknown number of Ukrainian forces remain inside the factory,” the ministry said Friday in an intelligence update. “Once Russia has secured Mariupol, it is likely they will move their forces to reinforce operations in the Donbas.”

For weeks, Ukrainian fighters and civilians were holed up inside the sprawling industrial site as the remaining pocket of resistance to Russia’s relentless bombardment of Mariupol, a southeastern Ukrainian port city strategically located on the Sea of Azov between eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region and the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Russia claimed Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered in Mariupol over the previous three days, while Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that more than 250 had yielded in the initial hours after it ordered them to do so.

Mariupol is the largest city that Russian forces have seized since launching an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. Its complete capture gives Russia total control of the coast of the Sea of Azov as well as a continuous stretch of territory along eastern and southern Ukraine.

“Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively,” the U.K. defense ministry said. “This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly.”

“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives,” the ministry added. “This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition.”

May 20, 6:42 am
Belarus says nearly 28,000 Ukrainians have arrived since Russian invasion

Nearly 28,000 Ukrainian citizens have arrived in Belarus since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the Belarusian State Border Committee.

“Between 6 a.m. on February 24 and 6 a.m. on May 20, a total of 27,868 Ukrainian citizens arrived in Belarus, including 15,793 who crossed the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, 10,563 by transit through Poland, 1,305 through Lithuania, and 207 through Latvia,” the committee said in a statement Friday.

In the past 24 hours alone, 154 Ukrainian citizens arrived in Belarus, including 120 via Poland, according to the committee.

Belarus shares a land border with both Ukraine and Russia, and is Moscow’s main ally.

May 19, 8:07 pm
Biden to sign Ukraine aid bill while abroad

President Joe Biden will sign the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill while he’s in Asia, a White House official said.

“The president does intend to sign the bill while he’s on the road so that he can sign it expeditiously,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One while en route to the region Thursday evening. “The modalities of that are being worked right now so that he can get it and sign it.”

The bill, which passed the Senate earlier Thursday with bipartisan support, will need to be flown to the region so that Biden can sign it. The practice of flying bills to presidents for signature dates back to the Truman administration, but this is a first for Biden.

Biden departed for South Korea Thursday and will visit Japan later in the week during his first trip to Asia as president.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Zelenskyy calls for preventative sanctions at World Economic Forum

John Moore/Getty Images

(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 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.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia publishes list of Americans banned from country

OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

(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 21, 11:42 am
Biden signs $40 billion Ukraine aid bill into law

President Biden signed the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill into law Saturday, the White House announced in a press release.

The bill provides supplemental emergency funds to Federal agencies to respond and provide assistance to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden on Twitter for the aid.

“The leadership of US, President Biden & the American people in supporting Ukrainians fight against the Russian aggressor is crucial. Look forward to new, powerful defense assistance. Today it is needed more than ever,” Zelenskyy said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Max Uzol

May 21, 10:44 am
Russian Foreign Ministry publishes list of Americans banned from entering Russia

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday published a list of American citizens who are barred from entering the Russian Federation on a permanent basis.

Russia said the move was in retaliation for anti-Russian sanctions currently imposed by the U.S.

The list published on the ministry’s website comprises 963 U.S. citizens, including President Joe Biden.

May 20, 5:00 pm
More than 40 countries to take part in next Ukraine Contact Group meeting

More than 40 countries will be represented at the second meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, formed last month to coordinate international support for Ukraine, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Monday’s meeting “will allow us to continue to dip into a process to get Ukraine, or at least to make other nations available and knowledgeable about what Ukraine needs as the fight is ongoing,” Kirby told reporters during a briefing Friday.

More than 40 nations attended the first meeting both virtually and in-person at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. New countries will attend the second, which will be strictly virtual, Kirby said.

“There are some countries that have shown an interest in participating that weren’t in the first meeting,” said Kirby, who called the first iteration “a true global community” of countries in NATO and beyond.

