From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE NORTH 2022 APRIL-JUNE"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
Or return to the Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
Or return to King Of The North in 2022 January-March or continue to or return to King Of The North in 2022 July-Sep

WTO REGION 6 IN 1995 CENTRAL ASIA - RUSSIA, ARMENIA, GEORGIA, AZERBIJIAN, CUBA

WTO REGION 5 IN 1995 WESTERN ASIA/EASTERN EUROPE – BALKAN STATES, POLAND, ROMANIA, HUNGARY, BULGARIA, CZECHO-SLOVAKIA, YUGOSLAVIA, ALBANIA, ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA.

    So as 2021 has passed do we know who the "King of the North" is?
    "Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.    The king will do as he pleases.    He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.    He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place." (Daniel 11:35,36).
    The king of the north mentioned in verses Daniel 11:36-45 is the same King from the North (also known as the stern-faced king or the horn power) that was introduced in Daniel 8.    Notice how this point is demonstrated.
    Verse 35 points to the appointed time of the end, and verse 36 describes a king who will be successful until the time of wrath is completed.
Rev. 17:11 The Eighth Head: The Seventh Head (revived Roman Empire) will grow an Eighth Head in verse 11 (Some claim this to be "The scarlet animal that is to be destroyed).
    Rev. 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth (‘Ogdoos’ eighth is connected to ‘Okta’ eight; here the vision shows that the seventh head will briefly sprout another as an eighth head or an outgrowth which will be destroyed; “the eighth” king, his “wound being healed,” Rev. 13:3, Antichrist manifested in the fullest and most intense opposition to God.    He is “the little horn” with eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, before whom three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots, and to whom the whole ten “give their power and strength,” in Rev. 12:13, 17.), and is of the seven (originally came from the seven heads; The eighth is not one of the seven restored, but a new power or person proceeding out of the seven, and at the same time embodying all the God opposed features of the previous seven.    For this reason there are not eight heads, but only seven, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the seven.),
and goeth into perdition (‘Apoleia’ indicating loss of well-being, not of being, is used of the Beast, the final head of the revived Roman Empire; In the birth-pangs which prepare the “regeneration” there are wars, earthquakes, and disturbances, at which Antichrist takes his rise, from the sea, Rev. 13:1; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:9-11.).
(Paraphrased: “The scarlet animal that died is the eighth king, having reigned before as one of the seven; after his second reign, he too, will go to his doom.”).
    [No one can really narrow down who or what this new entity came from, but the following is food for thought.    I ran across a news article dated 6/9/2018 on my “KingOfTheWest2018.htm" file and I discovered the following statement, was made in it and was titled "Russia joined the G-7 in the late 1990s almost a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, making the group the G-8."    And as it is seen above in prophecy the seventh head will briefly sprout another as an eighth head, which was Russia, the eighth as one of the seven.    So as it says above "in his second reign," which was in 2018, "he too, will go to his doom.]
    Most likely this king is the Russian president Vladimir Putin because of his continued push to be in the scene and his interfacing into other areas.
    The end of the year was filled with all the connection of Russia with Turkey, China, North Korea, Ukraine and Syria.     When Trump pulled our troops out of Syria and whether the prophecy below represents the beginning of the events happening in late October 2019 is still to be determined if Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests     Ezekiel 38:1 and 18 or Ezekiel 39:1-8 which states about the entwining of Russia the King of the North and the Mideast Nations and the King of the South into the prophecy above in the very near future as the King of the West has pulled out of this mess which I think Trump made the right call probably due to God's influence.
    The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
    Well, lets see what continue to happens in 2022 as the world in an issue of Russia attacking Ukraine and the rest of the world attempting to defuse the tensions.


2022 APRIL-JUNE

4/1/2022 Hungary to see EU funding cut over breach by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BRUSSELS – The European Commission will launch proceedings to suspend support payments to Hungary for breaching the 27-nation bloc’s rule-of-law standards, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday.
    It will be the first time that the new conditionality mechanism allowing the European Union to take measures to protect its budget will be used after the EU’s highest court ruled in February that it had been adopted on sound legal basis.
    Von der Leyen’s announcement at the European Parliament came two days after Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared victory in Sunday’s election, claiming a mandate for a fourth term.
    Hungary, a large recipient of EU funds, has come under increasing criticism over the past few years for veering away from democratic norms with policies such as exerting excessive control over the judiciary, stifling media freedom and denying the rights of LGBT people.
    Von der Leyen said her team was not convinced by Hungary’s responses to questions relating to the rule of law.
[THEY ARE DARING YOU TO DO WHAT GREAT BRITAIN DID, SO HUNGARY, POLAND, ETC. AND ANY OF THE BALKAN STATES SHOULD GET OUT OF THE EU AND FORM YOUR OWN RULES LIKE BRITAIN DID AND LET THE EU GO TO THE HELL THEY ARE CREATING WHO ARE PROMOTING THE INCOMING ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT GLOBALIST SOCIALIST BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES AND YOUR COUNTRIES ARE THE REMAINING OF CHRISTIAN NATIONS IN THE WORLD.].

[A MESSAGE FROM JIM A. CORNWELL, THE LEFTIST DEMOCRAT PARTY WHO HAVE CONTROL OF MANY SERVICES USED THEIR ASSUMED POWER FORCED AT&T WHO OWN DIRECTV SERVICES WHICH I HAVE HAD FOR MANY YEARS ON CHANNEL 347 OF ONE AMERICA NETWORK AND DISCONTINUED THAT SERVICE WHICH I WILL CLAIM WAS THE MOST ACCURATE NEWS SERVICE WHO PROMOTE IT TRUTHFULLY EVEN TRUMP SAID THAT COMPARED TO ALL THE OTHER FAKE NEWS SERVICES THAT NO ONE IS WATCHING ANYMORE UNLESS THEY ARE AS STUPID THAT I THINK THEY ARE, SO THE LEFT CANNOT CONTROL THE INTERNET WHICH ALLOWED OANN TO BEGIN TO GET THEIR NEWS OUT AGAIN BY APRIL 7, 2022 AND IS REBUILDING IT UP AND WILL RISE AGAIN TO HAUNT THEM FOREVER.]

4/8/2022 Ukrainian Rescuers Dig Through Rubble In Borodyanka, Fear Hundreds Are Buried by OAN Newsroom
A resident looks for belongings in an apartment building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in
Borodyanka, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of gruesome atrocities
in Ukraine and told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that those responsible should immediately be brought
up on war crimes charges in front of a tribunal like the one set up at Nuremberg after World War II. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
    Ukrainian rescuers are searching through rubble in a city northwest of Kyiv, where they fear hundreds are buried.    The country’s prosecutor general reported on Thursday at least 26 bodies were already found under two ruined buildings in Borodyanka.
    Eyewitnesses described seeing a Russian plane dropping a bomb on the buildings.    One resident spoke to the press and said his family members are buried underneath the wreckage.
    “I was miraculously lucky.    They were increasing shelling every day, and on the 2nd (of March) we could not stand it anymore and I went with my wife and a child to walk them away as far as possible from the Central Street.    I left approximately at 7.30am and at quarter or ten to (8am) I was on my way back to there (shelter in the basement) when the plane came on and dropped a bomb.”
— Vadym Zagrebelnyi, resident of Borodyanka, Ukraine
    Meanwhile, according to the prosecutor general, at least 650 dead bodies that include 40 children were found in cities across the Kyiv region.

4/9/2022 MISSILE KILLS AT LEAST 52 - Attack on crowded Ukrainian train station wounds dozens more by Adam Schreck and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – A missile hit a train station in eastern Ukraine where thousands had gathered Friday, killing at least 52 and wounding dozens more in an attack on a crowd of mostly women and children trying to flee a new, looming Russian offensive, Ukrainian authorities said.
    The attack, denounced by some as yet another war crime in the 6-week-old conflict, came as workers unearthed bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, a town near Ukraine’s capital where dozens of killings have been documented after a Russian pullout.
    Photos from the station in Kramatorsk showed the dead covered with tarps, and the remnants of a rocket with the words “For the children” painted on it in Russian.    About 4,000 civilians had been in and around the station, heeding calls to leave before fighting intensifies in the Donbas region, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who says he expects a tough global response, and other leaders accused Russia’s military of deliberately attacking the station.    Russia, in turn, blamed Ukraine, saying it doesn’t use the kind of missile that hit the station – a contention experts dismissed.
    Zelenskyy told Ukrainians in his nightly video address Friday that efforts would be taken “to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed to.”
    Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor of Donetsk, in the Donbas, said 52 people were killed, including five children, and many dozens more were wounded.
    “There are many people in a serious condition, without arms or legs,” Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said, adding that the local hospital was struggling to treat everyone.
    British Defense Minister Ben Wallace denounced the attack as a war crime, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “completely unacceptable.”
    “There are almost no words for it,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in Ukraine, told reporters.    “The cynical behavior (by Russia) has almost no benchmark anymore.”
    Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of atrocities in the war that began with a Feb. 24 invasion.    More than 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country, and millions more have been displaced.    Some of the grisliest evidence has been found in towns around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, from which Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops pulled back in recent days.
    In Bucha, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk has said investigators found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians and were still finding bodies in yards, parks and city squares – 90% of whom were shot.
    Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.
    On Friday, workers pulled corpses from a mass grave near a town church under spitting rain, lining up black body bags in rows in the mud.    About 67 people were buried in the grave, according to a statement from Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova’s office.
    “Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges at the tribunal that must be held,” Zelenskyy said.
    He expounded on that theme in an excerpted interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Friday, citing communications intercepted by the Ukrainian security service.
    “There are (Russian) soldiers talking with their parents about what they stole and who they abducted.    There are recordings of (Russian) prisoners of war who admitted to killing people,” he said.    “There are pilots in prison who had maps with civilian targets to bomb.    There are also investigations being conducted based on the remains of the dead.”
    Zelenskyy’s comments echo reporting from Der Spiegel saying Germany’s foreign intelligence agency had intercepted Russian military radio traffic in which soldiers may have discussed civilian killings in Bucha.    The weekly also reported that the recordings indicated the Russian mercenary Wagner Group was involved in atrocities there.
    German government officials would not confirm or deny the report, but two former German ministers filed a war crimes complaint Thursday.    Russia has denied that its military was involved in war crimes.
    Russian forces, who pulled back after failing to take the capital in the face of stiff resistance, have now set their sights on the Donbas, the mostly Russian- speaking, industrial region where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control some areas.
    A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Pentagon believes some of the retreating units were so badly damaged they are “for all intents and purposes eradicated.”    The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.
    The official did not say how many units sustained such extensive damage, but said the U.S. believes Russia has lost between 15% and 20% of its combat power overall since the war began.    While some combat units are withdrawing to be resupplied in Russia, Moscow has added thousands of troops around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, he said.
    The train station hit is in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the Donbas, but Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack.    So did the region’s Moscowbacked separatists, who work closely with Russian regular troops.
    Western experts refuted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s assertion that Russian forces “do not use” that type of missile, saying Russia has used it during the war.    One analyst added that only Russia would have reason to target railway infrastructure in the Donbas.
    “The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to reinforce units in the area … and the railway stations in that area in Ukrainian-held territory are critical for movement of equipment and people,” said Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
    Bronk pointed to other occasions when Russian authorities have tried to deflect blame by claiming their forces no longer use an older weapon “to kind of muddy the waters and try and create doubt.”    He also suggested that Russia specifically chose the missile type because Ukraine also has it.
    A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, also said Russia’s forces have used the missile – and that given the strike’s location and impact, it was “likely” Russia’s.    Ukrainian officials have almost daily pleaded with Western powers to send more arms, and to further punish Russia with sanctions and exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system.
    NATO nations agreed Thursday to increase their supply of weapons, and Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced on a trip to Ukraine on Friday that his country has donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine.
    Zelenskyy had appealed for S-300s to help the country “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.    American and Slovak officials said the U.S. will then deploy a Patriot missile system to Slovakia.
    After meeting with Zelenskyy on Friday, during which he urged the EU to impose a full embargo on Russian oil and gas, von der Leyen provided him with a questionnaire that is a first step for applying for EU membership.
    Elsewhere, in anticipation of intensified attacks by Russian forces, hundreds of Ukrainians fled villages that were either under fire or occupied in the southern regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson.
    In the northeast’s Kharkiv, Lidiya Mezhiritska stood in the wreckage of her home after overnight missile strikes turned it to rubble.
    “The ‘Russian world,’ as they say,” she said, wryly invoking Putin’s nationalist justification for invading Ukraine.    “People, children, old people, women are dying.    I don’t have a machine gun.    I would definitely go (fight), regardless of age.”
Men stand next to a destroyed tank in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, left, walks during her visit
to a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. RODRIGO ABD/AP
A man hugs a woman after Russian shelling at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Friday. At least
52 were killed and dozens more wounded in the attack, Ukrainian authorities said. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

4/10/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - European leaders’ stream into Ukraine to show solidarity - Zelenskyy drumming up support worldwide by Danica Kirka, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, center, lights candles at Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints after
visiting the site of a mass grave in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, near Kyiv, on Saturday. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    LONDON – U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Saturday joined the stream of European leaders showing their support for Ukraine by traveling to the nation’s capital for face-to-face meetings with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
    Johnson’s surprise visit included a pledge of new military assistance, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.    This came a day after he promised to send an additional 100 million pounds ($130 million) of high-grade military equipment to Ukraine, saying Britain wanted to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.
    Johnson also confirmed further economic support, guaranteeing an additional $500 million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking Britain’s total loan guarantee to up to $1 billion.
    “Today I met my friend President @ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine,” Johnson said on Twitter.    “We’re setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country’s struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign.”
    The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said “the conversation was rich and constructive,” but offered no details.
    The package of military aid Britain announced Friday includes more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.
    “Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” Johnson said.    “It is because of President Zelenskyy’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people that Putin’s monstrous aims are being thwarted.”
    As Zelenskyy makes a continuous round of virtual appearances to drum up support from lawmakers around the world, an increasing number of European leaders have decided the time is right to travel to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, for in-person talks.    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Kyiv on Friday, following earlier visits from the Czech, Polish and Slovenian prime ministers.
    Nehammer met with Zelenskyy earlier Saturday and pledged that the EU would continue to ratchet up sanctions against Russia “until the war stops.”
    “As long as people are dying, every sanction is still insufficient,” he said.
    Von der Leyen, who heads the European Union’s executive branch, travelled to Warsaw on Saturday to lead a fundraising event for Ukraine.    She was joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda, with Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing by video link.
    At the end of the 90-minute meeting, von der Leyen said 10.1 billion euros ($11 billion) had been raised for Ukrainian refugees.
    The event was held in Warsaw because more than 2.5 million of the 4.4 million people who have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began Feb.24 have entered Poland. Many have stayed, though some have moved on to other countries.
    Convened jointly by von der Leyen and Trudeau, the event sought to attract pledges from governments, global celebrities and average citizens.
    It ended with Julian Lennon singing his father John Lennon’s peace song “Imagine,” which he said is the first time he did so publicly.

4/10/2022 Shelter dogs starved to death in Ukraine Maria Jimenez Moya by USA TODAY
    Hundreds of dogs in a Ukrainian animal shelter were found dead from apparent starvation by the animal charity organization UAnimals.
    The organization discovered the abandoned animals in Borodyanka, a town outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. U Animals volunteers claim the dogs died after Russian troops left them trapped in cages for nearly a month.
    “Domesticated animals are so completely dependent on humans for food, care and protection that they are extremely vulnerable in times of human conflict,” Elisabeth Key, media manager for International Animal Rescue, said in a statement to USA TODAY.    “If they lose their protectors, they are left defenseless, exposed to the violence and aggression of war and at high risk of losing their lives.”
    UAnimals first indicated in a Facebook post that there may have been 300 dogs found dead, though that number was adjusted later once volunteers were able to provide a more accurate count.
    The post also included pictures of dogs’ corpses.
    “The animals were not killed by bombings and bombings.    They died a terrible death without food and water, locked in their cells,” the Facebook post read.
    Volunteer Asta Kvitnitskaya shared in a later Facebook post that the death count actually was 222. Kvitnitskaya’s Facebook page was provided to USA TODAY by UAnimals.
    “Previously, we submitted data received in operational mode, which somewhat changed and did not match.    It’s only because we received them quickly and from a lot of people and didn’t have time for a thorough calculation,” reads Kvitnitskaya’s post.
    The dogs found alive in the Ukraine shelter were being cared for in other countries by volunteers, Key said.     “The animals were not killed by bombings and bombings.    They died a terrible death without food and water, locked in their cells.”
UAnimals, Animal charity organization

4/10/2022 EXODUS RESUMES - More leave country as Ukraine warns of stepped-up Russian attacks by Adam Schreck and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ABOVE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he’s committed to pressing for peace despite
Russian attacks on civilians. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP TOP: Zelenskyy, center, and Britain’s PM
Boris Johnson, center left, in downtown Kyiv on Saturday. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE VIA AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Civilian evacuations moved forward in patches of battle-scarred eastern Ukraine on Saturday, a day after a missile strike killed at least 52 people and wounded more than 100 at a train station where thousands clamored to leave before an expected Russian onslaught.    In the wake of the attack in Kramatorsk, several European leaders made efforts to show solidarity with Ukraine, with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting Kyiv – the capital city that Russia failed to capture and where troops retreated days ago.    Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a surprise visit in which he pledged new military assistance, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.
    Zelenskyy noted the increased support in an Associated Press interview, but expressed frustration when asked if weapons and other equipment Ukraine has received from the West is sufficient to shift the war’s outcome.
    “Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis.    “Of course, it’s not enough.”
    Zelenskyy later thanked Johnson and Nehammer during his nightly video address to the nation.    He also thanked the European Commission president and the Canadian prime minister for a global fundraising event that raised more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) for Ukrainians who have had to flee their homes. He added that democratic countries are united in working to stop the war.    “Because Russian aggression was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone. … The entire European project is a target for Russia.”
    Zelenskyy repeated his call for a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas, which he called the sources of Moscow’s “self-confidence and impunity.”
    More than six weeks after the invasion began, Russia has pulled its troops from the northern part of the country, around Kyiv, and refocused on the Donbas region in the east.    Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was under Russian control, from Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city – in the north to Kherson in the south.    But counterattacks are threatening Russian control of Kherson, according to the Western assessments, and Ukrainian forces are repelling Russian assaults elsewhere in the Donbas.
    Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get out ahead of an imminent, stepped-up offensive by Russian forces in the east.    With trains not running out of Kramatorsk on Saturday, panicked residents boarded buses or looked for other ways to leave, fearing the kind of unrelenting assaults and occupations by Russian invaders that brought food shortages, demolished buildings and death to other cities.
    “It was terrifying.    The horror, the horror,” one resident told British broadcaster Sky, recalling Friday’s attack on the train station.    “Heaven forbid, to live through this again.    No, I don’t want to.”
    Ukraine’s state railway company said residents of Kramatorsk and other parts of the Donbas could flee through other train stations.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 10 evacuation corridors were planned for Saturday.
    Zelenskyy called the train station attack the latest example of war crimes by Russian forces and said it should motivate the West to do more to help his country defend itself.
    Russia denied responsibility and accused Ukraine’s military of firing on the station to turn blame for civilian casualties on Moscow.    A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman detailed the missile’s trajectory and Ukrainian troop positions to bolster the argument.
    Major Gen. Igor Konashenkov alleged Ukraine’s security services were preparing a “cynical staged” media operation in Irpin, another town near Kyiv, intended to attribute civilian casualties to Russian forces – falsely, he said – and to stage the slaying of a fake Russian intelligence team that intended to kill witnesses.    The claims could not be independently verified.
    Western experts and Ukrainian authorities insisted that Russia attacked the station.    Remnants of the rocket had the words “For the children” in Russian painted on it.    The phrasing seemed to suggest the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, although its exact meaning is unclear.
    Ukrainian authorities have worked to identify victims and document possible war crimes in the country’s north.    The mayor of Bucha, a town near Kyiv where graphic evidence of civilian slayings emerged after Russian forces withdrew, said search teams were still finding bodies of people shot at close range in yards, parks and city squares.
    Workers unearthed 67 bodies Friday from a mass grave near a church, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general.    Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.
    Ukrainian and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of committing atrocities.    A total of 176 children have been killed, while 324 more have been wounded, the Prosecutor General’s Office said Saturday.
    Speaking to AP inside the heavily guarded presidential office complex in Kyiv, Zelenskyy said he is committed to negotiating a diplomatic end to the war even though Russia has “tortured” Ukraine. He also acknowledged that peace likely will not come quickly.    Talks so far have not included Russian President Vladimir Putin or other top officials.
    “We have to fight, but fight for life.    You can’t fight for dust when there is nothing and no people.    That’s why it is important to stop this war,” he said.
    Ukrainian authorities have said they expect to find more mass killings once they reach the southern port city of Mariupol, which is also in the Donbas and has been subjected to a monthlong blockade and intense fighting.
    As journalists who had been largely absent from the city began to trickle back in, new images emerged of the devastation from an airstrike on a theater last month that reportedly killed hundreds of civilians seeking shelter.
    Military analysts had predicted that Russia would succeed in taking Mariupol but said Ukrainian defenders were still putting up a fight.    The city’s location on the Sea of Azov is critical to establishing a land bridge from the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine eight years ago.
    Many civilians now trying to evacuate are accustomed to living in or near a war zone because Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 in the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial region.
    Ukrainian officials have pleaded with Western powers almost daily to send more arms and further punish Moscow with sanctions, including the exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system and a total EU embargo on Russian gas and oil.
    Nehammer said during his visit to Kyiv that he expects more EU sanctions against Russia, but he defended his country’s opposition so far to cutting off deliveries of Russian gas.
    A package of sanctions imposed this week “won’t be the last one,” the chancellor said.
INVASION IN UKRAINE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and Britain’s Prime Minister
Boris Johnson walk in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