May 20, 3:41 pm
Russian Ministry of Defense claims it has taken complete control over Azovstal steel plant, Mariupol

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Friday it has taken complete control of the Azovstal plant and Mariupol from the Ukrainian forces, expelling them from the port city.

The underground facilities of the plant, in which the Azov National Regiment militia were hiding, came under the complete control of Russian forces, the ministry claimed.

The commander of the Azov Regiment was reportedly taken out of the territory of the plant in an armored car, the ministry said.

Russia claims 2,439 Ukrainian servicemen have laid down their arms and surrendered since May 16.

May 20, 1:10 pm
Russia to cut off Finland’s natural gas Saturday morning

Gasum, Finland’s natural gas company, announced Friday that it was informed its imports from Russia’s Gazprom Export will be cut off on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time.

The move by Russia comes days after Finland submitted its application to join NATO.

“It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted. However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation and provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months,” Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.

Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources though the Balticconnector pipeline, which connects Finland with Estonia, the company said in a statement.

Gasum said its gas-filling stations in the network area will continue in normal operation.

May 20, 8:57 am
US-supplied howitzers to Ukraine lack accuracy-aiding computers

Dozens of artillery systems supplied by the United States to Ukraine were not fitted with advanced computer systems, which improve the efficiency and accuracy of the weapons, ABC News has learned.

The M777 155mm howitzers are now being used by the Ukrainian military in its war with Russia.

The Pentagon did not deny that the artillery pieces were supplied without the computers but said it had received “positive feedback” from the Ukrainians about the “precise and highly effective” weapons.

That positive sentiment was echoed by a Ukrainian politician, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity. However, the politician also expressed frustration that the artillery pieces had not been the fitted with the digital computer systems.

Artillery is currently playing a crucial role in the fighting across eastern Ukraine, as Russia continues its offensive in that part of the country. U.S. officials recently confirmed that all but one of the 90 howitzers promised to Ukraine had now been delivered, along with tactical vehicles used to tow them.

If fitted to a howitzer, the digital computer system enables the crew operating the weapon to quickly and accurately pinpoint a target. Howitzers without a computer system can still be fired accurately, using traditional methods to calculate the angle needed to hit a target.

Modern computer systems, however, rule out the possibility of human error. Why the artillery pieces supplied to Ukraine did not have the digital targeting technology installed is unclear. The Pentagon said it would not discuss individual components “for operational security reasons.”

-ABC News’ Tom Burridge and Luis Martinez

May 20, 6:58 am
1,700 Ukrainian soldiers likely surrendered from Mariupol plant, UK says

As many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers have likely surrendered from the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in war-ravaged Mariupol this week, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

“An unknown number of Ukrainian forces remain inside the factory,” the ministry said Friday in an intelligence update. “Once Russia has secured Mariupol, it is likely they will move their forces to reinforce operations in the Donbas.”

For weeks, Ukrainian fighters and civilians were holed up inside the sprawling industrial site as the remaining pocket of resistance to Russia’s relentless bombardment of Mariupol, a southeastern Ukrainian port city strategically located on the Sea of Azov between eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region and the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Russia claimed Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered in Mariupol over the previous three days, while Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that more than 250 had yielded in the initial hours after it ordered them to do so.

Mariupol is the largest city that Russian forces have seized since launching an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. Its complete capture gives Russia total control of the coast of the Sea of Azov as well as a continuous stretch of territory along eastern and southern Ukraine.

“Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively,” the U.K. defense ministry said. “This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly.”

“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives,” the ministry added. “This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition.”

May 20, 6:42 am
Belarus says nearly 28,000 Ukrainians have arrived since Russian invasion

Nearly 28,000 Ukrainian citizens have arrived in Belarus since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the Belarusian State Border Committee.

“Between 6 a.m. on February 24 and 6 a.m. on May 20, a total of 27,868 Ukrainian citizens arrived in Belarus, including 15,793 who crossed the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, 10,563 by transit through Poland, 1,305 through Lithuania, and 207 through Latvia,” the committee said in a statement Friday.

In the past 24 hours alone, 154 Ukrainian citizens arrived in Belarus, including 120 via Poland, according to the committee.

Belarus shares a land border with both Ukraine and Russia, and is Moscow’s main ally.

May 19, 8:07 pm
Biden to sign Ukraine aid bill while abroad

President Joe Biden will sign the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill while he’s in Asia, a White House official said.

“The president does intend to sign the bill while he’s on the road so that he can sign it expeditiously,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One while en route to the region Thursday evening. “The modalities of that are being worked right now so that he can get it and sign it.”

The bill, which passed the Senate earlier Thursday with bipartisan support, will need to be flown to the region so that Biden can sign it. The practice of flying bills to presidents for signature dates back to the Truman administration, but this is a first for Biden.

Biden departed for South Korea Thursday and will visit Japan later in the week during his first trip to Asia as president.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russian opposition group pushing US to sanction ‘next tier’ of Putin enablers

Contributor/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Top members of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team are pressing U.S. officials to pursue sanctions against 6,000 Russians who they say are among the “next tier” of those enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

Members of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation met Thursday with members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as officials with the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, the group’s executive director, Vladimir Ashurkov, told ABC News.

Navalny has been held in a Russian jail since January of 2021, while his anti-corruption foundation is based outside of Russia.

Thursday’s meetings were part of a four-day trip to push the U.S. to take action against thousands of Putin supporters who Ashurkov said are outside of the super-rich, multi-billionaire class — and who still have time to decide what they want the future of Russia to look like.

“It’s a lot of officials, not necessarily at the top, but the next tier,” Ashurkov said.

“The average age for them is 45 years old, so they still have a life after Putin,” he said. “And they have to think hard about where they stand on this war and on Putin’s regime.”

Ashurkov said the 6,000 names have already been made public, which “creates for them motivation to step away and distance themselves from Putin’s regime.”

“And that’s what we want to achieve,” Ashurkov said.

Among the Justice Department officials the group met with were members of the department’s Kleptocapture Task Force, which was formed in March to target the assets of Russian oligarchs.

“We’re helping [the task force] with asset tracking for sanctioned individuals,” Ashurkov told ABC News. “We are arguably the most professional investigative outfit in Russia — so I think they benefit from our experience and from our work.”

Ashurkov also said he met with a group of Republican senators that included Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, who Ashurkov said were “generally receptive.”

In addition, Ashurkov said his group was scheduled to meet with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, which handles sanctions programs. But he said there were no meetings scheduled with the White House.

Saying that sanctions alone are not “silver bullets” powerful enough to stop the war in Ukraine, Ashurkov said they’re one of the options available to Western allies to make an impact.

“They all have been really receptive to this,” Ashurkov said of the U.S. officials he had met.

“I think, really, people support the idea,” he said of the proposed sanctions. “I think during this trip we at least got the important lawmakers to be aware of our proposals and to support them.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two Secret Service employees being sent home from South Korea ahead of Biden’s arrival after alleged incident: Sources

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Two Secret Service employees — an agent and an armed physical security specialist — in South Korea to prepare for President Joe Biden’s impending arrival are being sent home after an alleged alcohol-fueled incident that ended with a report being filed with local police, according to two sources briefed on the situation.

The personnel were assigned to help prepare for the presidential visit when they went out for dinner and then stopped at several bars, the sources told ABC News. As the evening progressed, the two Secret Service staffers became apparently intoxicated and the agent wound up in a heated argument with a cab driver, according to the sources.

Police were called and a report detailing the “altercation” was filed, one source said.

“The Secret Service is aware of an off-duty incident involving two employees which may constitute potential policy violations,” agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement to ABC News. “The individuals will be immediately returned back to their post of duty and placed on administrative leave. There was no impact to the upcoming trip. We have very strict protocols and policies for all employees and we hold ourselves to the highest professional standards. Given this is an active administrative personnel matter, we are not in a position to comment further.”