4/11/2022 Zelenskyy seeks peace despite atrocities - Calls battle to hold Mariupol ‘heart of the war’ right now by Adam Schreck and Mstyslav Chernov, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that he is committed to pressing for peace despite Russian attacks on civilians that have stunned the world, and he renewed his plea for more weapons ahead of an expected surge in fighting in the country’s east.
    He made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press a day after at least 52 people were killed in an airstrike on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, and as evidence of civilian killings came to light after Russian troops failed to seize the capital, Kyiv, where Zelenskyy has hunkered down.     'No one wants to negotiate with a person or people who tortured this nation.    It’s all understandable.    And as a man, as a father, I understand this very well,' Zelenskyy said.    But 'we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.'     Wearing the olive drab that has marked his transformation into a wartime leader, he looked visibly exhausted yet animated by a drive to persevere.    He spoke to the AP inside the presidential office complex, where windows and hallways are protected by towers of sandbags and heavily armed soldiers.     'We have to fight, but fight for life.    You can’t fight for dust when there is nothing and no people.    That’s why it is important to stop this war,' Zelenskyy said.     Russian troops that withdrew from northern Ukraine are now regrouping for what is expected to be an intense push in the eastern Donbas region, including the besieged port city of Mariupol that Ukrainian fighters are striving to defend.     The president said those defenders are tying up 'a big part of the enemy forces,' characterizing the battle to hold Mariupol as 'the heart of the war' right now.     'It’s beating.    We’re fighting. We’re strong.    And if it stops beating, we will be in a weaker position,' he said.     Zelenskyy said he is confident Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they have witnessed in the more than six-week-long war.     Those included gruesome images of bodies of civilians found in yards, parks and city squares and buried in mass graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha after Russian troops withdrew.    Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes.     Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.    It also put the blame on Ukraine for the attack on the train station in Kramatorsk as thousands of people rushed to flee ahead of an expected Russian offensive.     Despite hopes for peace, Zelenskyy acknowledged that he must be 'realistic' about the prospects for a swift resolution given that negotiations have so far been limited to low-level talks that do not include Russian President Vladimir Putin.     Zelenskyy displayed a palpable sense of resignation and frustration when asked whether the supplies of weapons and other equipment his country has received from the United States and other Western nations were enough to turn the tide of the war.     'Not yet,' he said, switching to English for emphasis. 'Of course, it’s not enough.'     Still, he noted that there has been increased support from Europe and said deliveries of U.S. weapons have been accelerating.     Last week, neighboring Slovakia, a European Union member, donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in response to Zelenskyy’s appeal to help 'close the skies' to Russian warplanes and missiles.
    Some of that support has come through visits by European leaders.     After meeting Zelenskyy in Kyiv earlier Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expects more EU sanctions against Russia even as he defended his country’s opposition to cutting off deliveries of Russian natural gas.
    The U.S., EU and United Kingdom responded to the images from Bucha with more sanctions, including ones targeting Putin’s adult daughters.    While the EU went after the Russian energy sector for the first time by banning coal, it has so far failed to agree on cutting off the much more lucrative oil and natural gas that is funding Putin’s war chest.    Europe relies on those supplies to generate electricity, fill fuel tanks and keep industry churning.
    U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also made an unannounced visit to meet Zelenskyy, with his office saying they discussed Britain’s 'long-term support.'
    In Kyiv on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented Ukraine’s leader with a questionnaire marking the first step for applying for EU membership.    The head of the bloc’s executive arm said the process for completing the questionnaire could take weeks – an unusually fast turnaround – though securing membership would take far longer.     Zelenskyy turned introspective when asked what impact the pace of arms deliveries had for his people and whether more lives could have been saved if the help had come sooner.     'Very often we look for answers in someone else, but I often look for answers in myself.    Did we do enough to get them?' he said of the weapons.    'Did we do enough for these leaders to believe in us?    Did we do enough?'     He paused and shook his head.     'Are we the best for this place and this time? Who knows?    I don’t know.    You question yourself,' he said.
    'We have to fight, but fight for life.    You can’t fight for dust when there is nothing and no people.    That’s why it is important to stop this war.'
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine president
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he’s committed to pressing for peace
despite Russian attacks on civilians that have stunned the world. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

4/11/2022 Ukraine digs in, prepares for Russia’s eastern offensive - Experts say full-scale showdown could start within just a few days by Adam Schreck and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces dug in Sunday as Russia’s military lined up more firepower ahead of an expected showdown in eastern Ukraine that could become a decisive period in a war that has flattened cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically.
    Experts say a full-scale offensive in the east could start within days, though questions remained about the ability of Russia’s depleted forces to conquer much ground after Ukraine’s inspired defenders repelled their push to capture the Kyiv, the capital.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry reported Sunday that Russia’s armed forces were trying to compensate for mounting casualties by boosting troop numbers with personnel who had been discharged from service since 2012.    Ukraine has the bulk of its military forces in the east.    Estimates vary, but Ukraine is believed to number in the tens of thousands.
    Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and control parts of the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial region.    Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, its troops have bombarded government-held territory.    The anticipated offensive in the east and south could end up excising a vast swath of land from Ukraine.
    On Sunday, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the northeast and sent reinforcements toward Izyum to the southeast in attempts to break Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military command said.    The Russians also kept up their siege of Mariupol, a key southern port that has been under attack and surrounded for nearly 1 1 /2 months.
    A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Russia’s military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base in Chuhuiv, a city not far from Kharkiv.
    Russia’s sea-launched cruise missiles also destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit stationed farther west in the Dnipro region, Konashenkov said.    Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian military claims could be independently verified.
    Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for stronger military and political support from the West, including NATO members that have funneled weapons and military equipment to Ukraine since Russia invaded, but some requests were denied in fear of getting drawn into the war.
    In a late-night video message, Zelenskyy argued that more than Ukraine’s future was at stake: Russia’s aggression “was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone” and the “entire European project is a target,” he said.    “That is why it is not just the moral duty of all democracies, all the forces of Europe, to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,” Zelenskyy said.    “This is, in fact, a strategy of defense for every civilized state.”
    Zelenskyy thanked the president of the European Union’s executive commission and Canada’s prime minister for a global fundraising event Saturday that brought in more than $11 billion to help Ukrainians who have fled the war.
    The U.N. refugee agency reported Sunday that more than 4.5 million people have left the country since the invasion started Europe’s worst ground conflict since World World II.    As of Friday night, the U.N.’s human rights commissioner had confirmed 1,766 civilian deaths from more than six weeks of fighting – 630 of them in the Donbas – while acknowledging the toll was likely a vast undercount.
    After British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a trip to Kyiv Saturday that was not announced by the U.K. government advance, Zelenskyy said they had decided “what help the United Kingdom will provide to the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine” and that it includes a “patronage” to rebuild the Kyiv region.
    Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against thousands of civilians during the invasion.    The alleged crimes took place during airstrikes on hospitals, a missile attack that killed 52 people at a train station in eastern Ukraine on Friday and as Russian soldiers withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv.
    Zelenskyy said that when he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke by phone Sunday, “we emphasized that all perpetrators of war crimes must be identified and punished.”
    Ukraine has blamed Russia for alleged atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other towns outside the capital where hundreds of bodies, many with their hands bound and signs of torture, were found after the Russian troops retreated.    Russia has denied engaging in war crimes and falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.
    After the Russian forces pulled out from the north last week to regroup for the push in the east, firefighters combed through the rubble of buildings to search for victims or survivors.    Maria Vaselenko, 77, a resident of Borodyanka, said her daughter and son-in-law were killed, leaving her grandchildren orphaned.
    “The Russians were shooting.    And some people wanted to come and help, but they were shooting them.    They were putting explosives under dead people,” Vaselenko said.    “That’s why my children have been under the rubble for 36 days.    It was not allowed” to remove bodies.
    In Mariupol, Russia was deploying Chechen fighters, reputed to be particularly fierce.    Capturing the city on the sea of Azov would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine eight years ago.
    Residents have lacked food, water and electricity since Russian forces surrounded the city, making evacuations hard and supplying emergency relief even harder.
    Zelenskyy has said he expects more evidence of atrocities to be found once Mariupol no longer is blockaded; Ukrainian authorities think an airstrike on a theater where civilians were sheltering killed hundreds.
    “I am in shock.    I don’t understand what is happening.    I have a hole in my garage billowing smoke,” Mariupol resident Sergey Petrov told The Associated Press, describing a brush with death.    “A shell flew in and broke up into two parts, but it did not explode. ... My mother told me that I was born again on that day.”
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said more civilians were expected to leave Mariupol in their personal vehicles Sunday, while more evacuations were planned for a number of towns in the south and east.
    The Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank, predicted Russian forces would focus their assault on the northern edge of a sickle-shaped arc of eastern Ukraine where the pro-Russia separatists and Russian forces have seized territory.
    Russian forces will “renew offensive operations in the coming days” from Izyum, a town southeast of Kharkiv, to try to reach Slovyansk, even further southeast, the institute’s analysts said.    But in their view, “The outcome of forthcoming Russian operations in eastern Ukraine remains very much in question.”
A Ukrainian serviceman guards a mass grave near Kyiv on Saturday. As of Friday night, the United Nations’ human rights
commissioner had confirmed 1,766 civilian deaths from more than six weeks of fighting. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Women wait for transportation during the civilian evacuation in Kramatorsk. The United Nations refugee agency reported
Sunday that more than 4.5 million people have left the country since the invasion started. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

4/11/2022 Zelenskyy warns coming showdown will be crucial - Experts: Russia’s next attack may be full-scale offensive by Adam Schreck and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – As Ukrainian forces dug in on Sunday, Russia lined up more firepower and tapped a decorated general to take centralized control of the war ahead of a potentially decisive showdown in eastern Ukraine that could start within days.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Sunday in his nightly address to the nation that the coming week would be as crucial as any in the war, saying “Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state.”
    He also accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.
    “When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters.    And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them,” Zelenskyy said.
    “The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth,” he added.
    Experts have said that the next phase of the battle may begin with a full-scale offensive.    The outcome could determine the course of the conflict, which has flattened cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically.
    In an interview that appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s fate as the war shifts to the south and east depends on whether the United States will help match an expected surge in Russian weaponry in those regions.
    “To be honest, whether we will be able to (survive) depends on this,” said Zelenskyy, speaking through a translator.    “I have 100% confidence in our people and in our armed forces.    But unfortunately, I don’t have the confidence that we will be receiving everything we need.”
    Zelenskyy thanked President Joe Biden for U.S. military aide to date but added that he “long ago” forwarded a list of specific items Ukraine desperately needed and that history would judge Biden’s response.
    “He has the list,” Zelenskyy said.    “President Biden can enter history as the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and chose the right to have their own country.    (This) also depends on him.”
    Questions remain about the ability of Russia’s depleted and demoralized forces to conquer much ground after their advance on the capital, Kyiv, was repelled by determined Ukrainian defenders.    Britain’s Defense Ministry reported Sunday that the Russian forces were trying to compensate for mounting casualties by recalling veterans discharged in the past decade.
    In Washington, a senior U.S. official said that Russia has appointed Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most seasoned military chiefs, to oversee the invasion.    The official was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.
    Until now, Russia has had no central war commander on the ground.
    The new battlefield leadership comes as the Russian military prepares for what is expected to be a large, focused push to expand control in Ukraine’s east.    Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region since 2014 and declared some territory there as independent.
    Dvornikov, 60, gained prominence as head of the Russian forces deployed to Syria in 2015 to shore up President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war.    U.S. officials say he has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other war theaters.
    Russian authorities do not generally confirm such appointments and have said nothing about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards, from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.
    U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” played down the significance of the appointment.
    “What we have learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subjected to Russia,” Sullivan said.    “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint.”
    Western military analysts say Russia’s assault has increasingly focused on a sickle-shaped arc of eastern Ukraine – from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the north to Kherson in the south.
    The narrower effort could help Russia’s problem, earlier in the war, of spreading its offensive too widely over too great a geographic area.
    “Just looking at it on a map, you can see that they will be able to bring to bear a lot more power in a lot more concentrated fashion,” by focusing mainly on eastern Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.
    Newly released Maxar Technologies satellite imagery showed an 8-mile convoy of military vehicles headed south through Ukraine to Donbas, recalling images of a convoy that got stalled on roads to Kyiv for weeks before Russia gave up on trying to take the capital.
    On Sunday, Russian forces shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements toward Izyum to the southeast in a bid to break Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military command said.    The Russians also kept up their siege of Mariupol, a key southern port that has been under attack and surrounded for nearly 1 1/ 2 months.    A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Russia’s military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air-defense missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base in Chuhuiv, a city not far from Kharkiv.
    Sea-launched Russian cruise missiles destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit stationed farther west in the Dnipro region, Konashenkov said. Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian military claims could be independently verified.
    The airport in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, was also hit by missiles twice on Sunday, according to the regional governor.
    On Sunday night, Zelenskyy again called on Western countries to provide more assistance to Ukraine.    During talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelenskyy said, he discussed “how to strengthen sanctions against Russia and … force Russia to seek peace.”
    “I am glad to note that the German position has recently changed in favor of Ukraine.    I consider it absolutely logical,” Zelenskyy said.
    The president of the European Commission said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Ukraine’s response to a questionnaire she recently handed to Zelenskyy will enable her to decide whether to recommend the nation as a candidate to join the EU.
    The process normally takes years, but Ursula von der Leyen has said Ukraine’s application could take just weeks to consider.
    “Yesterday, somebody told me: ‘You know, when our soldiers are dying, I want them to know that their children will be free and be part of the European Union,’” von der Leyen said.
    Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against civilians, including airstrikes on hospitals, a missile attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station and other violence as soldiers withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv.
    A day after meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced that he will meet Monday in Moscow with Putin.
A Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher BM-21 “Grad” shells a position with Russian troops
near Lugansk, in the Donbas region, on Sunday. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Residents look at a destroyed Russian tank on the outskirts of Buzova village,
west of Kyiv, on Sunday. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/11/2022 What survival looks like in Ukraine by Associated Press PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP, ANDREW MARIENKO/AP
    Faith and grim determination are reflected in Sunday’s images from a Ukraine at war.
    Outside the capital of Kyiv, in suburban towns still emerging from weeks of Russian occupation, elderly people line up for donated food and workers raise bodies from a mass grave, hoping to identify them for proper burials and to document any war crimes.    A plastic sheet covers the Bucha churchyard’s unearthed soil, anticipating spring rains after this bitterest winter.
    Inside the church, services are held as abominations are uncovered outside.    The work must not pause, because this opportunity may not hold: Kyiv’s mayor said Sunday that Russia’s military is sure to return if Ukrainian forces can’t defeat them.
    The fighting is already intensifying as Russian forces refocus in the east, where a boy in a wheelchair is among a crowd trying to evacuate from Kramatorsk, the city where a train station platform became a killing field only days earlier.    Further north in Kharkhiv, under withering attacks for weeks now, three men await their fate in a basement shelter.
    For many, this is what survival looks like: maneuvering around an impact crater, searching through buildings turned inside-out, saying goodbye.
People receive food from a church in the town of Borodyanka, about 40 miles
northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

A view of an apartment building damaged by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday. ANDREW MARIENKO/AP

Above: A man lights a candle during a Sunday service in an Orthodox church
in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Cars drive near a damaged bridge in the town of Makarov, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Right: People settle in a basement of an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday.

4/12/2022 Exhumed bodies on outskirts of Kyiv
Residents stand outside their apartments as shops burn after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP
    The gruesome task of exhuming the bodies of Ukrainian victims from mass graves in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv was underway Monday as trucks filled with body bags of the dead transported them to sites for forensic analysis.
  • Among them was a Ukrainian soldier wearing camouflage, his shriveled hand raised; many others of the hundreds killed were civilians, including young children.
  • Elsewhere on the edges of the capital, mounds of destroyed and burned vehicles were piled on top of each other. Local residents climbed atop an abandoned and damaged Russian tank.    A boy walked by unexploded Russian shells in the village of Andriyivka, on the outskirts of Kyiv.
  • All were evidence of the destruction and death left behind by the retreating Russian forces following a weekslong occupation.
A building was damaged by shelling in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

A boy walks by unexploded Russian shells in the village of Andriyivka close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Embers smolder on a bed as firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a house
after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP

Ukrainian tanks move down a street in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Firefighters clear the debris and search for bodies under the rubble of a building hit weeks ago by a Russian
attack after receiving reports of a smell emerging from the area, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/12/2022 NEWS BRIEFING - Convoy heads into eastern Ukraine
    Russia is resupplying and reinforcing its invasion force in eastern Ukraine with a long convoy of vehicles heading to the region, indicating a new phase of the war is likely to occur there, according to a senior Pentagon official.
    The convoy, exposed in commercial satellite imagery, stretches an estimated eight miles.    It appears to contain vehicles to command and supply infantry units and possibly helicopters, said the official, who provided intelligence assessments on condition of anonymity.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of an impending Russian offensive in his country’s east and has urged civilians to flee the region.
    “The occupiers have sent dozens of thousands of soldiers and colossal numbers of equipment to prepare new attacks,” he warned in a speech to South Korean lawmakers translated by NBC News.    Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, issued a similar warning Monday.
    The Pentagon official said some of the Russian forces involved in the failed attempt to seize the capital of Kyiv appear headed toward the eastern region.    There are about 60 Russian battalion tactical groups in eastern and southern Ukraine – 48,000 to 60,000 troops – the official said.
    Latest developments:
  • Moscow has appointed a new war chief after a largely unsuccessful six weeks of battle in Ukraine.    Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, known as the “Butcher of Syria” because of his brutal tactics in that country’s civil war, had been in command in southern Ukraine, where the Russians had initial success in the invasion.    Russian forces, however, continue to have problems with morale, leadership and supply, according to British and U.S. assessments.
  • Russia has lost 19,500 troops, 725 tanks, 1,923 armored vehicles, 347 artillery systems, 154 aircraft; 137 helicopters and an overwhelming amount of other equipment since the war began, the Ukraine military estimated Monday.
    Austrian chancellor has ‘direct, open and tough’ talks with Putin.
    Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer did not come away optimistic that the war in Ukraine would end soon after what he described as “very direct, open and tough” talks Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Nehammer called for the hostilities to stop.
    “It might be necessary to do it 100 times,” Nehammer said of the meeting.    “But I think it’s necessary to do it, so that peace reigns again and the people of Ukraine can live safely.”
    Nehammer said he brought up the topic of war crimes committed by Russian troops during the first meeting between Putin and a European leader in Moscow since Russia invaded its neighbor Feb. 24.    On Saturday, Nehammer had traveled to Kyiv for a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
    Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Nehammer said face-to-face talks to look “each other in the eye, discussing the horrors of war” could have an impact over the long term.
Contributing: John Bacon, Tom Vanden Brook, Jorge L. Ortiz and Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Oleg, 56, mourns for his mother Inna, 86, killed during the war against
Russia in Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

4/12/2022 Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Using Chemical Weapons Against Military, Civilians In Mariupol by OAN Newsroom
A person walks past a burning apartment building after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo)
    Ukraine has accused Russia of using chemical weapons on the port city of Mariupol.    A unit of the National Guard of Ukraine claimed Monday that the chemicals were dropped through an unmanned aerial vehicle on civilians in the city.    Officials claimed victims are having respiratory failure.
    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby responded to the news, saying the Department of Defense cannot confirm the reports.    However, he noted officials are monitoring the situation.    In the meantime, President Joe Biden previously said if chemical weapons are used, it could prompt an “intense reaction” from the US.
    This comes as the mayor of Mariupol said Monday that more than 10,000 civilians have died during the Russian siege of the city.    Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office is investigating alleged war crimes committed by Russia.    While speaking to reporters Monday, the official said she’s investigating 5,800 cases of alleged war crimes.
    Venediktova also released a statement noting the war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed at least 183 children, although the prosecutor general said the number is likely higher.    She announced she has over 500 suspects she is looking at, including Russian soldiers and politicians who have allegedly committed war crimes or even crimes against humanity.
    “Actually, what we see now, we see horrors of war, a lot of war crimes,” Venediktova stated.    “Actually, it is not only war crimes, now we can say about a lot of crimes against humanity.”
    The United Nations has said that about 1,800 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded, but most assume the real number is much higher due to slow reporting and lack of access to some areas.
A firefighter walks outside a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a
residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo)

4/13/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - NO END OF WAR IN SIGHT - Putin vows to press invasion until Russia’s goals are met by Yuras Karmanau and Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Vladimir Putin vowed Tuesday that Russia’s bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are fulfilled and insisted the campaign was going as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of stiff Ukrainian opposition and significant losses.
  • Russian troops, thwarted in their push toward Ukraine’s capital, are now focusing on the eastern     Donbas region, where Ukraine said Tuesday, it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops.
  • It was not clear what the substance might be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be considered a serious escalation of the already devastating war.
    Russia invaded on Feb. 24, with the goal, according to Western officials, of taking Kyiv, the capital, toppling the government and installing a Moscow-friendly regime.    In the six weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters and were accused of killing civilians and other atrocities.
    Putin insisted Tuesday that his invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and to “ensure Russia’s own security.”
    He said Russia “had no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation,” and vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”
    For now, Putin’s forces are gearing up for a major offensive in the Donbas, which has been torn by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence.
    Military strategists say Moscow appears to hope that local support, logistics and the terrain in the region favor its larger, better-armed military, potentially allowing Russia to finally turn the tide in its favor.
    In Mariupol, a strategic port city in the Donbas, a Ukrainian regiment defending a steel mill claimed a drone dropped a poisonous substance on the city.    It indicated there were no serious injuries.    The assertion by the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, could not be independently verified.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that while experts try to determine what the substance might be, “The world must react now.”    Evidence of “inhuman cruelty” toward women and children in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv continued to surface, he added, including of alleged rapes.
    “Not all serial rapists reach the cruelty of Russian soldiers,” Zelenskyy said.
    The claims came after a Russia-allied separatist official appeared to urge the use of chemical weapons, telling Russian state TV on Monday that separatist forces should seize the plant by first blocking all the exits.    “And then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” the official, Eduard Basurin, said.    He denied Tuesday that separatist forces had used chemical weapons in Mariupol.
    Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating, and it was possible phosphorus munitions – which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons – had been used in Mariupol.
    Much of the city has been leveled in weeks of pummeling by Russian troops.    The mayor said Monday that the siege has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their bodies “carpeted through the streets.”    Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.
    Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak acknowledged the challenges Ukrainian troops face in Mariupol.    He said via Twitter that they remain blocked and are having issues with supplies, while Ukraine’s president and generals “do everything possible (and impossible) to find a solution.”
    “For more than 1.5 months our defenders protect the city from (Russian) troops, which are 10+ times larger,” Podolyak tweeted.    “They’re fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city.    They make (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”
    British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the use of chemical weapons “would be a callous escalation in this conflict,” while Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it would be a “wholesale breach of international law.”
    U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion as a “genocide.”    He was even blunter later Tuesday, repeating the term and saying: “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the U.S. could not confirm the drone report.    But he noted the administration’s persistent concerns “about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents.”
    Britain, meanwhile, has warned that Russia may resort to phosphorus bombs, which are banned in civilian areas under international law, in Mariupol.    Most armies use phosphorus munitions to illuminate targets or to produce smoke screens.    Deliberately firing them into an enclosed space to expose people to fumes could breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Marc-Michael Blum, a former laboratory head at the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
    “Once you start using the properties of white phosphorus, toxic properties, specifically and deliberately, then it becomes banned,” he said.
    In Washington, a senior U.S. defense official said the Biden administration was preparing yet another package of military aid for Ukraine possibly totaling $750 million to be announced in the coming days.    The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet publicly announced.    Delivery is due to be completed this week of $800 million in military assistance approved by Biden a month ago.
    In the face of stiff resistance by Ukrainian forces bolstered by Western weapons, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombarding cities, flattening many urban areas and killing thousands.    The war has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes – including nearly two-thirds of the country’s children.
    Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes.    More than 720 people were killed in Kyiv suburbs that had been occupied by Russian troops and over 200 were considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.
    In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.
    Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.
    Putin falsely claimed Tuesday that Ukraine’s accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha were “fake.”    Associated Press journalists saw dozens of bodies in and around the town, some of whom had their hands bound and appeared to have been shot at close range.
  • Ukraine says potent Russian hack against power grid thwarted.
  • US, allies aim to force Russia to shift money away from war.
  • Biden: Russia war a ‘genocide,’ trying to ‘wipe out’ Ukraine.