The agent who allegedly got into the argument with the cab driver is scheduled to be interviewed by local police before boarding a flight back to the U.S. The decision to send them home was made while the president was still en route to Asia.

The latest episode in the Far East carries echoes of the 2012 scandal in which Secret Service employees were investigated for drinking heavily and hiring prostitutes while preparing for a trip by then-President Barack Obama to Cartagena, Colombia.

Of the 13 agents first suspected of soliciting prostitutes in Cartagena, three were cleared of wrongdoing and returned to duty, six resigned or retired, and four had their security clearances revoked or were removed, according to a report by the Homeland Security Department inspector general issued in December 2013. According to the report, the agents in Colombia consumed as many as 13 alcoholic drinks “before engaging in questionable behavior.”

“The Secret Service conducts thousands of advances for protectees each year, including for the president overseas,” said retired senior Secret Service agent Don Mihalek, an ABC News contributor. “Through it all, the president has been kept safe and few incidents have arisen. Despite that, the Secret Service is made up of people, some who make mistakes. When they do though, the response has been thorough to ensure that the integrity of the mission is always maintained.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia fires top commanders over Ukraine war failures

OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

(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, attempting to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol to secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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

May 19, 8:29 am
ICRC registers hundreds of prisoners of war from Mariupol steel plant

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war from a besieged steel plant in war-ravaged Mariupol this week, after the Ukrainian city fell into Russian hands.

A team from the ICRC began on Tuesday to register combatants leaving the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant, including the wounded, at the request of the parties to the conflict. The operation continued Wednesday and was still ongoing Thursday. The ICRC is not transporting prisoners of war to the places where they are held, according to a press release from the organization.

“The registration process that the ICRC facilitated involves the individual filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth and closest relative,” the organization said. “This information allows the ICRC to track those who have been captured and help them keep in touch with their families.”

The ICRC noted that it “maintains a confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict on their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by States under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held,” the organization added. “The ICRC must be allowed to interview prisoners of war without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted. Whenever circumstances permit, each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to search for and collect the dead.”

For weeks, Ukrainian fighters and civilians were holed up inside Mariupol’s vast Azovstal plant as the remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s relentless bombardment of the strategic southeastern port city. Russia claimed Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol over the previous three days, while Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that more than 250 had yielded in the initial hours after it ordered them to do so.

Mariupol is the largest city that Russian forces have seized since launching an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. Its complete capture gives Russia total control of the coast of the Sea of Azov as well as a continuous stretch of territory along eastern and southern Ukraine.

May 19, 7:30 am
Russia has fired top commanders over Ukraine war failures, UK says

Russia has fired senior military commanders in recent weeks “who are considered to have performed poorly during the opening stages of its invasion of Ukraine,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Thursday in an intelligence update.

According to the ministry, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Kisel, who commanded Russia’s elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. Vice Adm. Igor Osipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has also likely been suspended following the sinking of the fleet’s flagship, Moskva, in April. Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, the Russian military’s chief of the general staff, likely remains in his post, but it was unclear whether he retains the confidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the ministry.

“A culture of cover-ups and scape-goating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system,” the ministry said. “Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational set-backs.”

“This will likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors,” the ministry added. “It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions.”

May 19, 6:30 am
Russia puts two Ukrainian commanders on wanted list

Russia has placed two Ukrainian commanders on a wanted list.

Serhiy Velychko and Kostiantyn Nemychev, commanders of the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, have been added to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ database of wanted fugitives in connection with a criminal case.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, Velychko and Nemychev are accused of attempted murder of at least eight Russian servicemen who sustained multiple injuries in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. Criminal charges were brought against the pair in absentia, and Russian authorities are working to track down and apprehend them.

May 18, 10:41 pm
Senate confirms new US ambassador to Ukraine

The Senate on Wednesday night unanimously confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, a career foreign service officer.

The vote took place on the same day the U.S. officially resumed operations at its embassy in Kyiv.

May 18, 3:46 pm
Google’s Russian business to file for for bankruptcy

Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy, a spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

“We previously announced that we paused the vast majority of our commercial operations in Russia. The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said.

Adding, “People in Russia rely on our services to access quality information and we’ll continue to keep free services such as Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Android and Play available.”

-ABC News’ Rashid Haddou-Riffi

May 18, 3:34 pm
US, European allies ‘will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden,’ Biden adviser warns

U.S. and European allies “will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden” as their applications to join NATO are being considered, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Wednesday.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. would “remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.”

Sullivan was asked to clarify if that meant the U.S. was extending NATO security protections to Finland and Sweden during this time, and he said Article 5 only kicks in when all 30 allies ratify the accession.

“But the United States, is prepared to send a very clear message, as are all of our European allies, that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process, and there are practical measures that we can take along those lines that Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin will coordinate with his counterparts about Finland and Sweden,” Sullivan told reporters.

With Turkey opposed to this move, Sullivan told ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks that the White House is “confident at the end of the day” that Finland and Sweden “will have an effective and efficient accession process” and that “Turkey’s concerns can be addressed.”

Biden will host the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House Thursday.

“Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world’s most powerful defensive alliance, and they will bring with them strong capabilities and a proven track record as security partners and President Biden will have the opportunity to mark just what a historic and watershed moment this is when he meets with them tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and MaryAlice Parks

May 18, 3:15 pm
Blinken meets with Turkish counterpart at UN ahead of NATO summit

Ahead of a meeting at the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.

Blinken told reporters he was grateful for the solidarity Turkey has shown against Russian aggression.

While Cavusoglu said he would work with Blinken to “overcome the differences through dialogue and diplomacy,” he signaled that Turkey still had significant reservations about Sweden and Finland joining NATO, complicating their path to membership.

“Turkey has been supporting the open door policy of NATO even before this war, but with regards to these possible candidates—already candidate countries—we have also legitimate security concerns that they have been supporting terrorist organizations, and there are also export restrictions on defense products,” Cavusoglu said.

Then adding, “We understand their security concerns, but Turkey’s security concerns should be also met.”

Turkey has expressed concerns about Finland and Sweden joining NATO over the countries’ support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 18, 2:21 pm
Russian offensive effort shrinking, incremental progress toward Black Sea: Pentagon

Russian offensive operations in Donbas are becoming more modest, shrinking both in size and scale, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The Russians are making little progress so far in Donbas, with lots of back-and-fourth between both sides, according to the official.

“We see them hew very closely to their doctrine of artillery fire then a font of frontal attack by formations that are small, and in some cases, not fully resourced, fully manned, fully strong. And they get rebuffed by the Ukrainians,” the official said.

Russian forces are also still suffering from poor communication between commanders and are having other coordination issues, according to the official.

To the northeast of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces continue to push Russian troops back toward their border, according to the official.

Russian forces are making some progress pushing closer toward the Black Sea from between Kherson and Mykolayiv, according to the official. The official said it is not clear what the intent is for this line of advance, but the U.S. sees no signs of an imminent naval assault at this time.

The U.S. believes Russia is “certainly trying” to disrupt to flow of military aid moving through Ukraine, but there have been no indications that it has had any success, according to the official.

Three of the eleven Mi-17 helicopters, more than 200 of the 300 Switchblade drones and nearly 10 Phoenix Ghost drones that the U.S. has promised Ukraine have been delivered, according to the official. The Ukrainians have told the Pentagon that 79 of the 90 U.S. howitzers that were delivered are now being used in combat.

-ABC News’ Matt Seyler

May 18, 9:53 am
Finland, Sweden formally submit applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications to join NATO to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday morning at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

Stoltenberg welcomed the requests, saying, “This is a good day, at a critical moment for our security,” according to NATO.