A woman carries a portrait of Dmytro Stefienko, 32, a civilian killed during the war with Russia,
during his funeral in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Mykhailo Chylovan walks out from a house damaged by shelling in Yahidne,
near the city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

4/13/2022 ‘IT LOOKS THAT WE WERE VERY LUCKY’ - Ukraine: Potent Russian hack against power grid thwarted by Frank Bajak, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BOSTON – Russian military hackers attempted to knock out power to millions of Ukrainians last week in a long-planned attack but were foiled, Ukrainian government officials said Tuesday.
    At one targeted high-voltage power station, the hackers succeeded in penetrating and disrupting part of the industrial control system, but people defending the station were able to prevent electrical outages, the Ukrainians said.
    “The threat was serious, but it was prevented in a timely manner,” a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official, Victor Zhora, told reporters through an interpreter.    “It looks that we were very lucky.”
    The hackers from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency used an upgraded version of malware first seen in its successful 2016 attack that caused blackouts in Kyiv, officials said, that was customized to target multiple substations.    They simultaneously seeded malware designed to wipe out computer operating systems, hindering recovery.
    Authorities did not specify how many substations were targeted or their location, citing security concerns, but a deputy energy minister, Farid Safarov, said “2 million people would have been without electricity supply if it was successful.”
    Zhora, the deputy chair of the State Service of Special Communications, said the malware was programmed to knock out power on Friday evening just as people returned home from work and switched-on news reports.
    He said that power grid networks were penetrated before the end of February, when Russia invaded, and that the attackers later uploaded the malware, dubbed Industroyer2.    The malware succeeded in disrupting one component of the impacted power station’s management systems, also known as SCADA systems.
    Zhora would not offer further details or explain how the attack was defeated or which partners may have assisted directly in defeating it. He did acknowledge the depth of international assistance Ukraine has received in identifying intrusions and the challenges of trying to rid government, power grid and telecommunications networks of attackers.    The helpers include keyboard warriors from U.S. Cybercommand.
    Cybercom was asked if it assisted in the emergency response but did not immediately answer.
    The Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine thanked Microsoft and the cybersecurity firm ESET for their assistance in dealing with the power grid attack in a bulletin posted online.
    Officials said the destructive attacks had been planned at least since March 23, and Zhora speculated it was timed by Russia to “invigorate” its soldiers after they took heavy losses in a failed bid to capture Kyiv, the capital.
    Zhora stressed that Russian cyberattacks have not successfully knocked out any power to Ukrainians since this invasion began.
    GRU hackers from a group that researchers call Sandworm twice successfully attacked Ukraine’s power grid – in the winters of 2015 and 2016.    U.S. prosecutors indicted six GRU officials in 2020 for using a previous version of the Industroyer malware to attack Ukraine’s power grid by gaining control of electrical substation switches and circuit breakers.
    In the 2016 attack, Sandworm hackers used Industroyer to turn circuit breakers on and off in a sequence designed to create a blackout, said Jean-Ian Boutin, director of threat research at ESET.
    “We know that Industroyer still has the capability to turn off circuit breakers,” he said.
    Working closely with Ukrainian responders, ESET also determined that the attackers had infected networks at the targeted plants with diskwiping software.
    Successfully activating the malware would have rendered plant systems in operable, seriously hindering remediation and recovery and destroying the attackers’ digital footprints, Boutin said.
    Russia’s use of cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure during its invasion has been limited compared with experts’ pre-war expectations.    In the early hours of the war, however, an attack Ukraine blames on Russia knocked offline an important satellite communications link that also impacted tens of thousands of Europeans from France to Poland.    In another serious cyberattack of the war, hackers knocked offline the internet and cellular service of a major telecommunications company that serves the military, Ukretelecom, for most of the day on March 28.
GETTY IMAGES

4/13/2022 Ukraine takes stock as attacks continue by Associated Press
    As Russia gears up for a major offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Ukrainians took stock Tuesday of the death and destruction the war has wrought.
  • A man mourned his 82-year-old mother, who died in a retirement home due to sorely deteriorated conditions in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the mayor said 403 bodies had been found. Nearby, as another funeral took place, a woman held one hand to her chest while clutching a portrait of Dmytro Stefienko, a 32-year-old civilian killed during the war, with the other.
  • Elsewhere in Bucha, forensic investigators probing allegations of war crimes gathered at the site of a mass grave, a gold-domed church looming in the background. Volunteers in white biohazard suits loaded bodies into a truck.
  • Meanwhile in Kharkiv, Ukrainian firefighters scrambled to put out fires after Russian shelling destroyed a culinary school near the city’s airport.
A destroyed self-propelled artillery unit is seen on a road near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday. FELIPE DANA/AP

Carolina Fedorova, 3, sleeps Tuesday inside a school in Dnipro, Ukraine, that is being used as
a shelter. Carolina fled with her parents and four siblings from the city of Bahmud. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

French forensic investigators, who arrived in Ukraine for the investigation of war crimes amid
Russia’s invasion, stand next to a mass grave in the town of Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. WLADYSLAW MUSIIENKO/AP

Marta Fedorova holds her baby boy as her son Volodymir, 6, and her daughter Violetta, 5, right, sit in a
school in Dnipro, Ukraine, that is being used as shelter for those fleeing the war. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Relatives and friends stand by the coffins of Ukrainian servicemen Yuri Filyuk, 49,
and Oleksander Tkachenko, 33, during a funeral in the village of Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, Tuesday.
According to Ukrainian servicemen, these two were killed by a Russian missile. MAX PSHYBYSHEVSKY/AP

4/14/2022 Surrounded by rubble, Ukrainians mourn by Associated Press
    Both were in need of an embrace, the 12-year-old boy standing in the debris that was once his home. And the matted cat that wandered into the rubble.    The child picked up the animal and they clutched one another amid the death and destruction of Chernihiv, a northern Ukrainian city besieged by Russian forces.
  • Shells and bombs that rained down on the city for weeks have reduced its buildings and neighborhoods to rubble.    An elderly woman collects wooden planks in a street now gutted of homes.    One explosion left an enormous crater in the ground alongside decimated homes that appears dozens of feet deep.
  • As more world leaders Wednesday demanded accountability for war crimes carried out by Russian forces, men in protective gear exhumed bodies of civilians in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv.
  • Family and friends wept and comforted one another as they mourned the death of Anatoliy Kolesnikov, 30, outside a morgue in Bucha.    He was killed by Russian soldiers in his car trying to evacuate from Irpin.
  • Still, children in Bucha found a place to play.    Their cheeks rosy from the chill, they rode bikes, they kicked a ball and they smiled.
The father and a friend of Anatoliy Kolesnikov, 30, who was killed by Russian soldiers in his car while trying to
evacuate from Irpin, mourn his death while waiting outside the morgue in Bucha, Ukraine, on Wednesday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat on Wednesday while standing on the debris of his house, which was destroyed by Russian forces, on the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
After the shelling, Danyk’s mother, Liudmila Koval, had to have her leg amputated and was injured in her abdomen. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Children play in Bucha, Ukraine, on Wednesday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Men wearing protective gear exhume the bodies of civilians killed during the Russian
occupation of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Men walk along a street destroyed by shelling in Chernihiv. Shells
and bombs rained down on the city for weeks. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

4/15/2022 Kremlin crackdown silences war protests - Actions from benign to bold can bring arrests by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A former police officer who discussed Russia’s invasion on the phone.    A priest who preached to his congregation about the suffering of Ukrainians.    A student who held up a banner with no words – just asterisks.
    Hundreds of Russians are facing charges for speaking out against the war in Ukraine since a repressive law was passed last month that outlaws the spread of “false information” about the invasion and disparaging the military.
    Human rights groups say the crackdown has led to criminal prosecutions and possible prison sentences for at least 23 people on the “false information” charge, with over 500 others facing misdemeanor charges of disparaging the military that have either led to hefty fines or are expected to result in them.
    “This is a large amount, an unprecedentedly large amount” of cases, said Damir Gainutdinov, head of the Net Freedoms legal aid group focusing on free speech cases.
    The Kremlin has sought to control the narrative of the war from the moment its troops rolled into Ukraine.    It dubbed the attack a “special military operation” and increased the pressure on independent Russian media that called it a “war” or an “invasion,” blocking access to many news sites whose coverage deviated from the official line.
    Sweeping arrests stifled antiwar protests, turning them from a daily event in large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg into rare occurrences barely attracting any attention. Still, reports of police detaining single popular picketers in different Russian cities come in almost daily.
    Even seemingly benign actions have led to arrests.
    A man was detained in Moscow after standing next to a World War II monument that says “Kyiv” for the city’s heroic stand against Nazi Germany and holding a copy of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”    Another was reportedly detained for holding up a package of sliced ham from the meat producer Miratorg, with the second half of the name crossed off so it read: “Mir” – “peace” in Russian.
    A law against spreading “fake news” about the war or disparaging the military was passed by parliament in one day and took force immediately, effectively exposing anyone critical of the conflict to fines and prison sentences.
    The first publicly known criminal cases over “fakes” targeted public figures Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and blogger living abroad, and Alexander Nevzorov, a TV journalist, film director and former lawmaker.
    Both were accused of posting “false information” about Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine on their widely followed social media pages something Moscow has vehemently denied, insisting that Russian forces only hit target military targets.
    Former police officer Sergei Klokov was detained and put in pretrial detention after discussing the war with his friends on the phone.    Klokov was charged with spreading false information about the Russian armed forces and faces up to 10 years in prison.
    Gainutdinov said that anything about the military or Ukraine can make a person a target.    Even wearing a hat with the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag or a green ribbon, considered a symbol of peace, have been found to discredit the military, the lawyer added.
A worker paints over graffiti saying ‘Yes to Peace!’ on a wall of an apartment building in St. Petersburg, Russia. AP

4/15/2022 Fate of Russia warship unclear after Ukrainians claim strike - Lithuanian president: ‘Fight for Europe’s future is happening’ in Ukraine by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet with missiles, and one official said Thursday that the vessel sank.    Russia said the Moskva was badly damaged by a fire that forced the warship’s evacuation but that it was still afloat.
    The loss of the warship named for the Russian capital would be a major military and symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north, including the capital.
    Russia did not acknowledge any attack but said a fire aboard the ship, which would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate.    It later said the fire had been contained and that the ship would be towed to port with its guided missile launchers intact.
    The ship can carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal from combat would greatly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.    Regardless of the extent of the damage, any attack would represent a major blow to Russian prestige seven weeks into a war that is already widely seen as a historic blunder.
    It was not immediately possible to reconcile the vastly different accounts, and cloud cover made it impossible to locate the ship or determine its condition based on satellite photos.
    There was even some caution from Ukrainian officials: One said the ship sank, and a video from its armed forces described it overturning and beginning to sink, but another official refused to confirm that.
    The news of damage to the ship came hours after some of Ukraine’s allies visited the embattled country and sought to rally new support.
    The leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia hail from countries on Russia’s doorstep and fear they could be next. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda declared that 'the fight for Europe’s future is happening here.'
    President Joe Biden, who called Russia’s actions in Ukraine 'a genocide' this week, has approved $800million in new military assistance to Ukraine.    He said weapons from the West have sustained the country’s fight so far and 'we cannot rest now.'
    News of the flagship’s damage overshadowed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the heaviest fighting of the war and at a horrific cost to civilians.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that 1,026 Ukrainian troops surrendered at a metals factory in the city.    But Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, rejected the claim, telling Current Time TV that 'the battle over the seaport is still ongoing today.'
    It was unclear how many forces were still defending Mariupol.
    Russian state television broadcast footage that it said was from Mariupol showing dozens of men in camouflage walking with their hands up and carrying others on stretchers.    One man held a white flag.
    Mariupol’s capture is critical for Russia because it would allow its forces in the south, who came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the eastern Donbas region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland and the target of the coming offensive.
    Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukraine in the Donbas since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea.    Russia has recognized the independence of the rebel regions in the Donbas.
    But the loss of the Moskva could delay any new, wide-ranging offensive.
    Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC show the Moskva steaming out of the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday.
    Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odesa region, across the Black Sea to the northwest of Sevastopol, said the Ukrainians struck the ship with two Neptune missiles and caused 'serious damage.'
    Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, then said the ship sank, calling it an event of 'colossal significance.'
    In a video posted by Ukraine’s military, an officer said poor weather and explosions 'overturned the cruiser and it began to sink.'
    Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, later said he was unable to confirm that the ship was sunk or even hit by Ukrainian forces.
    He said he was aware of the comments by other Ukrainian officials but 'could neither confirm nor deny' what happened.
    'If or when this is confirmed, if it is confirmed, we can only have a sigh of relief because this means that fewer missiles will reach Ukrainian cities,' he said.
    Russia’s Defense Ministry said ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire, without saying what caused the blaze.    It later said the ship was afloat and would be towed in for repairs.    It said its 'main missile weapons' were not damaged.
    In addition to the cruise missiles, the warship also had air-defense missiles and other guns.

4/15/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE- Russian military’s damaged Black Sea flagship sinks by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, a guided-missile cruiser that became a potent target of Ukrainian defiance in the opening days of the war, sank Thursday after it was heavily damaged in the latest setback for Moscow’s invasion.
    Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the vessel with missiles, while Russia acknowledged a fire aboard the Moskva but no attack.    U.S. and other Western officials could not confirm what caused the blaze.
    The loss of the warship named for the Russian capital is a devastating symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north, including the capital, Kyiv.
    In his nightly video address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sinking as he told Ukrainians they should be proud of having survived 50 days under attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five.”    Listing the many ways Ukraine has defended against the invasion, he noted “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea.    It was his only reference to the missile cruiser.
    The Russian Defense Ministry said the ship sank in a storm while being towed to a port.    Russia earlier said the flames on the ship, which would typically have 500 sailors aboard, forced the entire crew to evacuate.    Later it said the blaze had been contained.
    The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its removal reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.
    It’s also a blow to Moscow’s prestige in a war already widely seen as a historic blunder.    Now entering its eighth week, the invasion has stalled amid resistance from Ukrainian fighters bolstered by weapons and other aid sent by Western nations.
    During the first days of the war, the Moskva was reportedly the ship that called on Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender in a standoff.    In a widely circulated recording, a soldier responded: “Russian warship, go (expletive) yourself.”
    The Associated Press could not independently verify the incident, but Ukraine and its supporters consider it an iconic moment of defiance.    The country recently unveiled a postage stamp commemorating it.    The news of the flagship overshadowed Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Moscow’s forces have been battling the Ukrainians since the early days of the invasion in some of the heaviest fighting of the war – at a horrific cost to civilians.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that 1,026 Ukrainian troops surrendered at a metals factory in the city.    But Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, rejected the claim, telling Current Time TV that “the battle over the seaport is still ongoing today.”
    It was unclear how many forces were still defending Mariupol.
    Russian state television broadcast footage that it said was from Mariupol showing dozens of men in camouflage walking with their hands up and carrying others on stretchers. One man held a white flag.
    Mariupol has been the scene of the some the war’s worst suffering.    Dwindling numbers of Ukrainian defenders are holding out against a siege that has trapped well over 100,000 civilians in desperate need of food, water and heating.
    Mariupol’s mayor said this week that more than 10,000 civilians had died and the death toll could surpass 20,000, after weeks of attacks and privation left bodies “carpeted through the streets.”
    Mariupol’s capture is critical for Russia because it would allow its forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the coming offensive.
    The Russian military continues to move helicopters and other equipment together for such an effort, according to a senior U.S. defense official, and it will likely add more ground combat units “over coming days.”    But it’s still unclear when Russia could launch a bigger offensive in the Donbas.    Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukraine in the Donbas since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea.    Russia has recognized the independence of the rebel regions in the Donbas.
    The loss of the Moskva could delay any new, wide-ranging offensive.
    Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odesa region, across the Black Sea to the northwest of Sevastopol, said the Ukrainians struck the ship with two Neptune missiles and caused “serious damage.”
    Russia’s Defense Ministry said ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire, without saying what caused the blaze.    It said the “main missile weapons” were not damaged.    In addition to the cruise missiles, the warship also had air-defense missiles and other guns.
    The Neptune is an anti-ship missile that was recently developed by Ukraine and based on an earlier Soviet design.    The launchers are mounted on trucks stationed near the coast, and, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the missiles can hit targets up to 175 miles away.
    That would have put the Moskva within range, based on where it was when the fire began.
    Launched as the Slava in 1979, the cruiser saw service in the Cold War and during conflicts in Georgia and Syria, and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States.    During the Cold War, it carried nuclear weapons.
    In 1989, the Slava was supposed to host a meeting off Malta between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush, but galeforce winds moved the talks to the docked cruiser Maxim Gorky.
    On Thursday, other Russian ships that were also in the northern Black Sea moved further south after the Moskva caught fire, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.
    Before the Moskva sank, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, said its removal would mean “we can only have a sigh of relief.”
    While the U.S. was not able to confirm Ukraine’s claims of striking the warship, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan called it “a big blow to Russia.”
The Moskva, pictured here in 2013, the missile cruiser flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet, sank Thursday
after it was heavily damaged in the latest setback for Moscow’s invasion. The Russian Defense Ministry
said the ship sank in a storm while being towed to a port. VASILIY BATANOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Security Service of Ukraine servicemen enter a building during an operation to arrest
suspected Russian collaborators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/15/2022 Fresh graves and mourning in Ukraine by Associated Press
    A cemetery worker took a rest from digging fresh graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, as Ukrainians mourned the mounting death toll of Russia’s assault with prayers, flowers and toys left in memory of the dead.
  • One 75-year-old woman, Tetyana Gramushnyak, was killed by shelling while cooking outside her home in Bucha. Her body was lowered into a grave Thursday inside a purple casket topped with a cross.
  • Elsewhere in Bucha, sunlight cast an eerie red glow over the darkened bedroom and vacant expression of Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, who cradled a portrait of her sons.    Oleg and Vadym Trubchaninov, aged 46 and 48, were killed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, where officials say over 400 bodies have been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.
  • In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, armed servicemen in combat gear detained a man suspected to be a Russian collaborator inside a residential building.    A woman opened her door with a look of terror on her face, as she saw the helmeted, armed figures holding shields in the hallway.    Inside one apartment, a serviceman took a moment to play with a large tabby cat lounging on a carpet.
  • At the railway station in Kramatorsk, where more than 50 people were killed and dozens more wounded earlier this month, blossoms and playthings adorned a fence in memory of the dead.    A Russian missile strike had hit the station as it was crowded mostly with women and children trying to flee.