“Every nation has the right to choose its own path. You have both made your choice, after thorough democratic processes. And I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Adding, “You are our closest partners. And your membership in NATO would increase our shared security.”

May 18, 9:25 am
Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing civilian

Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man on Feb. 28. The guilty plea carries a life sentence.

It’s the first trial Ukraine has conducted for an act that could be considered a war crime.

Asked by the presiding judge whether he accepted his guilt, Shyshimarin said: “Yes. Fully yes.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov dismissed the proceedings on Wednesday, telling reporters that accusations leveled against Russian soldiers by Ukraine were “simply fake or staged.”

May 17, 6:26 pm
State Department ‘confident’ in NATO expansion

As Turkey becomes more vocal about its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the State Department said it is still assured of the alliance’s unified support for the two prospective members.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken came away from meetings with NATO allies with a “sense of confidence there was strong consensus for admitting Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they so choose to join, and we’re confident we’ll be able to preserve that consensus.”

Price said that assessment came from what Blinken heard in conversations behind closed doors.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has publicly said that both candidates are untrustworthy because he perceives them as being supportive of groups Ankara views as extremist.

There is speculation that Turkey’s opposition is an attempt to leverage the moment to achieve its own policy goals or concessions from the U.S. Price said Tuesday that Turkey has not made any specific requests.

Price confirmed that Blinken will meet with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. on Wednesday, adding that “other conversations are ongoing between and among current NATO allies and potential aspirant countries.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 17, 2:22 pm
Finland, Sweden to jointly submit applications for NATO membership on Wednesday

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s office announced Sweden and Finland will jointly submit an application for NATO membership on Wednesday, after she met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Stockholm.

“It is a message of strength and a clear signal that we stand united going into the future,” Andersson said in a joint press conference with the Finnish president.

The two leaders are set to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.

The two countries have stepped away from nonalignment in the wake of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, and fears for their own security.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 2:11 pm
ICC sends 42 investigators to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court deployed a team of 42 investigators forensic and support personnel to Ukraine to advance investigations into crimes falling under ICC jurisdiction and provide support to Ukrainian authorities.

“This represents the largest ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday.

Khan said 21 countries have offered to send national experts to his office and 20 states have committed to provide financial contributions.

“I look forward to working with all actors, including survivor groups, national authorities, civil society organisations and international partners, in order to accelerate this collective work moving forward,” Khan said.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 1:33 pm
US commerce secretary says export controls on Russia are working

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters Tuesday that the export controls the U.S. and other countries have put on Russia are working, including compliance from China.

“These export controls are having a strong and significant effect,” Raimondo said Tuesday.

Raimondo returned from Paris where she co-chaired the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial Meeting. She said there was consensus and partnership amongst countries with respect to cutting off Russia’s access to “critical technologies.”

“We’ve had extensive discussions on export controls,” she said.

The Commerce Department and 37 other countries have limited semiconductor chips that can be exported to Russia, which help not only everyday Russian carmakers, but the Russian military build and use military equipment.

“You’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of Russia’s inability to continue to produce tanks and auto companies shutting down but overall U.S. exports to Russia have decreased over 80%, between February and a week ago,” she said. “So we essentially stopped sending high tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military.”

Even China, Raimondo said, stopped shipping tech products such as laptops to Russia by 40% compared to a year ago.

Asked whether she trusts the Chinese data, Raimondo said it is “consistent” with what the Ukrainians are seeing on the ground.

“We are not seeing systematic efforts by China to go around our export controls,” she said. “So yes, I think this is probably quite accurate.”

-ABC News’ Luke Barr

May 17, 9:20 am
Biden to meet with leaders of Sweden, Finland as they seek to join NATO

President Joe Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House on Thursday as the two countries seek to join NATO, the White House announced Tuesday.

The three leaders will “discuss Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications and European security,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: US reopens embassy in Kyiv

Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(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, attempting to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol to secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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

May 18, 10:41 pm
Senate confirms new US ambassador to Ukraine

The Senate on Wednesday night unanimously confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, a career foreign service officer.

The vote took place on the same day the U.S. officially resumed operations at its embassy in Kyiv.

May 18, 3:46 pm
Google’s Russian business to file for for bankruptcy

Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy, a spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

“We previously announced that we paused the vast majority of our commercial operations in Russia. The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said.

Adding, “People in Russia rely on our services to access quality information and we’ll continue to keep free services such as Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Android and Play available.”

-ABC News’ Rashid Haddou-Riffi

May 18, 3:34 pm
US, European allies ‘will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden,’ Biden adviser warns

U.S. and European allies “will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden” as their applications to join NATO are being considered, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Wednesday.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. would “remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.”

Sullivan was asked to clarify if that meant the U.S. was extending NATO security protections to Finland and Sweden during this time, and he said Article 5 only kicks in when all 30 allies ratify the accession.

“But the United States, is prepared to send a very clear message, as are all of our European allies, that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process, and there are practical measures that we can take along those lines that Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin will coordinate with his counterparts about Finland and Sweden,” Sullivan told reporters.

With Turkey opposed to this move, Sullivan told ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks that the White House is “confident at the end of the day” that Finland and Sweden “will have an effective and efficient accession process” and that “Turkey’s concerns can be addressed.”

Biden will host the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House Thursday.

“Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world’s most powerful defensive alliance, and they will bring with them strong capabilities and a proven track record as security partners and President Biden will have the opportunity to mark just what a historic and watershed moment this is when he meets with them tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and MaryAlice Parks

May 18, 3:15 pm
Blinken meets with Turkish counterpart at UN ahead of NATO summit

Ahead of a meeting at the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.

Blinken told reporters he was grateful for the solidarity Turkey has shown against Russian aggression.

While Cavusoglu said he would work with Blinken to “overcome the differences through dialogue and diplomacy,” he signaled that Turkey still had significant reservations about Sweden and Finland joining NATO, complicating their path to membership.

“Turkey has been supporting the open door policy of NATO even before this war, but with regards to these possible candidates—already candidate countries—we have also legitimate security concerns that they have been supporting terrorist organizations, and there are also export restrictions on defense products,” Cavusoglu said.

Then adding, “We understand their security concerns, but Turkey’s security concerns should be also met.”

Turkey has expressed concerns about Finland and Sweden joining NATO over the countries’ support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 18, 2:21 pm
Russian offensive effort shrinking, incremental progress toward Black Sea: Pentagon

Russian offensive operations in Donbas are becoming more modest, shrinking both in size and scale, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The Russians are making little progress so far in Donbas, with lots of back-and-fourth between both sides, according to the official.

“We see them hew very closely to their doctrine of artillery fire then a font of frontal attack by formations that are small, and in some cases, not fully resourced, fully manned, fully strong. And they get rebuffed by the Ukrainians,” the official said.

Russian forces are also still suffering from poor communication between commanders and are having other coordination issues, according to the official.

To the northeast of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces continue to push Russian troops back toward their border, according to the official.

Russian forces are making some progress pushing closer toward the Black Sea from between Kherson and Mykolayiv, according to the official. The official said it is not clear what the intent is for this line of advance, but the U.S. sees no signs of an imminent naval assault at this time.

The U.S. believes Russia is “certainly trying” to disrupt to flow of military aid moving through Ukraine, but there have been no indications that it has had any success, according to the official.

Three of the eleven Mi-17 helicopters, more than 200 of the 300 Switchblade drones and nearly 10 Phoenix Ghost drones that the U.S. has promised Ukraine have been delivered, according to the official. The Ukrainians have told the Pentagon that 79 of the 90 U.S. howitzers that were delivered are now being used in combat.

-ABC News’ Matt Seyler

May 18, 9:53 am
Finland, Sweden formally submit applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications to join NATO to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday morning at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

Stoltenberg welcomed the requests, saying, “This is a good day, at a critical moment for our security,” according to NATO.