Flowers and toys were left on a fence at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Thursday. A missile strike at the station killed more than
50 people and wounded dozens on April 8 as it was crowded mostly with women and children trying to flee. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

A serviceman with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) detains a man suspected to be a Russian collaborator in Kharkiv on Thursday. FELIPE DANA/AP

A woman looks for goods dropped from an apartment building partly damaged by shelling in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Thursday. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire following Russian bombing at a damaged factory in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Thursday. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, stands in her bedroom Thursday holding a portrait of her sons Oleg, 46, and
Vadym Trubchaninov, 48, who were killed by Russian soldiers last month in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. RODRIGO ABD/AP

4/16/2022 Ukraine port city holds out against all odds - Mariupol mayor: More than 21,000 die in attacks by Yuras Karmanau, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LVIV, Ukraine – Unbroken by a Russian blockade and relentless bombardment, the key port of Mariupol is still holding out, a symbol of staunch Ukrainian resistance that has thwarted the Kremlin’s invasion plans.
    More than six weeks after the Russian siege began, Ukrainian troops are continuing to fight the vastly superior Russian forces in ferocious battles amid the ruins of what once was a bustling city on the Sea of Azov coast.
    The city’s mayor says that an estimated 120,000 people remain in the city, of Mariupol’s pre-war population of about 450,000.
    The Ukrainians’ fight against all odds has scuttled Moscow’s designs, tying up significant Russian forces and delaying the start of a planned Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Donbas.    The Kremlin hopes that an attack in the east could reverse the battlefield fortunes for Russia after a humiliating failure of its attempt to quickly storm the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
    Mariupol has been a key objective for Russia since the start of its invasion on Feb. 24. Capturing the city would allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014 and deprive Ukraine of a major port and prized industrial assets.
    The victims include about 300 people killed in last month’s Russian airstrike on the Mariupol Drama Theater that was being used as a shelter and had the word “CHILDREN” printed in Russian in huge white letters on the pavement outside to ward off aerial attack.
    Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press that at least 21,000 people were killed in Mariupol with bodies “carpeted through the streets.”    He said that the Russians deployed mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to methodically dispose of the victims’ bodies in order to hide the evidence of the massacre and prevent international organizations from documenting “the horror the Russian army is responsible for.”
    Boychenko said that several Ukrainian units are still fighting the Russians in Mariupol, including the 36th Marine Brigade, the Azov Regiment, some Interior Ministry troops and border guards.
    The Azov Regiment, a seasoned volunteer force that is widely considered one of the country’s most capable units, is defending the mammoth Azovstal steel plant that covers an area of roughly 4.2 square miles.    It has taken advantage of the plant’s sprawling network of concrete buildings and underground facilities to repel continuous Russian attacks.
    In a post on the brigade’s Facebook page, one of its officers described the unit’s heroic resistance, saying that “for more than a month, the marines have been fighting without replenishing ammunition, food and water supplies ... The wounded accounted for nearly a half of the brigade’s strength, but those who still had their limbs and were capable of walking reported back to duty.”
    As the Ukrainian troops continue to offer fierce resistance in Mariupol, fears have grown that the exasperated Russians could resort to chemical weapons to deal with the remaining pockets of resistance at the Azovstal plant and other areas of the city.
An armed serviceman of Donetsk People's Republic militia walks past a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

Marianna Vishegirskaya stands outside a maternity hospital that was damaged
by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9. MSTYSLAV CHERNOV/AP FILE

4/16/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - More bodies found near Kyiv - Russia says it will increase attacks on capital after losing warship by Adam Schreck, Robert Burns and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – The bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following Russia’s withdrawal – most of them fatally shot, police said Friday, an indication that many people were “simply executed.”
    The jarring number emerged shortly after Russia’s Defense Ministry promised to step up missile attacks on Kyiv in response to Ukraine’s alleged assaults on Russian territory.    That ominous warning followed the stunning loss of Moscow’s flagship in the Black Sea, which a senior U.S. defense official said Friday was indeed hit by at least one Ukrainian missile.
    Amid its threats, Moscow continued preparations for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.    Fighting also went on in the pummeled southern port city of Mariupol, where locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies.    In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, shelling of a residential area killed seven people, including a 7-month-old child, and wounded 34, according to regional Gov. Oleh Sinehubov.
    Around Kyiv, Andriy Nebytov, the head of the capital’s regional police force, said bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials.    He cited police data indicating 95% died from gunshot wounds.
    “Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said.
    More bodies are being found every day under rubble and in mass graves, he added, with the largest number found in Bucha, where there were more than 350.
    According to Nebytov, utility workers gathered and buried bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control.    Russian troops, he added, were “tracking down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorizing civilians and hunting for anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government.
    “The occupiers think this will make it easier for them to control this territory.    But they are very wrong. They are fooling themselves,” Zelenskyy said.    “Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted – and never will be accepted – by the entire Ukrainian people.    Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”
    In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskyy also said he discussed the fate of Mariupol with top military and intelligence officials.    He said he couldn’t offer details, “but we are doing everything we can to save our people.”
    Zelenskyy said peace and “how many more Ukrainians the occupiers have time to kill” depend on Ukraine receiving more outside support, and echoed calls for more and faster military aid, as well as an oil embargo on Russia.
    More violence could be in store for Kyiv after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine.    Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling Thursday.
    “The number and the scale of missile attacks on objects in Kyiv will be ramped up in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any terrorist attacks or diversions on the Russian territory,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
    Russia used missiles to destroy a facility for the repair and production of missile systems in Kyiv, Konashenkov said.
    Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified.
    However, Ukrainian officials said forces did strike a key Russian warship with missiles.    A senior U.S. defense official backed up the claim, saying the U.S. now believes the Moskva was hit by at least one Neptune anti-ship missile, and probably two.    The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment.
    The Moskva, named for the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port Thursday after taking heavy damage.    Although Moscow did not acknowledge any attack, saying only a fire caused ammunition on board to detonate, the loss of the ship represents an important victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.
    The sinking reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea, although military analysts disagreed on the event’s significance to the course of the war.    Either way, the loss was viewed as emblematic of Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely seen as a historic blunder following the retreat from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.
    “A ‘flagship’ Russian warship is a worthy diving site.    We have one more diving spot in the Black Sea now.    Will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted Friday.
    Russia’s warning of renewed airstrikes did not stop Kyiv residents from taking advantage of a sunny and slightly warmer spring Friday as the weekend approached.    More people than usual were out on the streets, walking dogs, riding electric scooters and strolling hand in hand.
    In one central park, a small group of people, including a woman draped in a Ukrainian flag, danced to the music of a portable speaker.
    Such tentative signs of prewar life have resurfaced in the capital after Russian troops failed to capture the city and retreated to concentrate on eastern Ukraine, leaving behind evidence of possible war crimes.    But a renewed bombardment could mean a return to the steady wail of air raid sirens heard during the early days of the invasion and to fearful nights sheltering in subway stations.
    In Mariupol, the city council said Friday that locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies buried in residential courtyards and not allowing new burials “of people killed by them.”
    “Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies will be taken is unknown,” the council said on the Telegram messaging app.
    Mariupol’s capture would allow Russian forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the looming offensive.
    It’s not known when Russia will launch a full-scale campaign.
    Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.    Russia has recognized the independence of two rebel held areas of the region.
    Also Friday a Russian rocket hit an airport at night in the central city of Oleksandriia, Mayor Serhiy Kuzmenko said via Facebook. He made no mention of casualties.
People mourn Anatoliy Kolesnikov, 30, a territorial defense soldier who was
killed by Russians, in Irpin, Ukraine, on Friday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

People fleeing from the eastern part of Ukraine become emotional Friday as they wait for a bus that
will take them to Poland from the central train station in Lviv, Ukraine. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

4/16/2022 WAR CONTINUES TO TAKE HEAVY TOLL
A view inside the Mariupol theater that was damaged during fighting in Mariupol. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP FILE

Ukrainian Nicolai, 41, says goodbye to his daughter Elina, 4, and his wife Lolita,
who are on a train bound for Poland from Lviv, Ukraine. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

A man looks at his burned car after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine. FELIPE DANA/AP

A Russian tank destroyed in recent fighting is seen on a road to Kyiv. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

A man walks near a building with a collapsed facade at the Vizar company military-industrial complex, after the site
was hit by Russian strikes in the town of Vyshneve, a southwestern suburb of Kyiv. FADEL SENNA/GETTY IMAGES

4/17/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - FIGHTING FAR FROM OVER - Russia renews strikes in Kyiv, other parts of country by Adam Schreck and Mstyslav Chernov, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces accelerated scattered attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond Saturday in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the whole country remains under threat despite Moscow’s pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east.
    Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and indignant over alleged Ukrainian aggression on Russian territory, Russia’s military command had warned of renewed missile strikes on Ukraine’s capital.    Officials in Moscow said they were targeting military sites, a claim repeated – and refuted by witnesses – throughout 52 days of war.
    The toll reaches much deeper.    Each day brings new discoveries of civilian victims of an invasion that has shattered European security.    As Russia prepared for the anticipated offensive, a mother wept over her 15-year-old son’s body after rockets hit a residential area of Kharkiv, a city in northeast Ukraine. An infant and at least eight other people died, officials said.
    In the towns and villages just outside Kyiv, authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most shot dead, since Russian troops retreated two weeks ago.    Smoke rose from the capital again early Saturday as Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported a strike that killed one person and wounded several.    The mayor advised residents who fled the city earlier in the war not to return.
    “We’re not ruling out further strikes on the capital,” Klitschko said.
    “If you have the opportunity to stay a little bit longer in the cities where it’s safer, do it.”
    It was not immediately clear from the ground what was hit in the strike on Kyiv’s Darnytskyi district.    The sprawling area on the southeastern edge of the capital contains a mixture of Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer shopping centers and big-box retail outlets, industrial areas and railyards.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said an armored vehicle plant was targeted.    He didn’t specify where the factory was located, but there is one in the Darnytskyi district.
    He said the plant was among multiple Ukrainian military sites hit with “air-launched high-precision long-range weapons.”    As the U.S. and Europe send new arms to Ukraine, the strategy could be aimed at hobbling Ukraine’s defenses ahead of what’s expected to be a full-scale Russian assault in the east.
    It was the second strike in the Kyiv area since the Russian military vowed last week to step up missile strikes on the capital.    Another hit a missile plant Friday.
    The Russian missiles hit the city just as residents were emerging for walks, foreign embassies planned to reopen and other tentative signs of the city’s prewar life started resurfacing, following the failure of Russian troops to capture Kyiv and their withdrawal.
    Kyiv was one of many targets Saturday.    The Ukrainian president’s office reported missile strikes and shelling over the past 24 hours in eight regions across the country.
    The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, which has been only sporadically touched by the war’s violence, reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 aircraft that took off from neighboring Belarus.
    In apparent preparations for its assault on the east, the Russian military has intensified shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in recent days.
    Friday’s attack killed civilians and wounded more than 50 people, the Ukrainian president’s office reported.
    On Saturday an explosion believed to be caused by a missile sent emergency workers scrambling near an outdoor market in Kharkiv, according to AP journalists at the scene. One person was killed, and at least 18 people were wounded, according to rescue workers.
    “All the windows, all the furniture, all destroyed. And the door, too,” recounted stunned resident Valentina Ulianova.
    Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said Saturday’s toll was three dead and 34 wounded.
    Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met with Vladimir Putin this past week in Moscow – the first European leader to do so since the invasion began Feb. 24 – said the Russian president is “in his own war logic” on Ukraine.
    In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Nehammer said he thinks Putin believes he is winning the war and “we have to look in his eyes and we have to confront him with that, what we see in Ukraine."     Nehammer said he confronted Putin with what he saw during a visit to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where more than 350 bodies have been found along with evidence of killings and torture under Russian occupation, and “it was not a friendly conversation.”
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Ukrainian journalists that the continuing siege of the port city of Mariupol, which has come at a horrific cost to trapped and starving civilians, could scuttle attempts to negotiate an end to the war.
    “The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol – what they are doing now – can put an end to any format of negotiations,” he said.
    Later, in his nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs more support from the West to have a chance at saving Mariupol.
    “Either our partners give Ukraine all of the necessary heavy weapons, the planes, and without exaggeration immediately, so we can reduce the pressure of the occupiers on Mariupol and break the blockade,” he said, “or we do so through negotiations, in which the role of our partners should be decisive.”
A crater and destroyed homes are seen in Yatskivka, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday. Russia’s military focus now seems
to be on seizing the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists control territory. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
A local resident looks at a damaged apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP
A Ukrainian soldier stands near a state-run nuclear waste department
near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Saturday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

4/17/2022 Unrest continues in southern Sweden - Clashes spark over far-right rally plan by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    HELSINKI – Unrest broke out in southern Sweden late Saturday despite police moving a rally by an anti-Islam far-right group, which was planning to burn a Quran among other things, to a new location as a preventive measure.
    Scuffles and unrest were reported in the southern town of Landskrona after a demonstration scheduled there by the Danish right-wing party Stram Kurs party was moved to the nearby city of Malmo, some 27 miles south.
    Up to 100 mostly young people threw stones, set cars, tires and dustbins on fire, and put up a barrier fence that obstructed traffic, Swedish police said.    The situation had calmed down in Landskrona by late Saturday but remains tense, police said, adding no injuries were reported in the action.
    On Friday evening, violent clashes between demonstrators and counter protesters erupted in the central city of Orebro ahead Stram Kurs’ plan to burn a Quran there, leaving 12 police officers injured and four police vehicles set on fire.
    Video footage and photos from chaotic scenes in Orebro showed burning police cars and protesters throwing stones and other objects at police officers in riot gear.
    Kim Hild, spokeswoman for police in southern Sweden, said earlier Saturday that police would not revoke permission for the Landskrona demonstration because the threshold for doing that is very high in Sweden.
    The right of the protesters “to demonstrate and speak out weighs enormously, heavily and it takes an incredible amount for this to be ignored,” Hild told Swedish news agency TT.
    The demonstration took place Saturday evening in a central park in Malmo where Stram Kurs’ leader Rasmus Paludan addressed a few dozen people.    A small number of counter-protesters threw stones at demonstrators and police was forced to use pepper spray to disperse them.
    Paludan himself was reported to have been hit by a stone on his leg, Swedish media said.    No serious injuries were reported, police said.
    Since Thursday, clashes have been reported also in Stockholm and in the cities of Linkoping and Norrkoping – all locations where Stram Kurs either planned or had demonstrations.
    Paludan, a Danish lawyer who also holds Swedish citizenship, set up Stram Kurs, or “Hard Line” in 2017.    The website of the party, which runs on an anti-immigration and anti-Islam agenda, says “Stram Kurs is the most patriotic political party in Denmark.”
Protesters set fire to a police bus in the park Sveaparken in Orebro, Sweden, Friday. Police in Sweden say they are preparing
for new violent clashes following riots that erupted between demonstrators and counter-protesters in the central city
of Orebro on Friday ahead of an anti-Islam far-right group’s plan to burn a Quran there. KICKI NILSSON/TT VIA AP

4/18/2022 Ukrainians defy deadline to surrender - Fall of Mariupol would be Russia’s biggest victory by Adam Schreck and Mstyslav Chernov, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at an apartments building after a
Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday. ANDREW MARIENKO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian fighters who were holed up in a massive steel plant in the last known pocket of resistance inside the shattered city of Mariupol ignored a surrender-or-die ultimatum from Russia on Sunday and held out against the capture of the strategically vital port.
    The fall of Mariupol, the site of a merciless 7-week-old siege that has reduced much of the city to a smoking ruin, would be Moscow’s biggest victory of the war and free up troops to take part in a potentially climactic battle for control of Ukraine’s industrial east.
    Capturing the southern city would also allow Russia to fully secure a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and deprive Ukraine of a major port and its prized industrial assets.
    As its missiles and rockets slammed into other parts of the country, Russia estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries were dug in at the sprawling Azovstal steel mill, which covers more than 4 square miles and is laced with tunnels.
    Many Mariupol civilians, including children, are also sheltering at the Azovstal plant, Mikhail Vershinin, head of the city’s patrol police, told Mariupol television on Sunday.    He said they are hiding from Russian shelling, and from any occupying Russian soldiers.
    Moscow had given the defenders a midday deadline to surrender and “keep their lives,” but the Ukrainians rejected it, as they’ve done with previous ultimatums.
    “We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal vowed on ABC’s “This Week.”    He said Ukraine is prepared to end the war through diplomacy, if possible, “but we do not have intention to surrender.”
    As for besieged Mariupol, there appeared to be little hope Sunday of military rescue by Ukrainian forces anytime soon.    Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the remaining Ukrainian troops and civilians in Mariupol are basically encircled.    He said they “continue their struggle,” but that the city effectively no longer exists because of massive destruction.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent Easter greetings via Twitter, saying: “The Lord’s Resurrection is a testimony to the victory of life over death, good over evil.”
    If Mariupol falls, Russian forces there are expected to join an all-out offensive in the coming days for control of the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin is bent on capturing after failing in its bid to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
    The relentless bombardment and street fighting in Mariupol have killed at least 21,000 people, by the Ukrainians’ estimate.    A maternity hospital was hit by a lethal Russian airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, and about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter.
    An estimated 100,000 remained in the city out of a prewar population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity in a siege that has made Mariupol the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war.
    “All those who will continue resistance will be destroyed,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, said in announcing the latest ultimatum.
    Drone footage carried by the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti showed towering plumes of smoke over the steel complex, which sits on the outskirts of the bombed-out city, on the Sea of Azov.
    Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar described Mariupol as a “shield defending Ukraine” as Russian troops prepare for battle in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas, where Moscow- backed separatists already control some territory.
    Russian forces, meanwhile, carried out aerial attacks near Kyiv and elsewhere in an apparent effort to weaken Ukraine’s military capacity ahead of the anticipated assault.
    After the humiliating sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last week in what the Ukrainians boasted was a missile attack, the Kremlin had vowed to step up strikes on the capital.
    Russia said Sunday that it had attacked an ammunition plant near Kyiv overnight with precision-guided missiles, the third such strike in as many days.    Explosions were also reported overnight in Kramatorsk, the eastern city where rockets earlier this month killed at least 57 people at a train station crowded with civilians trying to evacuate ahead of the Russian offensive.
    At least five people were killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Sunday, regional officials said.    The barrage slammed into apartment buildings and left streets scattered with broken glass and debris, including part of at least one rocket.
    Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov, in an impassioned address marking Orthodox Palm Sunday, lashed out at Russian forces for not letting up the bombing campaign on such a sacred day.
    And Zelenskyy, in his nightly address to the nation, called the bombing in Kharkiv “nothing but deliberate terror.”
    A regional official in eastern Ukraine said at least two people were killed when Russian forces fired at residential buildings in the town of Zolote, near the front line in the Donbas.
    Zelenskyy said Russian troops in parts of southern Ukraine have been carrying out torture and kidnappings, and he called on the world to respond with more weapons and tougher sanctions.
    “Torture chambers are built there,” he said in his address.    “They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities.”
    Malyar, the Ukrainian deputy defense minister, said the Russians continued to hit Mariupol with airstrikes and could be getting ready for an amphibious landing to reinforce their ground troops.
    If Mariupol falls, Russian forces there are expected to join an all-out offensive in the coming days for control of the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin is bent on capturing after failing in its bid to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
An elderly local resident stands behind a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel
Works Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

4/18/2022 ‘THIS LAND IS IN BLOOD’ - A Ukraine village digs up the dead from temporary graves by Cara Anna and Emilio Morenatti, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An excavator lifts a casket as volunteers empty a mass grave Sunday in Mykulychi, Ukraine. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP
    MYKULYCHI, Ukraine – On a quiet street lined with walnut trees was a cemetery with four bodies that hadn’t yet found a home.
    All were victims of Russian soldiers in this village outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.    Their temporary caskets were together in a grave.    Volunteers dug them up one by one on Sunday – two weeks after the soldiers disappeared.
    This spring is a grim season of planting and replanting in towns and villages around Kyiv.    Bodies given hurried graves amid the     Russian occupation are now being retrieved for investigations into possible war crimes.    More than 900 civilian victims have been found so far.
    All four bodies here were killed on the same street, on the same day.    That’s according to the local man who provided their caskets.    He bent and kissed the cemetery’s wrought-iron crosses as he walked to the makeshift grave.
    The volunteers tried digging with shovels, then gave up and called an excavator.    As they waited, they recounted their work secretly burying bodies during the monthlong Russian occupation, then retrieving them.    One young man recalled being discovered by soldiers who pointed guns at him and told him “Don’t look up” as he dug a grave.
    The excavator arrived, rumbling past the cemetery’s wooden outhouse.    Soon there was the smell of fresh earth, and the murmur, “There they are.”
    A woman appeared, crying.    Ira Slepchenko was the wife of one man buried here.    No one told her he was being dug up now.    The wife of another victim arrived.    Valya Naumenko peered into the grave, then hugged Ira.    “Don’t collapse,” she said.    “I need you to be OK.”
    The two couples lived next to each other.    On the final day before the Russians left the village, soldiers knocked at one home.    Valya’s husband, Pavlo Ivanyuk, opened the door.    The soldiers took him to the garage and shot him in the head, apparently without any explanation.
    Then the soldiers shouted, “Is anyone else here?
    Ira’s husband, Sasha Nedolezhko, heard the gunshot.    But he thought the soldiers would search the homes if no one answered.    He opened the door and the soldiers shot him too.
    The men’s caskets were lifted out with the others, then pried open.    The four bodies, wrapped in blankets, were placed in body bags.    The lace-edged white lining of each casket was stained red where the head had been.
    Ira watched from afar, smoking, but stood by the empty caskets as the others left.    “All this land is in blood, and it will take years to recover,” she said.
    She had known her husband was here.
    Nine days after his temporary burial, she came to the cemetery scattered with picnic tables, following the local custom of spending time with the dead.    She brought coffee and cookies.
    “I want this war to end as soon as possible,” she said.
    The other bodies were a teacher and a local man who lived alone.    No one came for them on Sunday.
    In the house next to the cemetery, 66-year-old Valya Voronets cooked homegrown potatoes in a wood-warmed room, still getting by without water, electricity or gas.    A small radio played, but not for long because the news gets too depressing.    A plate of freshly cut radishes rested near the window.
    A Russian soldier once came running and pointed his gun at her husband after spotting him climbing onto the roof to get a cellphone signal.    “Are you going to kill an old man?” 65-year-old Myhailo Scherbakov replied.
    Not all the Russians were like that.    Voronets said she cried together with another soldier, barely 21. “You’re too young,” she told him.
    Another soldier told her they didn’t want to fight.
    Still, she feared them all. But she offered them milk from her only cow.
    “I felt sorry for them in these conditions,” she said.    “And if you’re nice to them, maybe they won’t kill you.”