“Every nation has the right to choose its own path. You have both made your choice, after thorough democratic processes. And I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Adding, “You are our closest partners. And your membership in NATO would increase our shared security.”

May 18, 9:25 am
Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing civilian

Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man on Feb. 28. The guilty plea carries a life sentence.

It’s the first trial Ukraine has conducted for an act that could be considered a war crime.

Asked by the presiding judge whether he accepted his guilt, Shyshimarin said: “Yes. Fully yes.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov dismissed the proceedings on Wednesday, telling reporters that accusations leveled against Russian soldiers by Ukraine were “simply fake or staged.”

May 17, 6:26 pm
State Department ‘confident’ in NATO expansion

As Turkey becomes more vocal about its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the State Department said it is still assured of the alliance’s unified support for the two prospective members.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken came away from meetings with NATO allies with a “sense of confidence there was strong consensus for admitting Finland and Sweden into the alliance if they so choose to join, and we’re confident we’ll be able to preserve that consensus.”

Price said that assessment came from what Blinken heard in conversations behind closed doors.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has publicly said that both candidates are untrustworthy because he perceives them as being supportive of groups Ankara views as extremist.

There is speculation that Turkey’s opposition is an attempt to leverage the moment to achieve its own policy goals or concessions from the U.S. Price said Tuesday that Turkey has not made any specific requests.

Price confirmed that Blinken will meet with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. on Wednesday, adding that “other conversations are ongoing between and among current NATO allies and potential aspirant countries.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

May 17, 2:22 pm
Finland, Sweden to jointly submit applications for NATO membership on Wednesday

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s office announced Sweden and Finland will jointly submit an application for NATO membership on Wednesday, after she met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Stockholm.

“It is a message of strength and a clear signal that we stand united going into the future,” Andersson said in a joint press conference with the Finnish president.

The two leaders are set to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.

The two countries have stepped away from nonalignment in the wake of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, and fears for their own security.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 2:11 pm
ICC sends 42 investigators to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court deployed a team of 42 investigators forensic and support personnel to Ukraine to advance investigations into crimes falling under ICC jurisdiction and provide support to Ukrainian authorities.

“This represents the largest ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday.

Khan said 21 countries have offered to send national experts to his office and 20 states have committed to provide financial contributions.

“I look forward to working with all actors, including survivor groups, national authorities, civil society organisations and international partners, in order to accelerate this collective work moving forward,” Khan said.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 17, 1:33 pm
US commerce secretary says export controls on Russia are working

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters Tuesday that the export controls the U.S. and other countries have put on Russia are working, including compliance from China.

“These export controls are having a strong and significant effect,” Raimondo said Tuesday.

Raimondo returned from Paris where she co-chaired the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial Meeting. She said there was consensus and partnership amongst countries with respect to cutting off Russia’s access to “critical technologies.”

“We’ve had extensive discussions on export controls,” she said.

The Commerce Department and 37 other countries have limited semiconductor chips that can be exported to Russia, which help not only everyday Russian carmakers, but the Russian military build and use military equipment.

“You’ve all heard the anecdotal stories of Russia’s inability to continue to produce tanks and auto companies shutting down but overall U.S. exports to Russia have decreased over 80%, between February and a week ago,” she said. “So we essentially stopped sending high tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military.”

Even China, Raimondo said, stopped shipping tech products such as laptops to Russia by 40% compared to a year ago.

Asked whether she trusts the Chinese data, Raimondo said it is “consistent” with what the Ukrainians are seeing on the ground.

“We are not seeing systematic efforts by China to go around our export controls,” she said. “So yes, I think this is probably quite accurate.”

-ABC News’ Luke Barr

May 17, 9:20 am
Biden to meet with leaders of Sweden, Finland as they seek to join NATO

President Joe Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House on Thursday as the two countries seek to join NATO, the White House announced Tuesday.

The three leaders will “discuss Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications and European security,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.