4/18/2022 Jews celebrate wartime Passover by Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY
    ODESA, Ukraine – They traveled to the historic hotel along the Black Sea through checkpoints and a darkened side entrance.    Inside, the opulent lobby lights are off, and drapes are drawn.    On a small entry table sit four stacks of matzo.
    Welcome to Passover in this port city, where the remaining Jewish population celebrates freedom over tyranny even as their community has been scattered by war across Europe and the world, for the second time in the past century.
    Inside the banquet hall, around 10 p.m., Igor Oks, 41, an event host who has helped French journalists report on the war, raises his glass of wine and quips in Russian, “The Black Sea opened like the Red Sea, and the Russian warship drowned in it.”
    The crowd is determined to be festive, even as air sirens wail.    A man rises and exhorts the gathering: “Let’s drink to life!    Let’s drink to Passover!” He ends with “Let’s drink to Ukraine!
    The gathering of about 110 Jews from all strata of Odesan society at the 19thcentury Londonskaya hotel erupts in claps and cheers at the reference to the destroyed flagship of the Russian fleet, which was probably the main threat to the city only days ago.
    It’s hard to avoid discussion of war at this Friday evening Seder, which is an annual retelling of the story of Jewish freedom from Egyptian slavery.    Ukrainian flags sit in a wine glass in the center of each table.    The gathering is literally locked in for the night, behind barricaded checkpoints in the strategic military zone, the city’s first line of defense should Russia attack by sea.
    Their voices rise in familiar song, growing stronger as the community’s rabbi, Avraham Wolff, urges them on.    Slowly, faces creased with worry light up with joy, and, as the evening stretches on, more and more laughter.
    “Nothing like last night – with the dim lights and guys with guns, and a hushed atmosphere of reverence – nothing about that was normal,” Vladislav Davidzon, a fellow at the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center, a Washington-based think tank, says the next morning.
    The United Nations estimates 4.8 million Ukrainians have fled their country because of the war.    In Odesa, Wolff estimates roughly 60% of the 35,000-member Jewish community, one of the largest in post-Soviet Eastern Europe, have left since Russia invaded Feb. 24.
    “When we came to Odesa 30 years ago, we found 35,000 pieces of a puzzle, we collected them, put the pieces together, glue it and put it on the wall, then (Russian President Vladimir) Putin came with his tanks and broke it again into 35,000 pieces,” says Wolff, who heads the community’s Chabad synagogue and has worked double-time caring for his community during the war.    “They’ve left from here, and they left for all over the world.”
    Chabad, one of the largest Hasidic organizations in the world, engages in outreach to Jews internationally and hosts thousands of Ukrainian refugees at Seders across Europe this year.    Wolff says it’s not just Chabad.    Jewish families around the world are “inviting in refugees” to their homes and helping tens of thousands of people in need.    The effort, he says, has helped unite the Jewish community.
    This year’s celebration of Passover is unlike any other year in Ukraine, in large part because of the logistical nightmare of providing food that meets the requirements of Jewish law amid a war that has wrought supply chain difficulties, stranded trucks at borders, stuck matzah at the port and depleted the synagogue’s store shelves to 10% of their typical Passover haul from places such as Israel.
    Problematic at a more fundamental level is that the traditional evening gathering typically ends many hours past the city’s 9 p.m. curfew.
    Some families gathered early at the Chabad synagogue, beginning the Seder before the official holiday, then heading home for lockdown.
    At the Londonskaya hotel, Jewish families torn asunder by war mix with humanitarian workers, journalists, entrepreneurs and at least one Ukrainian soldier in military uniform wearing his traditional Jewish ceremonial fringes.
    “This is all so surreal,” says Dina Kazatsker, 40, who works at a charity fund organizing medical aid.    She and her husband, Oks, placed their two daughters safely in Slovakia with her mother.    “The most surreal thing is seeing a Ukrainian soldier in his uniform with tzitzit hanging from it” as Putin talks about the “denazification” of Ukraine.
    Grigory Vakulenko, 47, who manages a kosher restaurant that’s been closed since the invasion, threw himself into overseeing humanitarian aid and preparing for Passover.
    “I’m almost certain that the Ukrainian nation will do the same as Jewish people did back in those days when we were in Egypt,” Vakulenko says.    “The Ukrainian passport is going to become a symbol of pride,” and the country will be “a beacon of freedom” to the world.
    Vakulenko says there were doubts that the gathering at Londonskaya would happen.    The military OK’d it with some conditions.    Guests in rooms facing the sea must leave their bedroom lights off and keep their curtains closed.    “It was something out of a fantasy movie,” Vakulenko says.    “But thank God we’re here.”
    Despite the surreal nature of a celebration amid war, the days leading up to the holiday fell into a familiar freneticism at the Chabad synagogue.    As the city’s only major synagogue with its doors still open, it saw daily lines of people waiting to buy provisions or pick up pre-made Seder boxes and aid packages – with separate Seder plates, face masks and a first aid kit – from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.
    Among those helping out by selling matzah at the synagogue before the holiday was Tamar Khusid, who sent her three kids to Berlin during the war’s early days.    She handed out boxes of matzah with wishes for freedom – “that all of us will be free and nobody will try to liberate us, because we aren’t oppressed here.”
    Two days before the holiday’s start, Vakulenko ticked off the tasks on his list – making sure meat from the Ukrainian Kosher Committee and other holiday equipment got through checkpoints and coordinating with the supply trucks making the journey from major European Jewish communities in Paris, Vienna and London.
    The community ordered 12 tons of matzo, an unleavened bread traditionally eaten to commemorate the rush of Jews to leave Egypt before their bread could rise.    It got stuck at the Odesan port and required weeks of work, contacting the government and port authorities, to get free, says Chaya Wolff, the rabbi’s wife.
    Wolff was on her phone nonstop in the days before Passover trying to ensure the holiday’s logistics were taken care of, while calming the anxieties of her son organizing a Seder for refugees in Berlin and a nephew doing the same in Iasi, Romania.
    Her father was imprisoned in Siberia for being Jewish when Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union. For Passover, “he had only refined sugar,” Wolff says.    “We have a lot of matzah from last year. … So whatever happens, we will have more than my father had when he was in Siberia in prison during those times.”
    For Oks and many other Jews, their Ukrainian identity has been further burnished by Russia’s efforts to take control.    As a Jew celebrating the exodus from Egypt, he says the war has become a visceral reminder of why freedom matters.
    “The price of this freedom is so high, and I think, thanks to this – and maybe it sounds strange to say thanks to this, but I say thanks to this – not only will we have this freedom, but we’ll understand what this freedom is for us,” Oks says.    “Because we paid too high a price.”
Translation: Anna Vasylioglo
    “When we came to Odesa 30 years ago, we found 35,000 pieces of a puzzle, we collected them, put the pieces together, glue it and put it on the wall, then (Russian President Vladimir) Putin came with his tanks and broke it again into 35,000 pieces.” Rabbi Avraham Wolff.

Itamar Wolff, son of Rabbi Avraham Wolff, leads the Passover Seder on Friday in Odesa, Ukraine. SANDY HOOPER/USA TODAY

A man purchases boxes of matzo at Odesa’s Chabad synagogue April 13 in Ukraine. Supplying
the traditional bread has been a problem during the war. PHOTOS BY SANDY HOOPER/USA TODAY

Despite the Russian invasion, Rabbi Avraham Wolff organized a Passover Seder.

4/19/2022 Russian troops step up airstrikes across Ukraine - Officials say at least seven people killed in Lviv strike by Yuras Karmanau, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LVIV, Ukraine – Russian forces launched missile attacks on the western city of Lviv and pounded other targets across Ukraine on Monday in what appeared to be an intensified bid to wear down the country’s defenses ahead of an all-out assault on the east.
    At least seven people were reported killed in Lviv, where plumes of thick black smoke rose over a city that has seen only sporadic attacks during almost two months of war and has become a haven for large numbers of civilians fleeing intense fighting elsewhere.
    Also, Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, vowed to 'fight absolutely to the end' in strategically vital Mariupol, where the last known pocket of resistance in the seven-week siege consisted of Ukrainian fighters holed up in a sprawling steel plant.    The holdouts ignored a surrender-or-die ultimatum from the Russians on Sunday.
    The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyy, said the Russian missile strikes hit three military infrastructure facilities and an auto mechanic shop. He said the wounded included a child, and emergency teams battled fires caused by the attack.
    Lviv is the biggest city and a major transportation hub in western Ukraine. It sits roughly 50 miles from Poland, a NATO member.    The city has been a major conduit for weapons and other supplies coming from NATO countries and for foreign fighters joining the Ukrainian cause.
    Russia has strongly complained about the increasing flow of Western weapons to Ukraine, and last week its Foreign Ministry issued a formal note of protest to the U.S. and its allies.    On Russian state media, some anchors have charged that the supplies amount to direct Western engagement in the fight against Russia.
    Lviv has also been seen as a relatively safe place for the elderly, mothers and children trying to escape the war.    But a hotel sheltering Ukrainians who had fled fighting in other parts of the country was among the buildings badly damaged, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.
    'The nightmare of war has caught up with us even in Lviv,' said Lyudmila Turchak, who fled with two children from the eastern city of Kharkiv.    'There is no longer anywhere in Ukraine where we can feel safe.'
    A powerful explosion also rocked Vasylkiv, a town south of the capital of Kyiv that is home to a military airbase, according to residents.    It was not immediately clear what was hit.
    Military analysts say Russia is increasing its strikes on weapons factories, railways and other infrastructure targets across Ukraine to wear down the country’s ability to resist a major ground offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking eastern industrial heartland.
    The Russian military said its missiles struck more than 20 military targets in eastern and central Ukraine in the past day – including ammunition depots, command headquarters and groups of troops and vehicles.    It claimed artillery hit an additional 315 Ukrainian targets, and warplanes conducted 108 strikes on Ukrainian troops and military equipment.    The claims could not be independently verified.
    Gen. Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British Army, told Sky News the strikes were part of a 'softening-up' campaign by Russia ahead of a planned ground offensive in the Donbas.
    Ukraine’s government halted civilian evacuations for a second day on Monday, saying Russian forces were shelling and blocking the humanitarian corridors.
    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine had been negotiating passage from cities and towns in eastern and southeastern Ukraine, including Mariupol and other areas in the Donbas.    The government of the Luhansk region in the Donbas said four civilians trying to flee were shot and killed by Russian forces.
    Vereshchuk said Russia could be prosecuted for war crimes over its refusal to allow civilians to leave Mariupol.
    'Your refusal to open these humanitarian corridors will in the future be a reason to prosecute all involved for war crimes,' she wrote on social media.
    The Russians, in turn, accused 'neo-Nazi nationalists' in Mariupol of hampering the evacuation.
    Russia is bent on capturing the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists already control some territory, after its attempt to take the capital failed.
    'We are doing everything to ensure the defense' of eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address to the nation on Sunday.
    The looming offensive in the east, if successful, would give Russian President Vladimir Putin a badly needed victory to point to amid the war’s mounting casualties and the economic hardship caused by Western sanctions.
    The capture of Mariupol is seen as a key step in preparations for any eastern assault since it would free Russian troops up for that new campaign.    The fall of the city on the Sea of Azov would also hand Russia its biggest victory of the war, giving it full control of a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and depriving Ukraine of a major port and its prized industrial assets.
    Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar has described Mariupol as a 'shield defending Ukraine.'
    The city has been reduced to rubble in the siege, but a few thousand fighters, by Russia’s estimate, are holding on to the giant, 4-square-mile Azovstal steel mill.
    The relentless bombardment of Mariupol – including at a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians were sheltering – has combined with street fighting to kill at least 21,000 people, by Ukrainian estimates.    An estimated 100,000 people remain in the city out of a prewar population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.
    A pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was arrested last week on a treason charge appeared in a video offering himself in exchange for the evacuation of Mariupol’s trapped defenders and civilians.    Ukraine’s state security services posted the video of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party with personal ties to Putin.
    It was not clear whether Medvedchuk was speaking under duress.
    Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was also hit by shelling Monday that killed at least three people, according to Associated Press journalists on the scene.    One of the dead was a woman who appeared to be going out to collect water in the rain.    She was found lying with a water canister and an umbrella by her side.    Putin repeated his insistence that the Western sanctions 'blitz' against Russia had failed.
Emergency workers clear debris after an airstrike hit a tire shop in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday.
Russian missiles hit the city of Lviv, killing at least seven people, Ukrainian officials said. Philip Crowther/AP

4/19/2022 RUSSIAN TROOPS BEGIN ASSAULT IN EAST UKRAINE - Zelenskyy: ‘We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.’ by Yuras Karmanau | ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LVIV, Ukraine – Russia launched its long-feared, full-scale offensive to take control of Ukraine’s east on Monday, attacking along a broad front over 300 miles long, Ukrainian officials said in what marked the opening of a new and potentially climactic phase of the war.
    “The Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address.    He said a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”
    The Donbas is Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland in the east, where Moscow backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past eight years and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia.
    In recent weeks, the Kremlin declared the capture of the Donbas its main goal of the war after its attempt to storm Kyiv failed.    After withdrawing from the capital, Russia began regrouping and reinforcing its ground troops in the east for an all-out offensive.
    “No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight,” Zelenskyy vowed.    “We will defend ourselves.    We will do it every day.”
    The offensive got underway after Russia bombarded the western city of Lviv and a multitude of other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country’s defenses.
    The Ukraine military’s general staff said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces were increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – both of which are part of the Donbas – as well as in the area of Zaporizhzhia.
    “This morning, almost along the whole front line of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defenses,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, was quoted as telling Ukrainian media.    “Fortunately, our military is holding out.    They passed through only two cities.    This is Kreminna and another small town.”
    He added: “We are not giving up any of our territories.”
    A Ukrainian military official said street battles had begun in Kreminna and that evacuation was impossible.
    Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said heavy artillery fire set seven residential buildings on fire and targeted the sports complex where the nation’s Olympic team trains.
    Haidai later told Ukrainian television that Russians took control of the city after “leveling everything to the ground,” so his forces retreated to regroup and keep on fighting.
    Meanwhile, in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard that was holding out against Russian forces, said in a video message that Russia had begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on the Azovstal steel plant where the regiment was holed up.    The sprawling plant contains a warren of tunnels where both fighters and civilians are sheltering.    It is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.
    At least seven people were reported killed in missile strikes on Lviv, a city close to the Polish border that has seen only sporadic attacks during almost two months of war and has become a haven for civilians fleeing the fighting elsewhere.    To the Kremlin’s increasing anger, Lviv has also become a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.
    The attack on Lviv hit three military infrastructure facilities and an auto shop, according to the region’s governor, Maksym Kozytskyy. He said the wounded included a child.
    A Lviv hotel sheltering Ukrainians who had fled the fighting in other parts of the country was also badly damaged, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.    The city has seen its population swell with elderly people, mothers and children trying to escape the war.
    “The nightmare of war has caught up with us even in Lviv,” said Lyudmila Turchak, who fled with two children from the eastern city of Kharkiv.    “There is no longer anywhere in Ukraine where we can feel safe.”
    Lviv, the biggest city and a major transportation hub in western Ukraine, is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Poland, a NATO member.
    Russia has strongly complained about the increasing flow of Western weapons to Ukraine and warned that such aid could have consequences.    On Russian state media, some anchors have charged that the supplies amount to direct Western engagement in the fight against Russia.
    A powerful explosion also rocked Vasylkiv, a town south of the capital of Kyiv that is home to an air base, according to residents.    It was not immediately clear what was struck.
    Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was hit by shelling that killed at least three people, according to Associated Press journalists on the scene.    One of the dead was a woman who appeared to be going out to collect water in the rain.    She was found with a water canister and an umbrella by her side.
    Military analysts say Russia was increasing its strikes on weapons factories, railroads and other infrastructure ahead of its assault on the Donbas.
    Moscow said its missiles struck more than 20 military targets in eastern and central Ukraine in the past day, including ammunition depots, command headquarters and groups of troops and vehicles.
    It also reported that its artillery hit an additional 315 Ukrainian targets and that warplanes conducted 108 strikes on troops and military equipment.    The claims could not be independently verified.
    Gen. Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British Army, told Sky News that Russia was waging a “softening-up” campaign ahead of the Donbas offensive.
    A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessments of the war, said there are now 76 Russian combat units, known as battalion tactical groups, in eastern and southern Ukraine, up from 65 last week.
    That could translate to around 50,000 to 60,000 troops, based on what the Pentagon said at the start of the war was the typical unit strength of 700 to 800 soldiers, but the numbers are difficult to pinpoint at this stage in the fighting.
    The official also said that four U.S. cargo flights arrived in Europe on Sunday with an initial delivery of weapons and other materials for Ukraine as part of a $800 million package announced by Washington last week.    And training of Ukrainian personnel on U.S. 155 mm howitzers is set to begin in the next several days.
    The capture of Mariupol, where Ukraine estimates 21,000 people have been killed, is seen as key, and not just because it would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014.
    The U.S. defense official said that if Russian forces succeed in taking full control of Mariupol, that could free up nearly a dozen battalion tactical groups for use elsewhere in the Donbas.
Top: Interior ministry sappers collect unexploded shells, grenades and
other devices in Hostomel, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Elderly people are evacuated from a hospice in Chasiv Yar city, Donetsk district, Ukraine,
Monday. At least 35 men and women, some in wheelchairs and most of them with mobility issues,
were helped by volunteers to flee from the region. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) servicemen enter an apartment during an operation
to arrest suspected Russian collaborators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/19/2022 Russians fight in streets of Ukrainian town
    A Ukrainian military official said street battles have begun and evacuation is impossible in the town of Kreminna.    That’s one of only two spots where the Ukrainians said the Russians managed to break through on Monday along a front stretching for hundreds of miles.
  • Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said the town came under heavy artillery overnight, setting seven residential buildings on fire, and that the Olympus sports complex where the nation’s Olympic team trains was targeted.
  • Haidai later said on Ukrainian TV that Russians took control of the city after “leveling everything to the ground,” so his guys retreated to regroup and keep on fighting.    “It simply makes no sense to stand in one place, to die for everyone, without causing significant damage to the enemy,” he said.
Associated Press, MYKOLA TYS/AP PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Burned vehicles are seen at the destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant,
as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting. The area was controlled
by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

Melaniya Kovalenko, 90, hugs a toy doll given to her by an NGO as a donation, which she intends to
give to her grandchildren, outside her home in Bucha in the outskirts of Kyiv. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire after an airstrike hit a tire shop in Lviv, Ukraine. Russian missiles
hit the city of Lviv in western Ukraine on Monday, killing at least six people, Ukrainian officials said,
as Moscow's troops stepped up strikes on infrastructure in preparation for an all-out assault on the east.

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) servicemen enter a building during an operation to
arrest suspected Russian collaborators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP

Elderly men in beds, at a hospice in Chasiv Yar city, Donetsk district, Ukraine, Monday. At least 35 men and women,
some in wheelchairs and most of them with mobility issues, were helped by volunteers to flee from the region that
has been under attack in the last few weeks. They are being transported to Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine.

4/20/2022 Russia elevates battle for control of eastern Ukraine by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    'What they’re trying to do by positioning this, I think, is … focus people’s minds and effort by saying, ‘Look, the conflict has begun in the Donbas.’    That partly puts pressure on NATO and EU suppliers to say, ‘Guys, we’re starting to fight now.    We need this now.’'    Justin Crump , a former British tank commander now with the strategic advisory company Sibylline
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia ratcheted up its battle for control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland Tuesday, assaulting cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long in what both sides described as a new phase of the war.
    After a Russian push to overrun the capital failed, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the mostly Russian-speaking eastern Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.
    If successful, that offensive would give President Vladimir Putin a vital piece of Ukraine and a badly needed victory in the now 7-week-old war that he could present to the Russian people amid mounting casualties and economic hardship caused by the West’s sanctions.
    It would also effectively slice Ukraine in two and deprive it of the main industrial assets concentrated in the east, including coal mines, metals plants and machine-building factories.
    Ukraine’s military said early Tuesday that a 'new phase of war' began a day earlier when 'the occupiers made an attempt to break through our defenses along nearly the entire front line.'    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that 'another phase of this operation is starting now.'
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that massive numbers of Russian troops were committed to the campaign, though some observers noted that an escalation has been underway there for some time and questioned whether this was truly the start of new offensive.
    Justin Crump, a former British tank commander now with the strategic advisory company Sibylline, said the Ukrainian comments could, in part, be an attempt to persuade allies to send more weapons.
    'What they’re trying to do by positioning this, I think, is ... focus people’s minds and effort by saying, ‘Look, the conflict has begun in the Donbas,’' Crump said.    'That partly puts pressure on NATO and EU suppliers to say, ‘Guys, we’re starting to fight now. We need this now.’'
    European and American arms have been key to bolstering Ukraine’s defense, helping the under-gunned country to hold off the Russians.    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelenskyy on Tuesday that the Netherlands would send 'heavier material,' including armored vehicles.
    In what appeared to be an intensification of attacks, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that air-launched missiles destroyed 13 Ukrainian troop and weapons locations, while the air force struck 60 other Ukrainian military facilities, including missile warhead storage depots.
    Russian artillery hit 1,260 Ukrainian military facilities and 1,214 troops concentrations over the last 24 hours, Konashenkov said Tuesday.    The claims could not be independently verified.
    The assaults began Monday along a front that stretches more than 300 miles from northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast.
    Russia said it struck several areas with missiles, including the northeastern city of Kharkiv as well as areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas.
    Associated Press journalists in Kharkiv said at least four people were killed and three wounded in a Russian attack on a residential area of the city, which is near the front lines and has faced repeated shelling.    The attack occurred as residents attempted Tuesday to maintain a sense of normalcy, with municipal workers planting spring flowers in public areas.
    An explosion also rocked the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, killing at least one person and wounding three, according to AP journalists at the scene.
    Eyewitness accounts and reports from officials have given a broad picture of the extent of the Russian advance.    But independent reporting in the parts of the Donbas held by Russian forces and separatists is severely limited, making it difficult to know what is happening in many places on the ground.
    Moscow’s troops seized control of one town in the Donbas on Monday, according to Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, said that the defensive line had held elsewhere.
    The breakthrough in Kreminna brings the Russians one small step closer to their apparent goal of encircling Ukrainian troops in the region.
    Retired British Gen. Richard Barrons told the BBC that 'in this particular battle the Russians will be approaching the Ukrainians from the east, but also from the north and the south to try and get behind them, and so this is a more complex military problem for the Ukrainians.'
    Key to the campaign to take the east is the capture of Mariupol, the port city in the Donbas that the Russians have besieged since the early days of the war and where shelling continued.
    A few thousand Ukrainian troops, by the Russians’ estimate, were holed up in a sprawling steel plant, representing what was believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.
    On Tuesday, Russia issued a new ultimatum to the Ukrainian defenders to surrender, saying those who come out will 'keep their lives,' and said a cease-fire was being declared in the area so the combatants could leave the plant.    The Ukrainians have ignored previous such offers, and there was no immediate confirmation a cease-fire occurred.
    The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose forces have taken part in the fighting in Mariupol, said on a messaging app that Russian forces would root out the Ukrainian resistance within hours and take full control of the steel mill on Tuesday.    Kadyrov is known for his bluster and has repeatedly predicted the city’s fall in the past.
    Securing Mariupol would free Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas, deprive Ukraine of a vital port, and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014.
Residents look out of a window Tuesday in a building damaged in recent shelling
in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP via Getty Images

4/20/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - RUSSIAN PUSH INTENSIFIES - Experts say goal is to encircle Ukrainian defense by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ABOVE: A Ukrainian soldier walks past a Russian tank after recent battles at the village of Moshchun
close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday. Russia’s new offensive in the east reflects Moscow’s hope
to reverse its battlefield fortunes after a catastrophic seven weeks of war. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long and poured more troops into Ukraine on Tuesday in a potentially pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.
  • If successful, the Russian offensive in what is known as the Donbas would essentially slice Ukraine in two and give President Vladimir Putin a badly needed victory following the failed attempt by Moscow’s forces to storm the capital,     Kyiv, and heavier-than-expected casualties nearly two months into the war.
  • The eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk came under deadly attack.    Russia also said it struck areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas with missiles.    Multiple explosions were heard early Wednesday in the southern city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor said.
    A hospital was reported shelled earlier in the nearby town of Bashtanka.br>     In Mariupol, the now-devastated port city in the Donbas, Ukrainian troops said the Russian military dropped heavy bombs to flatten what was left of a sprawling steel plant and hit a hospital where hundreds were staying.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Moscow’s forces bombarded numerous Ukrainian military sites, including troop concentrations and missile-warhead storage depots, in or near several cities or villages.    Those claims could not be independently verified.
    In what both sides described as a new phase of the war, the Russian assault began Monday along a front stretching more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast.    Ukraine’s military said Russian forces tried to “break through our defenses along nearly the entire front line.”
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian military was throwing everything it has into the battle, with most of its combat-ready forces now concentrated in Ukraine and just across the border in Russia.
    “They have driven almost everyone and everything that is capable of fighting us against Ukraine,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation.
    Despite Russian claims of hitting only military sites, they continue to target residential areas and kill civilians, he said.
    “The Russian army in this war is writing itself into world history forever as the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world,” Zelenskyy said.    Weeks ago, after the abortive Russian push to take Kyiv, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.
    A Russian victory in the Donbas would deprive Ukraine of the industrial assets concentrated there, including mines, metals plants and heavy-equipment factories.
    A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessments of the war, said the Russians had added two more combat units, known as battalion tactical groups, in Ukraine over the preceding 24 hours.    That brought the total number of units in the country to 78, all of them in the south and the east, up from 65 last week, the official said.
    That would translate to about 55,000 to 62,000 troops, based on what the Pentagon said at the start of the war was the typical unit strength of 700 to 800 soldiers.    But accurately determining Russia’s fighting capacity at this stage is difficult.
    A European official, likewise speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russia also has 10,000 to 20,000 foreign fighters in the Donbas.    They are a mix of mercenaries from Russia’s private Wagner Group and Russian proxy fighters from Syria and Libya, according to the official.
    While Ukraine portrayed the attacks on Monday as the start of the longfeared offensive in the east, some observers noted that an escalation has been underway there for some time and questioned whether this was truly the start of a new offensive.
    The U.S. official said the offensive in the Donbas has begun in a limited way, mainly in an area southwest of the city of Donetsk and south of Izyum.
    Justin Crump, a former British tank commander now with the strategic advisory company Sibylline, said the Ukrainian comments could, in part, be an attempt to persuade allies to send more weapons.
    “What they’re trying to do by positioning this, I think, is … focus people’s minds and effort by saying, ‘Look, the conflict has begun in the Donbas,’” Crump said.    “That partly puts pressure on NATO and EU suppliers to say, ‘Guys, we’re starting to fight now.    We need this now.’” President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new weapons package in the coming days that will include additional artillery and ammunition, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine.    And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelensky that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons.
    Associated Press journalists in Kharkiv said at least four people were killed and three wounded in a Russian attack on a residential area of the city.    The attack occurred as residents attempted to maintain a sense of normalcy, with municipal workers planting spring flowers in public areas.
    An explosion also rocked Kramatorsk, killing at least one person and wounding three, according to AP journalists at the scene.
    In Bashtanka, an unspecified number of people were wounded when Russian forces shelled the hospital, destroying the reception area and the dialysis unit, the head of the regional council, Hanna Zamazeeva, said on Facebook. Bashtanka is about 40 miles north of Mykolaiv.
    Eyewitness accounts and reports from officials have given a broad picture of the extent of the Russian advance.    But independent reporting in the parts of the Donbas held by Russian forces and separatists is severely limited, making it difficult to know what is happening in many places on the ground.
    Military experts said the Russians’ goal is to encircle Ukrainian troops from the north, south and east.
    Key to the campaign is the capture of Mariupol, which would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine in 2014.    It would also free up Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas.
    A few thousand Ukrainian troops, by the Russians’ estimate, remained holed up in a sprawling Mariupol steel plant, representing what was believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the city.
    Russia issued a new ultimatum to the Ukrainian defenders to surrender Wednesday after a previous ultimatum was ignored.    The Russian Defense Ministry said those who surrender will be allowed to live and given medical treatment.    There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian troops, but they have repeatedly vowed not to give up.
    Instead, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, who was among the troops remaining in Mariupol, said the Russian military dropped heavy bombs on the steel plant and hit an “improvised” hospital.    “We are pulling people out from under the rubble,” Sviatoslav Palamar told Radio Liberty.
    Serhiy Taruta, the former governor of the Donetsk region and a Mariupol native, also reported the bombing of the hospital, where he said 300 people, including wounded troops and civilians with children, were sheltered. The reports could not be independently confirmed.     Zelenskyy said the Kremlin has not responded to a proposal to exchange Viktor Medvedchuk, the jailed leader of a pro-Russia party, for the Mariupol defenders.
Security forces help an injured man following a Russian bombing of a factory
in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, Tuesday. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

4/20/2022 EXPLAINER - WAR RAGES ON - How Russia’s eastern push in Ukraine may unfold by ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP FILE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol, Ukraine.
    Russia’s massive, new offensive in eastern Ukraine reflects Moscow’s hope to reverse its battlefield fortunes after a catastrophic seven weeks of war.
  • Russian forces have sharply intensified artillery barrages and airstrikes on Ukrainian positions in the industrial heartland known as the Donbas.
  • A look at the war in Ukraine so far:
A faltering start
    Russian troops rolled to the outskirts of the capital of Kyiv days after invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, but the offensive was quickly stymied by staunch resistance.
    The Russian military incurred heavy personnel and equipment losses, and the failed Kyiv offensive boosted the morale of the Ukrainian forces, allowing its leaders to rally vast international support and secure more weapons from the West.    That raised the costs of war for Moscow.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin switched the focus to the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014, after the Kremlin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
    After the retreat from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and other areas in northeastern Ukraine, Russian forces pulled back to the territory of Moscow ally Belarus, as well as areas in western Russia to be rearmed and resupplied for the new offensive.
    Gen. Alexander Dvornikov was named the new commander for the campaign.    At 60, Dvornikov is one of Russia’s most experienced officers, credited with leading Moscow’s forces to success in Syria in a ruthless campaign to shore up President Bashar Assad’s regime in a civil war that saw whole cities flattened and millions displaced.    His appointment is seen as reflecting the Kremlin’s awareness to quickly improve poor coordination among various forces that hampered previous efforts.
The new offensive
    Ukrainian officials said the push began Monday in the Donbas, with Russia trying to press the offensive along an arc-shaped front line stretching for more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the northeast to the southeast.
    In what appeared to be a sharp increase in bombardment Tuesday, Russia said that in the last 24 hours, it struck 60 Ukrainian military facilities with its warplanes and 1,260 with its artillery, while attacking 1,214 troop concentrations.    The claims could not be independently verified.
    The Pentagon described the stepped-up campaign as “shaping operations” setting the stage for a broader offensive.
    Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who leads Sibylline Ltd., a defense consultancy, said the Russians had escalated bombardments and appeared to be moving gradually to take chunks of territory, focusing on the destruction of Ukraine’s most capable forces in the Donbas.
    “They are hoping to destroy effectively the largest part of the Ukrainian prewar regular army, the best Ukrainian forces,” Crump told The Associated Press.
The Russian battle plan
    Ukrainian and Western experts expect Russia to try to encircle Ukrainian forces with a pincer movement by advancing from Izyum in the north and Mariupol in the south.    Once Russian forces crush the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance at a giant steel mill in Mariupol, they expect that will allow those forces to be freed up to enable the offensive to gain its full tempo.
    Some predict Russia also may try to use its forces north of Crimea to try to capture the industrial hubs of Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro on the Dnieper River, effectively cutting Ukraine in half.
    During the eight years of fighting the separatists, the Ukrainian government forces have built multiple rows of trenches along the line of contact that the Russians have failed to penetrate.    But Crump and other experts noted that Ukraine was running out of weapons and supplies.
    “They are firing through a lot of supplies,” he said.    “And part of the Russian strategy at this point is to keep probing, to keep searching for ways, keep shaping the battlefield, to get Ukraine to fire the missiles, to use things up, to fire its artillery so they have less supplies left when the bigger blows start to fall sequentially.”
    Ukraine has pleaded with the West for warplanes, long-range air defense systems, heavy artillery and armor to counter the Russian edge in firepower.    The Western allies have increased arms supplies and started providing heavy weapons, but it could take time for these to reach Ukrainian troops, which must then learn how to operate them.
    “New equipment is great, really helpful in many ways, but the problem is you’ve got to learn how to use it,” Crump said, adding that Ukraine may put the new weapons in areas away from the fighting to give troops some practice with them and redeploy Sovietera weapons to the eastern front.

4/21/2022 Russia pressures Mariupol, focuses on east - Russia pressures Mariupol, focuses on east by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces tightened the noose around die-hard Ukrainian defenders holed up at a Mariupol steel plant Wednesday amid desperate new efforts to open an evacuation corridor for trapped civilians in the ruined city, a key battleground in Moscow’s drive to seize the country’s industrial east.
    As the holdouts came under punishing new attacks, the Kremlin said it submitted a draft of its demands for ending the fighting, the number of people fleeing the country climbed past 5million, and the West raced to supply Ukraine with heavier weapons for the potentially grinding new phase of the war.
    With global tensions running high, the Kremlin reported the first successful test launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, the Sarmat, that President Vladimir Putin boasted can overcome any missile defense system and make those who threaten Russia 'think twice.'    It was launched in northern Russia.
    On the battlefield, Ukraine’s military said Moscow continued to mount attacks across the east, probing for weak points in Ukrainian defensive lines.    Russia said it launched hundreds of missile and air attacks on targets that included concentrations of troops and vehicles.
    The Kremlin’s stated goal is the capture of the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking eastern region that is home to coal mines, metal plants and heavy-equipment factories vital to Ukraine’s economy.    Detaching it would give Putin a badly needed victory two months into the war, after the botched attempt to storm the capital, Kyiv.
    Analysts say the offensive in the east could devolve into a grim war of attrition as Russia runs up against Ukraine’s most experienced, battle-hardened troops, who have been fighting pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas for the past eight years.
    With that potentially pivotal offensive underway, Russia said it has presented Ukraine with a draft document outlining its demands as part of talks aimed at ending the conflict – days after Putin said the negotiations were at a 'dead end.'
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that 'the ball is in their court; we’re waiting for a response.'    He gave no details on the draft, and it was not clear when it was sent or if it offered anything new to the Ukrainians, who presented their own demands last month.
    A Ukrainian presidential adviser said Kyiv was reviewing the proposals.
    Moscow has long demanded, among other things, that Ukraine drop any bid to join NATO.    Ukraine has said it would agree to that in return for security guarantees from a number of other countries.     In the all but flattened city of Mariupol, Ukrainian troops said Tuesday the Russian military dropped heavy bombs to flatten what was left of the sprawling Azvostal steel plant – believed to be the last holdout of troops defending Mariupol – and hit a makeshift hospital where hundreds were staying.    The reports could not be independently confirmed.
    Serhiy Taruta, the former governor of the Donetsk region and a Mariupol native, said 300 people, including wounded troops and civilians with children, were sheltered at the hospital.
    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, meanwhile, said there was a preliminary agreement to open a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly to leave Mariupol and head west to the Ukraine-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday afternoon.
    Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko urged residents to leave, though previous such agreements have fallen apart, with the Russians shelling escape routes or otherwise preventing buses meant to pick up evacuees from entering the city.
    More than 100,000 people were believed trapped in Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of over 400,000.
    'Do not be frightened and evacuate to Zaporizhzhia, where you can receive all the help you need – food, medicine, essentials – and the main thing is that you will be in safety,' the mayor said in a statement.
    A few thousand Ukrainian troops, by the Russians’ estimate, remained holed up in the steel plant.    The Russian side issued a new ultimatum to the defenders to surrender Wednesday, but the Ukrainians have ignored previous demands to leave the plant’s labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers.
    Mariupol holds strategic and symbolic value for both sides.    The scale of suffering there has made it a worldwide focal point of the war.    Mariupol’s fall would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas.
    Eyewitness accounts and reports from officials have given a broad picture of the extent of the Russian advance.    But independent reporting in the parts of the Donbas held by Russian forces and separatists is severely limited, making it difficult to know what is happening in many places on the ground.
Ukrainian soldiers cross a destroyed bridge in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Wednesday. Emilio Morenatti/AP

4/21/2021 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ‘DAYS OR HOURS LEFT’ - Russian forces tighten the noose in Mariupol’s last stronghold by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Vova, 10, looks at the coffin carrying his mother, Maryna, as his father, Ivan Drahun, hugs him during her funeral Wednesday in Bucha.
Vova’s mother died while they sheltered in a cold basement for more than a month during Russia’s occupation. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces tightened the noose around the defenders holed up on Wednesday in a mammoth steel plant that represented the last known Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, as a fighter apparently on the inside pleaded on a video for help: “We may have only a few days or hours left.”
  • With the holdouts coming under punishing new bombing attacks, another attempt to evacuate civilians trapped in the pulverized port city failed because of continued fighting.
  • Meanwhile, the number of people fleeing the country topped 5 million, the Kremlin said it submitted a draft of its demands for ending the war, and the West raced to supply Ukraine with heavier weapons to counter the Russians’ new drive to seize the industrial east.
    With global tensions running high, Russia reported the first successful test launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, the Sarmat.    President Vladimir Putin boasted it can overcome any missile defense system and make those who threaten Russia “think twice,” and the head of the Russian state aerospace agency called the launch out of northern Russia “a present to NATO.”
    The Pentagon described the test as “routine” and said it wasn’t considered a threat.
    On the battlefield, Ukraine said Moscow continued to mount assaults across the east, probing for weak points in Ukrainian defensive lines.    Russia said it launched hundreds of missile and air attacks on targets that included concentrations of troops and vehicles.
    The Kremlin’s stated goal is the capture of the Donbas, the mostly Russianspeaking eastern region that is home to coal mines, metal plants and heavyequipment factories.    Detaching it would give Putin a badly needed victory two months into the war, after the botched attempt to storm the capital, Kyiv.
    The Luhansk governor said Russian forces now control 80% of his region, which is one of two that make up the Donbas.    Before Russia invaded on Feb. 24, the Kyiv government controlled 60% of the Luhansk region.
    Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the Russians, after seizing the small city of Kreminna, are now threatening the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna.    He urged all residents to evacuate immediately.
    “The occupiers control only parts of these cities, unable to break through to the centers,” Haidai said on the messaging app Telegram.
    Analysts say the offensive in the east could devolve into a war of attrition as Russia runs up against Ukraine’s most experienced, battle-hardened troops, who have fought pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas for eight years.
    Russia said it presented Ukraine with a draft document outlining its demands for ending the conflict – days after Putin said the talks were at a “dead end.”
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “the ball is in their court, we’re waiting for a response.”    He gave no details on the draft, and it was not clear when it was sent or if it offered anything new to the Ukrainians, who presented their own demands last month.
    Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy said he had not seen or heard of the proposal, though one of his top advisers said the Ukrainian side was reviewing it.    Moscow has long demanded Ukraine drop any bid to join NATO.    Ukraine has said it would agree to that in return for security guarantees from a number of other countries.    Other sources of tension include the status of both the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Moscow in 2014, and eastern Ukraine, where the separatists have declared independent republics recognized by Russia.
    In devastated Mariupol, Ukraine said the Russians dropped heavy bombs to flatten what was left of the sprawling Azvostal steel plant, believed to be the city’s last pocket of resistance.
    Several thousand Ukrainian troops, by the Russians’ estimate, remained in the plant and its labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers spread out across about 4 square miles.    Zelenskyy said about 1,000 civilians were also trapped there.
    A Ukrainian posted a video plea on Facebook urging world leaders to help evacuate people from the plant, saying, “We have more than 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians with us, including women and children.”
    The officer, who identified himself as Serhiy Volynskyy of the 36th Marine Brigade, said: “This may be our last appeal.    We may have only a few days or hours left.”    The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
    The Russian side issued a new ultimatum to the defenders to surrender, but the Ukrainians have ignored all previous demands.
    All told, more than 100,000 people were believed trapped with little if any food, water, medicine or heat in Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of over 400,000.
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the latest effort to open a safe corridor for women, children and the elderly to escape failed because the Russians did not observe a cease-fire.    Many previous such agreements have fallen apart because of continued fighting.
    A Zelenskyy adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter that he and other Ukrainian negotiators were ready to hold talks without any conditions to save the lives of trapped Mariupol defenders and civilians. There was no immediate response from Russia.
    U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned of horrors yet to be revealed in Mariupol, given the death and destruction left behind in Bucha, near Kyiv, after the Russians retreated.
    “We can only anticipate that when this tide also recedes from Mariupol, we’re going to see far worse, if that’s possible to imagine,” he said.
    Mariupol holds strategic and symbolic value for both sides.    The scale of suffering there has made it a worldwide focal point of the war.    Mariupol’s fall would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, and free up Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas.
    As Russia continued to funnel troops and equipment into the Donbas, Western nations rushed to boost the flow of military supplies to Kyiv for this new phase of the war, which is likely to involve trench warfare, long-range artillery attacks and tank battles across relatively open terrain.
    U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new weapons package in the coming days that will include additional artillery, and Canada and the Netherlands also said they would send more heavy weaponry.
    Also, a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment of the war, said the training of Ukrainian personnel on American 155 mm howitzers has begun in a European country outside Ukraine, and the first of 18 promised such weapons began arriving on the continent.
  • Russia’s Chernobyl seizure seen as nuclear risk ‘nightmare.’
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  • Biden lauds commanders for ‘exceptional’ work arming Ukraine.
  • Yellen, Ukraine official walk out of Russia’s G-20 remarks.
Ukrainian grave diggers shovel soil into an open grave on Wednesday in Bucha.
Hundreds are being laid to rest in the cemetery. JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES

4/21/2022 Russia test-fires ICBM; US calls launch ‘routine’ by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MOSCOW – The Russian military said Wednesday it successfully performed the first test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin said would make the West “think twice” before harboring any aggressive intentions against Russia.
    The test launch of the Sarmat missile comes amid soaring tensions between Moscow and the West over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and underlines the Kremlin’s emphasis on the country’s nuclear forces.
    Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Sarmat ICBM was launched Wednesday from the Plesetsk launch facility in northern Russia and its practice warheads have successfully reached mock targets on the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Russian military’s test launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile comes
amid soaring tensions with the West. ROSCOSMOS SPACE AGENCY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP
    It said the launch was fully successful, proving the missile’s characteristics “in all phases of its flight.”
    Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that Russia had given the U.S. an advance notice about the launch in line with the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington.    “Russia properly notified the United States under its New START obligations that it planned to test this ICBM,” he said.    “Such testing is routine.    It was not a surprise. We did not deem the test to be a threat to the United States or its allies.”
    Speaking to senior officials, Putin hailed the Sarmat launch, claiming that the new missile has no foreign analogues.
    “This really unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and make those, who in the heat of frantic aggressive rhetoric try to threaten our country, think twice,” Putin said.
    Amid the new Western sanctions that banned the exports of high-tech products to Russia and specifically targeted its arms industries in response to Moscow’s action in Ukraine, Putin emphasized that the Sarmat is built exclusively from domestic components.    “Of course, this will simplify the serial production of the system by enterprises of the military-industrial sector and accelerate its delivery to the Strategic Missile Forces,” he added.    The Sarmat is a heavy missile that has been under development for several years to replace the Soviet-made Voyevoda, which was code-named Satan by the West and forms the core of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
    “The Sarmat is the most powerful missile that has the highest range in the world, and it will significantly bolster the capability of the country’s strategic nuclear forces,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
    The ministry said the Sarmat is capable of carrying hypersonic glide vehicles along with other types of warheads.    The Russian military had previously said that the Avangard hypersonic vehicle could be fitted to the new missile.
    The military has said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and making sharp maneuvers on its way to target to dodge the enemy’s missile shield.
    Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the state Roscosmos agency that oversees the factory building the Sarmat, said the missile is set to be commissioned by the military this fall after the completion of its trials, calling it a “superweapon.”
The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from the Plesetsk launch
facility in Russia’s northwest. ROSCOSMOS SPACE AGENCY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP

4/21/2022 Belarus launches new crackdown on union activists, independent journalists by Yuras Karmanau, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The authorities in Belarus have conducted a new wave of searches and arrests of union activists and independent journalists, a leading human rights group said Wednesday.
    At least 16 people have been arrested in Minsk, Grodno, Borisov and other Belarusian cities, according to the Viasna human rights center.
    Alexander Yaroshuk, the president of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions and another top union leader, Alexander Bukhvostov, were among those arrested.    The accusations against them haven’t been made public.
    Belarusian authorities have declared several unions as “extremist” organizations shortly before the arrests.
    Siarhei Cherachen, a former presidential candidate, said that security officers dressed in black uniforms broke doors into the union office and kept those who were inside standing against the wall for several hours during the search.
    “It’s a new mopping-up operation against civil society,” he said.
    The Belarusian Association of Journalists said that Aksana Kolb, the editor of the independent Novy Chas newspaper, was also detained on Wednesday.
    The Belarusian authorities have conducted a relentless, multi-pronged crackdown on dissent following the massive anti-government protests that erupted after President Alexander Lukashenko was handed a sixth term, after an August 2020 presidential vote that was denounced as rigged by the opposition and the West.
    Belarusian authorities responded with a wave of repression that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.    At least 1,127 people currently behind bars have been designated as political prisoners by human rights groups.
    Lukashenko has held on to power amid bruising Western sanctions, relying on support from his main ally and sponsor Russia, which used Belarusian territory to launch an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
    “Lukashenko is using repression to try to keep the situation under control as he faces growing discontent over the involvement in the war in Ukraine and a quick drop in living standards due to the sanctions,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate in the 2020 vote, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.    “But the Belarusians are continuing to protest even in these conditions.”

4/22/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Satellite spots mass graves - Mariupol mayor accuses Russia of ‘hiding their military crimes’ by Adam Schreck, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A satellite image shows an overview of mass graves on the northwestern edge of Manhush, Ukraine,
about 12 miles west of Mariupol and adjacent to an existing village cemetery. The graves are aligned
in four sections of linear rows. SATELLITE IMAGE ©2022 MAXAR TECH/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – Satellite images released Thursday showed what appeared to be mass graves near Mariupol, and local officials accused Russia of burying up to 9,000 Ukrainian civilians there in an effort to conceal the slaughter taking place in the siege of the port city.
    The images emerged hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for the Mariupol, despite the presence of an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters who were still holed up at a giant steel mill.    Putin ordered his troops not to storm the stronghold but to seal it off “so that not even a fly comes through.”
    Satellite image provider Maxar Technologies released the photos, which it said showed more than 200 mass graves in a town where Ukrainian officials said Russians have been burying Mariupol residents killed in the fighting.    The imagery showed long rows of graves stretching away from an existing cemetery in the town of Manhush, outside Mariupol.
    Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko accused the Russians of “hiding their military crimes” by taking the bodies of civilians from the city and burying them in Manhush.
    The graves could hold as many as 9,000 dead, the Mariupol City Council said Thursday in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
    Boychenko labeled Russian actions in the city as “the new Babi Yar,” a reference to the site of multiple Nazi massacres in which nearly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in 1941.
    “The bodies of the dead were being brought by the truckload and actually simply being dumped in mounds,” an aide to Boychenko, Piotr Andryushchenko, said on Telegram.
    There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin.    When mass graves and hundreds of dead civilians were discovered in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv after Russian troops retreated, Russian officials denied their soldiers killed any civilians there and accused Ukraine of staging the atrocities.
    In a statement, Maxar said a review of previous images indicates the graves in Manhush were dug in late March and expanded over the past couple of weeks.
    After nearly two lethal months of bombardment that largely reduced Mariupol to a smoking ruin, Russian forces appeared to control the rest of the strategic southern city, including its vital but now badly damaged port.
    But a few thousand Ukrainian troops, by Moscow’s estimate, have stubbornly held out for weeks at the steel plant, despite a pummeling from Russian forces and repeated demands for their surrender.    About 1,000 civilians were also trapped there, according to Ukrainian officials.
    Instead of sending troops to finish off the defenders in a potentially bloody frontal assault, Russia apparently intends to maintain the siege and wait for the fighters to surrender when they run out of food or ammunition.
    Boychenko rejected any notion that Mariupol had fallen into Russian hands.
    “The city was, is and remains Ukrainian,” he said.    “Today our brave warriors, our heroes, are defending our city.”
    The capture of Mariupol would represent the Kremlin’s biggest victory yet of the war in Ukraine.    It would help Moscow secure more of the coastline, complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014, and free up more forces to join the larger and potentially more consequential battle now underway for Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas.
    Putin expressed concern for the lives of Russian troops in deciding against sending them in to clear out the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, where the defenders were hiding in a maze of underground passageways.
    At a joint appearance with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said, “The completion of combat work to liberate Mariupol is a success,” and he offered congratulations to Shoigu.
    Shoigu predicted the steel plant could be taken in three to four days, but Putin said that would be “pointless.”
    “There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” the Russian leader said.    “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly comes through.”
    The plant covers 4 square miles and is threaded with about 15 miles of tunnels and bunkers.
    “The Russian agenda now is not to capture these really difficult places where the Ukrainians can hold out in the urban centers, but to try and capture territory and also to encircle the Ukrainian forces and declare a huge victory,” retired British Rear Adm. Chris Parry said.
    Russian officials for weeks have said capturing the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas is the war’s main objective.    Moscow’s forces opened the new phase of the fighting this week along a 300-mile front from the northeastern city of Kharkiv to the Azov Sea.
    While Russia continued heavy air and artillery attacks in those areas, it did not appear to gain any significant ground over the past few days, according to military analysts, who said Moscow’s forces were still ramping up the offensive.
    A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said the Ukrainians were hindering the Russian effort to push south from Izyum.
    Rockets struck a neighborhood of Kharkiv on Thursday, and at least two civilians were burned to death in their car.    A school and a residential building were also hit, and firefighters tried to put out a blaze and search for anyone trapped.
    Elsewhere, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian troops kidnapped a local official heading up a humanitarian convoy in the southern Kherson region.    She said the Russians offered to free him in exchange for Russian prisoners of war, but she characterized that as unacceptable.
    Vereshchuk also said efforts to establish three humanitarian corridors in the Kherson region failed Thursday because Russian troops did not hold their fire.
    Western nations, meanwhile, rushed to pour heavy weapons into Ukraine to help it counter the offensive in the east.
    President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance, including heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and drones.    But he also warned that the $13.6 billion approved last month by Congress for military and humanitarian aid is “almost exhausted” and more will be needed.
    All told, more than 100,000 people were believed trapped with little or no food, water, heat or medicine in Mariupol, which had a prewar population of about 430,000. More than 20,000 people have been killed in the siege, according to Ukrainian authorities.
    The city has seized worldwide attention as the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war, including deadly airstrikes on a maternity hospital and a theater.
    Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of launching attacks to block civilian evacuations from the city.    On Thursday, at least two Russian attacks hit the city of Zaporizhzhia, a way station for people fleeing Mariupol.    No one was wounded, the regional governor said.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia probably wants to demonstrate significant successes ahead of Victory Day on May 9, the proudest day on the Russian calendar, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
    “This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date,” the ministry said.
    In other developments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Ukrainians living in areas of southern Ukraine under Russian control not to provide Russians with their IDs, which he said could be used “to falsify a so-called referendum on our land” to create a Moscow-friendly government.
    “This is a real possibility,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation.    “Beware.”
Firefighters battle a fire at a warehouse after a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/22/2022 UKRAINIANS FLEEING AS FIGHTING RAGES IN EAST
Ukrainian soldiers collect multiple Russian Uragan missiles Thursday after
recent fights in the village of Berezivka, Ukraine. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Displaced people from Mariupol and nearby areas arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday. LEO CORREA/AP

Valentina Greenchuck, 73, holds a plastic bag containing an Orthodox icon
after arriving from Mariupol at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia. LEO CORREA/AP

Rostilav, 4, left, smiles as he arrives with his family and friend, Yaroslav,
at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia. LEO CORREA/AP

A woman from Mariupol cries as she arrives Thursday at a refugee center
in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, after fleeing from Russian attacks. LEO CORREA/AP

A Ukrainian soldier passes by a destroyed Russian artillery system in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

4/23/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Ukraine: Russians shifting elite units to a new front by David Keyton and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Nadia Kovalenko, in Bucha northwest of Kyiv, reacts Friday as she holds a photograph of
her 45-year-old daughter Inna, who was found dead on March 19. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia shifted a dozen crack military units from the shattered port of Mariupol to eastern Ukraine and pounded away at cities across the region, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, as the sides hurtled toward what could be an epic battle for control of the country’s industrial heartland.
    Meanwhile, Russia reported that one serviceman was killed and 27 others were missing after a fire on board the warship Moskva, which sank a week ago following what the Ukrainians boasted was a missile attack.    Moscow previously reported everyone aboard had been rescued.
    The Russian Defense Ministry did not acknowledge an attack on the ship.    It continued to say a fire broke out after ammunition detonated, without explaining how that happened.    The loss of the guided missile cruiser – the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet – was a humiliating setback for Moscow.
    In Mariupol, reduced largely to smoking rubble by weeks of bombardment, Russian state TV showed the flag of the pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said was the city’s highest point, its TV tower.    It also showed what it said was the main building at Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant in flames.
    The Kremlin has thrown more than 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
    “We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” he said.
    Numerous cities and villages came under bombardment in the Donbas – the industrial region in the east that the Kremlin has declared the new, main theater of war – as well as in the Kharkiv region just to the west, and in the south, authorities said.
    Russian forces pummeled an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters holed up inside the sprawling Azovstal plant, the last known pocket of resistance in the strategic southern port city, the mayor’s office reported.
    “Every day they drop several bombs on Azovstal,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor.    “Fighting, shelling, bombing do not stop.”
    A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the battle for Mariupol despite the steel-mill holdouts.    He ordered his forces not to storm the plant to finish off the defenders but to seal it off instead in an apparent bid to force them to surrender.
    Mariupol has taken on outsize importance in the war. Capturing it would deprive the Ukrainians of a vital port and complete a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Putin seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    It would also allow Putin to throw more of his forces into the battle for the Donbas and its coal mines, factories and other industries, or what the Kremlin has now declared to be its main objective.
    Danilov reported that about 12 to 14 of Russia’s elite military units have left Mariupol and began moving to the east to take part in the fighting there.
    “It will now be difficult for our forces, because our guys in Mariupol were taking (those units) on themselves.    It is their courage and feat,” he said.
    Danilov also said Kyiv managed to deliver weapons via helicopter at great risk under cover of night to the Mariupol steelworks, which have been bombarded for weeks.
    Putin said Russia gave Ukrainian forces inside the plant the option to surrender, with guarantees to keep them alive, and offered “decent treatment and medical care,” according to an account of a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, provided by the Kremlin.
    “But the Kyiv regime does not allow them to take this opportunity,” Putin said.
    More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat, and more than 20,000 civilians have been killed in the nearly two-month siege, according to Ukrainian authorities.
    Most attempts to evacuate civilians from the city have failed because of what the Ukrainians said was continued Russian shelling.
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said no humanitarian corridors for civilian evacuations would be open in Ukraine on Friday because it was too dangerous.    She urged civilians to “be patient” and “hang in there.”
    Days into the Russian offensive to take the east, the campaign has yet to become a full-out assault, with military analysts saying Moscow’s forces are still ramping up and have not achieved any major breakthroughs in the Donbas or gained any significant ground.
    But shelling attacks killed three civilians in a small town and two villages Friday in the Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbas, the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, posted on a messaging app.    Kyrylenko said the Russians opened fire on at least 20 of the region’s settlements.
    In other developments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said talks between the countries have “ground to a halt” because Moscow hasn’t received a response from Kyiv to its latest proposals, the details of which have not been released.
    Putin’s lead negotiator at the talks, Vladimir Medinsky, said he held several lengthy conversations Friday with the head of the Ukrainian delegation.    He gave no details.
    Also, Rustam Minnekayev, a senior Russian military official, publicly outlined Russian war aims that appeared to be wider than what the Kremlin has said in recent weeks.    He said Russia’s forces aim to take full control of not just eastern Ukraine but southern too.
    He said such a move would open the way to the nation of Moldova, where Russia backs the breakaway region of Transnistria.    Moldovan officials are warily watching Putin’s actions in Ukraine.    In his nightly video address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was assumed to be just the beginning; further, they want to grab other countries.”
    Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak added Russia “was always lying to everyone and that, in fact from the very beginning, it wanted stupidly to steal some of Ukraine’s territory to secure an outlet to Transnistria.”
    Satellite photos released Friday by Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be a second mass grave site excavated recently near Mariupol.    The site at a cemetery in the town of Vynohradne has several newly dug parallel trenches measuring about 131 feet long, Maxar said in a statement.
    A day earlier, Maxar made public satellite photos of what appeared to be rows upon rows of more than 200 freshly dug mass graves next to a cemetery in the town of Manhush, outside Mariupol.    That prompted Ukrainian accusations that the Russians are trying to conceal the slaughter of civilians in the city.
    “This confirms again that the occupiers arrange the collection, burial and cremation of dead residents in every district of the city,” Andryushchenko said on the Telegram messaging app.
    The Ukrainians estimated the graves seen in the photos released on Thursday could hold 9,000 bodies.
    The Kremlin did not respond to the satellite pictures.
    The U.N. Human Rights office again condemned the Russian invasion.
    “Over these eight weeks, international humanitarian law has not merely been ignored but seemingly tossed aside,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
Volunteer soldier Alexander Makara hugs Margarita, a doctor who has been working in a hospital
in Mariopol, as she disembarks from a train in Lviv, Ukraine. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze at a shop following a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/23/2022 Loss and horror during week of burials and tears by ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian soldier prepares to detonate a Russian 250-kilogram air bomb
in the village of Kolonshchyna, Ukraine on Thursday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP
    A woman screams in horror next to the body of a 15-year-old boy killed during a Russian attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.    Another woman is held by a friend as she collapses in grief next to the body of her father, lying on the ground after being killed in an assault on the city.
    Across Ukraine loss was palpable all week, as strangers helped recover bodies of civilians from mass graves and relatives grieved over their beloved dead.
    On Saturday, 70-year-old Nadiya Trubchaninova, wept as she clung to the coffin of her son, Vadym, as she was finally able to give him a proper burial in their home village of Mykulychi, on the outskirts of Kyiv.    The 48-year-old had been killed by Russian troops nearly three weeks earlier in Bucha, where hundreds of civilians have been killed, prompting calls for a war crimes investigation.
    And in the town of Mykulychi, volunteers placed the corpse of a civilian into a body bag after it and others were dug up from a mass grave, during an exhumation on Sunday.    They were to be taken to a morgue for investigation.
    In testimony to the impact such horrors have on the Ukrainian children who witness them, 7-year-old Yehor, his face etched with the pain, clutched a wooden toy rifle next to destroyed Russian military vehicles near Chernihiv.
    More than 5 million refugees had fled Ukraine by the end of the week, Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.    Among them were Lolita and her 4-year-old daughter Elina, who held their hands in the shape of a heart as they bid farewell to husband and father, Nicolai, through the window of a train bound for Poland from the western city of Lviv.
A civil defense volunteer stands guard at a checkpoint controlling
the traffic near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

A portrait of Vladimir Lenin is used as a shooting target in a front-line
village near Chuhuiv, Ukraine, on April 15. FELIPE DANA/AP

Passengers rest on a train minutes before arriving in Lviv from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Ukrainian women show their ID inside a church to receive humanitarian aid donated by the
European Union in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv on Tuesday. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Vadim Krikun is treated in the hallway of his apartment building
after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 15. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/24/2022 Ukrainian village faces an Easter without a church by Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A metal cross that used to be on the top of a dome stands outside a
damaged church in Lukashivka in northern Ukraine. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP
    LUKASHIVKA, Ukraine – A single metal cross remains inside the church of shattered brick and blackened stone.    Russian soldiers used the house of worship for storing ammunition, residents said, and Ukrainian forces shelled the building to make the Russians leave.
    There will be no Orthodox Easter service here Sunday in this small village in northern Ukraine.
    One of the church’s golden domes was blown off. Its gilded cross is propped up against an exterior wall.
    “It’s a great pity,” resident Valentina Ivanivna, 70, said, standing with her bicycle on Orthodox Good Friday as men dismantled abandoned Russian military vehicles nearby.
    The church in Lukashivka, a village near the city of Chernihiv, survived World War II and the most austere years of the Soviet Union, a time when authorities stripped it of its religious icons, residents said. This time, locals believe it will take years for the church to recover its past beauty.
    Its bells fell onto unstable ground that is littered with ammunition casings and cans of Russian tinned meat.    A stand for candles remains, along with a dented teapot and a pasta strainer.
    Outside, the finned part of a rocket is stuck in the mud.
    Villagers have vowed to rebuild, whatever it takes.    They have already started on their own homes, even as they wait for basic services to resume.
    There is no gas available to bake Easter bread.    At a bend in a road, a military chaplain, Volodymyr Vyshyvkin, and volunteers handed out food and verses.
    Remember, Jesus was resurrected, the chaplain told them.    Ukraine will do the same.    He called on the villagers to pray for those on the front line in places like Mariupol, a southern port city in which the Russians have claimed victory.
    Resistance never died during the occupation of Lukashivka, said Valentyna Golyak, 64.    “I was telling the Russians, ‘You will stay in this land as fertilizer.    If you want to kill me, kill me.’    They looked ashamed,” she said.    “I think they don’t believe in God.”
    Golyak said she also told the Russian soldiers that she had lived her whole life without war and had expected to die the same.    Instead, the soldiers damaged or destroyed almost every village home.    And the church had been beautiful, she said.    But she celebrates new life, too.    Her daughter gave birth in a village basement during the Russian occupation.    On Saturday, the baby girl turned 1 month old.
    She was named Victoria.
A Ukrainian priest blesses believers Saturday as they collect traditional cakes
and painted eggs prepared for an Easter celebration in Lviv, Ukraine. MYKOLA TYS/AP

Olena Koptyl, 63, prepares dough Saturday to bake Ukrainian traditional Easter bread, called Paska,
at her home on the outskirts of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

Villagers have vowed to rebuild the damaged church in Lukashivka. PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

4/24/2022 Ukraine: Russians storm Mariupol plant - Officials report 5 killed in missile strike in Odesa by David Keyton and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Irina Tromsa mourns at the grave of her son Bogdan, 24, a Ukrainian paratrooper from the 95th Brigade killed
during fighting against Russian troops, during his funeral in Bucha, Ukraine. Petros Giannakouris/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces in Ukraine tried to storm a steel plant housing soldiers and civilians in the southern city of Mariupol on Saturday while attempting to crush the last corner of resistance in a location of high symbolic and strategic value to Moscow, Ukrainian officials said.
    The reported assault on the eve of Orthodox Easter came after the Kremlin claimed its military had seized all of Mariupol except for the Azovstal plant and as Russia’s military pounded other cities and towns in southern and eastern Ukraine.    Officials reported that Russia fired at least six cruise missiles at the Black Sea port city of Odesa, killing five people.
    The fate of the Ukrainians holed up in the sprawling seaside steel mill wasn’t immediately clear; earlier Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.
    'We want to see peaceful skies, we want to breathe in fresh air,' one woman in the video said.    'You have simply no idea what it means for us to simply eat, drink some sweetened tea.    For us, it is already happiness.'
    As the battle for shattered Mariupol ground on, Russia claimed it had taken control of several villages elsewhere in the eastern Donbas region and destroyed 11 military Ukrainian military targets overnight, including three artillery warehouses.
    Associated Press journalists also observed shelling in residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and in Sloviansk, a town in northern Donbas.    The AP witnessed two soldiers arriving at the town’s hospital, one of them fatally wounded, while a small group of people gathered outside a church where a priest prayed and sprinkled them with water on Holy Saturday.
    While British officials said the Russians hadn’t gained significant new ground, Ukrainian officials announced a nationwide curfew ahead of Easter Sunday, a sign of the war’s disruption and threat to the entire country.
    Mariupol, a part of the industrial region in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, has been a key Russian objective since the Feb.24 invasion began and has taken on outsize importance in the war.
    Completing its capture would give Russia its biggest victory yet, after a nearly two-month siege reduced much of the city to a smoking ruin and killed an estimated 20,000 people there.
    Occupying Mariupol would deprive the Ukrainians of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and allow Russia to create a land corridor with the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    An advisor to Ukraine’s presidential office, Oleksiy Arestovich, said during a Saturday briefing that Russian forces had resumed air strikes on the Azovstal plant and were trying to storm it.    A direct attempt to take the plant would represent a reversal from an order Russian President Vladimir Putin gave two days earlier.
    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin on Thursday that the whole of Mariupol, with the exception of Azovstal, had been 'liberated' by the Russians.    At the time, Putin ordered him not to send Russian troops into the plant but instead to block off the facility, an apparent attempt to starve out the Ukrainians and force them to surrender.
    Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops are inside the plant along with the civilians sheltering in the facility’s underground tunnels.    Arestovic said the Ukrainian forces were trying to counter the new attacks.
    Earlier Saturday, the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, which has members holed up in the plant, released the footage of around two dozen women and children.    If authentic, it would be the first video testimony of what life has been like for civilians still trapped in Mariupol’s underground bunkers.
    The regiment’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, told The AP the video was shot Thursday, the same day Russia declared victory over the rest of Mariupol.    The contents could not be independently verified.    The Azov Regiment has its roots in the Azov Battalion, which was formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and elicited criticism for some of its tactics.
    The footage of Azovstal showed soldiers giving sweets to children who respond with fist-bumps.    One young girl says she and her relatives 'haven’t seen neither the sky, nor the sun' since they left home on Feb.27.
    More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat, according to Ukrainian authorities, who estimate that over 20,000 civilians have been killed in city during the nearly two-month siege.
    Satellite images released this week showed what appeared to be a second mass grave near Mariupol, and local officials accused Russia of burying thousands of civilians to conceal the slaughter taking place there.
    The Kremlin hasn’t responded to the satellite images.
    In his nightly video address Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced all the war’s casualties, noting that the Easter holiday commemorates Christ’s resurrection after his death by crucifixion.
    'We believe in the victory, of life over death,' he said.    'No matter how fierce the battles are, there is no chance for death to defeat life.    Everyone knows that.    Every Christian knows that.'
    Ukrainian officials had said they were trying again Saturday to evacuate women, children and older adults from Mariupol after many previous attempts failed.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram that the effort was to get underway at midday, but it wasn’t clear how the new assault on the plant would affect any possible evacuation.
    Russian state TV showed the flag of the pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said was the city’s highest point, its TV tower.    It also showed what it said was the main building at in flames.
    On Saturday, Russian forces also fired at least six cruise missiles at Odesa, said Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister.    At least one landed and exploded, he said.

4/24/2022 8 KILLED IN ODESA STRIKE - Ukraine: 3-month-old among dead; Zelenskyy to meet with US officials by David Keyton and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Valentyna Sherba, 68, stands next to a Russian tank in the backyard of her father's home in the aftermath of a
battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces in Ukraine tried to storm a steel plant housing soldiers and civilians in the southern city of Mariupol on Saturday in an attempt to crush the last corner of resistance in a place of deep symbolic and strategic value to Moscow, Ukrainian officials said.
  • The reported assault on the eve of Orthodox Easter came after the Kremlin claimed its military had seized all of the shattered city except for the Azovstal plant, and as Russian forces pounded other cities and towns in southern and eastern Ukraine.
  • A 3-month-old baby was among six people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at the Black Sea port city of Odesa, officials said.
  • The war started when this baby was one month old.    Can you imagine what is happening?” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.    “They are just bastards. … I don’t have any other words for it, just bastards.”
    Zelenskyy, meanwhile, announced he would meet Sunday in his nation’s capital Kyiv with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.    The White House declined to comment.
    Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskyy gave little detail about logistics of the encounter but said he expected concrete results – “not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.”
    It would be the first high-level U.S. trip to Kyiv since the war began Feb. 24.    While visiting Poland in March, Blinken stepped briefly onto Ukrainian soil to meet with the country’s foreign minister. Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a U.S. leader was Feb. 19 with Vice President Kamala Harris.
    The Ukrainian military said Saturday it destroyed a Russian command post in Kherson, a southern city that fell to Russian forces early in the war.    The command post was hit Friday, killing two generals and critically wounding another, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said in a statement.    The Russian military did not comment on the claim, which could not be confirmed.
    Oleksiy Arestovych, a Zelenskyy adviser, said in an online interview that 50 senior Russian officers were in the command center when it was attacked.
    The fate of the Ukrainians in the sprawling seaside steel mill in Mariupol wasn’t immediately clear; earlier Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.
    “We want to see peaceful skies, we want to breathe in fresh air,” one woman in the video said.    “You have simply no idea what it means for us to simply eat, drink some sweetened tea. For us, it is already happiness.”
    As the battle for the port ground on, Russia said it had taken control of several villages elsewhere in the eastern Donbas region and destroyed 11 Ukrainian military targets overnight, including three artillery warehouses.    Russian attacks also struck populated areas.
    Associated Press journalists observed shelling in residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city; regional Gov. Oleh Sinehubov said three people were killed.    In the Luhansk area of the Donbas, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said six people died during the shelling of a village, Gorskoi.
    In Sloviansk, a town in northern Donbas, the AP witnessed two soldiers arriving at a hospital, one mortally wounded.    Nearby, a small group of people gathered outside a church where a priest blessed them with holy water on Holy Saturday.
    Sitting in a wheelchair outside her damaged apartment, Anna Direnskaya, 70, said, “I want peace.”
    One of many native Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, Direnskaya said she wishes Russians would understand that Ukrainians are not bad people and there should be no enmity between them.
    “Why is this happening?” she said.    “I don’t know.”
    Although British officials said Russian forces had not gained significant new ground, Ukrainian officials announced a nationwide curfew ahead of Easter Sunday, a sign of the war’s disruption and threat to the entire country.
    Mariupol has been a key Russian objective since the invasion began Feb. 24 and has taken on outsize importance in the war.    Completing its capture would give Russia its biggest victory yet, after a nearly two-month siege reduced much of the city to a smoking ruin.
    It would deprive the Ukrainians of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula.
    Arestovich said Russian forces resumed air strikes on the Azovstal plant and were also trying to storm it.    Two days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an order not to send troops in but instead to blockade the plant, an apparent attempt to starve out those inside and force their surrender.
    Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops are inside the plant along with civilians sheltering in its underground tunnels.
    Earlier Saturday the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, which has members holed up in the plant, released the video of around two dozen women and children.    Its contents could not be independently verified, but if authentic, it would be the first video testimony of what life has been like for civilians trapped underground there.
    The video shows soldiers giving sweets to children who respond with fist-bumps.    One young girl says she and her relatives “haven’t seen neither the sky nor the sun” since they left home Feb. 27.    The regiment’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, told the AP the video was shot Thursday.
    More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat.    Ukrainian authorities estimate more than 20,000 civilians have been killed.
    Satellite images released this week showed what appeared to be two recently excavated mass grave sites next to cemeteries in two towns near Mariupol, and local officials accused Russia of burying thousands of civilians to conceal the slaughter taking place there.    The Kremlin has not commented.
    Ukrainian officials said they would try again Saturday to evacuate women, children and older adults from Mariupol, but like similar plans, it failed.    Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, said Russian forces did not allow Ukrainian-organized buses to take residents to Zaporizhzhia, a city 141 miles to the northwest.
    “At 11 o’clock, at least 200 Mariupol residents gathered near the Port City shopping center, waiting for evacuation,” Andryushchenko posted on the Telegram messaging app.    “The Russian military drove up to the Mariupol residents and ordered them to disperse, because now there will be shelling.”
    At the same time, he said, Russian buses assembled close by.    Residents who got on board were told they were being taken to separatist-occupied territory and not allowed to disembark, Andryushchenko said.    His account could not be independently verified.
    In the attack on Odesa, Russian troops fired at least six missiles, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister.
    “Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas,” Gerashchenko said via Telegram.
    “Residential buildings were hit.    It is already known about one victim.    He burned in his car in a courtyard of one of the buildings.”
    Regarding the expected visit Sunday from U.S. officials, Zelenskyy said: “I believe that we will be able to get agreements from the United States or part of that package on arming Ukraine which we agreed on earlier.    Besides, we have strategic questions about security guarantees, which it is time to discuss in detail, because the United States will be one of those leaders of security countries for our state.”
A firefighter stands next to an apartment building damaged by
Russian shelling in Odesa, Ukraine. MAX PSHYBYSHEVSKY/AP

Olena Koptyl, 63, enters the basement of her destroyed home in the aftermath of a battle between
Russian and Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

4/24/2022 UKRAINIANS GRIEVE AS ATTACKS CONTINUE
Irina Tromsa is comforted by comrades of her son Bogdan, 24, a Ukrainian paratrooper
killed during fighting, at his funeral in Bucha, Ukraine. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

A Ukrainian soldier rests Saturday at a checkpoint in Severodonetsk
in eastern Ukraine. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Local residents walk near a damaged military vehicle in an area of
Mariupol, Ukraine, controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

People take shelter inside the basement of a building during a
Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. FELIPE DANA/AP

4/25/2022 Zelenskyy pushes for more arms for Ukraine military by David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian soldier says goodbye to his family in the village of Orikhiv, near the
southern front of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president petitioned for more powerful Western weapons as he prepared to meet with top U.S. officials in the war-torn country’s capital Sunday, while Russian forces concentrated their attacks on the east, including trying to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops holding out in the battered port city of Mariupol.
    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the planned visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a lengthy Saturday night news conference held in a Kyiv subway station.    The White House has not commented.
    Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in terms of arms and security guarantees.    'You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,' he said.
    The visit would be the first by senior U.S. officials since Russia invaded Ukraine 60 days ago.    Blinken stepped briefly onto Ukrainian soil in March to meet with the country’s foreign minister during a visit to Poland.    Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a U.S. leader was Feb.19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris.
    While Ukraine’s Western supporters have funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has emphasized repeatedly that the country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems, as well as warplanes to fend off Russia.
    His meeting with Austin and Blinken was set to take place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter, when the faithful celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.    Speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, highlighted the allegorical significance of the occasion to a nation wracked by nearly two months of war.
    'The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win,' he said.
    Still, the war cast a shadow over celebrations.    Residents of rural villages battered by the war approached the day with cautious defiance.
    The Russian military reported that it hit 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while Russian warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots.
    Most of the fighting Sunday focused on the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian forces are concentrated and where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war.    Since failing to capture Kyiv, the Russians are aiming to gain full control over Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
    Ukraine’s national police said two girls, ages 5 and 14, died in shelling in the town of Ocheretyne, part of the industrial region.
    Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.    The Azovstal steel mill where the defenders are holed up is the last corner of resistance in the city, which the Russians have otherwise occupied.
    Zelenskyy said he stressed the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from the steel plant, in a Sunday call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was scheduled to speak later with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then continue on to Moscow and Kyiv.    Zelenskyy criticized Guterres for planning to visit Russia before Ukraine, calling it a mistake.
    'Why?    To hand over signals from Russia? What should we look for?' Zelenskyy said Saturday.    'There are no corpses scattered on the Kutuzovsky Prospect,' he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues.
    Mariupol has been the focus of fierce fighting since the start of the war due to its location on the Sea of Azov.    Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat.    Ukrainian authorities estimate that over 20,000 civilians have been killed.    Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves dug in towns to the west and east of Mariupol.
    Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, called for a localized Easter truce.    He urged Russia to allow civilians to leave the steel plant and suggested talks to negotiate an exit for the Ukrainian soldiers.
    Podolyak tweeted that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery while accumulating forces and equipment for a direct assault.
    We publish corrections in a timely fashion.    If you feel an error has been made, please email accuracy@courierjournal.com or call (502) 582-4600.
A Ukrainian tank travels a road near Lyman, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

4/25/2022 Top-level US delegation travels to meet Zelenskyy - Last time face-to-face was before war by David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman looks at a floral memorial wall Sunday in Lviv, Ukraine, for civilians killed during the Russian invasion.
Lviv has served as a stopover and shelter for the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, either to
the safety of nearby countries or the relative security of western Ukraine. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – The U.S. secretaries of state and defense met Sunday night with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the highest-level visit to the country’s capital by an American delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.
    The meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which was confirmed by a senior Ukrainian official, came as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol.
    “Yes, they’re meeting with the president.    Let’s hope something will be decided on further help,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told Russian lawyer and activist Mark Feygin on his YouTube show “Feygin Live.”    The United States has not yet commented.
    Before the session with Blinken and Austin, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in arms and security guarantees.
    “You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,” he said.
    Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a top U.S. official was Feb. 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, five days before Russia’s invasion.    While the West has funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems and warplanes.
    In an apparent boost for Ukraine, polling agencies said French President Emmanuel Macron would win reelection over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has faced questions about her ties to Moscow.    The result was hailed by France’s allies in the European Union as a reassuring sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine.    France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons systems to Ukraine.
    Zelenskyy’s meeting with U.S. officials took place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter.    Speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, highlighted its significance to a nation wracked by nearly two months of war.
    “The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said.
    Still, the war cast a shadow over celebrations.    In the northern village of Ivanivka, where Russian tanks still littered the roads, Olena Koptyl said “the Easter holiday doesn’t bring any joy.    I’m crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived.”
    The Russian military reported hitting 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while its warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots.
    Since failing to capture Kyiv, the Russians have aimed to gain full control over the eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war.
    Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.    The Azovstal steel mill where the defenders are holed up is the last corner of resistance in the city, otherwise occupied by the Russians.
    Zelenskyy stressed the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from the steel plant, in a Sunday call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to speak later with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
    Arestovych, the Zelenskyy adviser, said Ukraine has proposed holding talks with Russia next to the sprawling steel mill.    Arestovych said on the Telegram messaging app that Russia has not responded to the proposal that would include establishing humanitarian corridors and the exchange of Russian war prisoners for the fighters still in the plant.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then Moscow and Kyiv.    Zelenskyy said it was a mistake for Guterres to visit Russia before Ukraine.
    “Why?    To hand over signals from Russia? What should we look for?” Zelenskyy said Saturday.    “There are no corpses scattered on the Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues.
    Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war because of its location on the Sea of Azov.    Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat.    Ukrainian authorities estimate over 20,000 civilians have been killed.    Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves to the west and east of Mariupol.
    Children in an underground bunker were seen receiving Easter presents in a video released Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is among the Ukrainian forces at the steel plant in Mariupol.    The group’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, said the video was shot at the plant.
    One toddler is seen wearing homemade diapers made of cellophane and people are seen hanging laundry on makeshift hangers.
    “Please help us,” one woman in the video said through tears, appealing to world leaders.    “We want to live in our city, in our country.    We are tired of these bombings, constant air strikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” Mykhailo Podolyak, another presidential adviser, tweeted that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery while accumulating forces and equipment for a direct assault.
    Zelenskyy on Saturday accused Russians of committing war crimes by killing civilians and of setting up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for people trying to leave the city.    He said the Ukrainians – many of them children – are then sent to areas under Russian occupation or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East.
    The claims could not be independently verified.    But they were repeated by Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniya Kravchuk on ABC’s “This Week.”
    “They have pulled these people from Mariupol – they are put to filtration camps … it’s sort of something that can’t be happening in the 21st century,” Kravchuk said.
    Zelenskyy claimed that intercepted communications recorded Russian troops discussing “how they conceal the traces of their crimes” in Mariupol.
    And he highlighted the death of a 3-month-old girl in a Russian missile strike Saturday on the Black Sea port of Odesa.    The baby was among eight people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odesa, Ukrainian officials said.
    Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, citing social media, reported that the infant’s mother, Valeria Glodan, and grandmother also died when a missile hit a residential area.
    “The war started when this baby was 1 month old,” Zelenskyy said.    “Can you imagine what is happening?    They are filthy scum; there are no other words for it.”
    For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops who fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine.    The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous assaults in the past week and “inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.”
Residents and a rescue worker watch workers remove rubble Sunday from a residential building
hit by a rocket the previous day in Odessa, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces, as well as civilian Odessans, remain
on guard against a potential Russian advance on this historic port city. ANASTASIA VLASOVA/GETTY IMAGES

An archery target featuring the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a tourist
attraction at Shevchenkivskyi Hai Park Museum on Sunday in Lviv, Ukraine. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES

4/25/2022 The artist who retrieves bodies in Ukraine’s Bucha
Vlad Minchenko, left, helps to lower the coffin of Stanislav Berestnev, who died during the
Russian occupation and was buried in the graveyard in Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP
    Vlad Minchenko wakes every day with trembling hands. For hours, until it eases, he can’t message on his phone or even consider his previous work of making art or tattoos.    But he can continue to retrieve bodies, scores of bodies, around the Ukrainian town of Bucha as part of a task that continues more than three weeks after Russian forces withdrew.    “I have collected a lot of bodies, more than 100,” he said.
  • The grim work for Minchenko and a small group of others began under occupation as the bodies scattered in streets or hurriedly dumped in yards apparently became too much even for the Russians. But the work was dangerous. “We were told (by Russian troops) ‘Go there, 15 bodies are lying there.’ Others stopped three of us. They told us to go to the fence. We said that we wouldn’t go to the fence: ‘If you want to shoot us, shoot us here, we won’t be lying near a fence,’ ” Minchenko said.
  • He and his colleagues have crossed Bucha’s streets again and again, exploring its darkest corners. They respond to residents’ reports of bodies or come across them themselves. They have been among the first to see abuses that will be investigated as possible war crimes. “People were walking on the road, or riding a bicycle, when snipers shot them in the head,” Minchenko said. “Some were shot in the yards. Six or seven people with hands tied behind their backs were shot in the head as well.”
  • Eventually, the work brings him to the cemetery, where he helps to dig the graves and offer quiet comfort as shaken relatives say goodbye.
    Almost two months after Russia’s invasion began, Minchenko recalls the moment when his wife woke him up, saying “It has started.”    He doesn’t know when it will end.    Associated Press
Minchenko smokes a cigarette as he stands in the graveyard in Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Minchenko, center, helps to close the coffin of Stanislav Berestnev, who died during the
Russian occupation and was buried in the graveyard in Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

The wife of Stanislav Berestnev, who died during the Russian occupation, places a handful of earth
on his coffin as he is buried in the graveyard in Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Cemetery workers prepare the tomb of Tetyana Gramushnyak, 75, killed by shelling on March 19, while cooking
food outside her home in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 14. RODRIGO ABD/AP FILE

Vlad Minchenko gets out of the vehicle that was carrying the body of Stanislav Berestnev, who died during
the Russian occupation and was buried in the graveyard in Bucha, Ukraine, Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

4/25/2022 Russia: New missile can hold hypersonics by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MOSCOW – A new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of carrying several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said Sunday.
    Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev, the commander of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, said in televised remarks that the new Sarmat ICBM is designed to carry several Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles.
    Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Sarmat was test-fired for the first time Wednesday from the Plesetsk launch facility in northern Russia and its practice warheads have successfully reached mock targets on the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
    The test launch came amid soaring tensions between Moscow and the West over the Russian military action in Ukraine and underlines the Kremlin’s emphasis on the country’s nuclear forces.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the Sarmat launch as a major achievement, claiming that the new missile has no foreign equivalent and is capable of penetrating any prospective missile defense.
    “This really unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and make those, who in the heat of frantic aggressive rhetoric try to threaten our country, think twice,” Putin said Wednesday.
    The military has said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound.

4/25/2022 Opposition wins Slovenia vote by Ali Zerdin by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – An opposition liberal party convincingly won Sunday’s parliamentary election in Slovenia, according to early official results, in a major defeat for populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who was accused of pushing the small European Union country to the right while in office.
    The Freedom Movement won nearly 34% of the votes, compared with about 24% for the governing conservative Slovenian Democratic Party, state election authorities said after counting over 97% of the ballots.
    Trailing behind the top two contenders were the New Slovenia party with 7%, followed by the Social Democrats with more than 6% and the Left party with 4%.    The results mean the Freedom Movement, a newcomer, appears set to form the next government in a coalition with smaller leftist groups.    The party leader addressed supporters via a video message from his home because he has COVID-19.
    “Tonight, people dance,” Robert Golob said.    “Tomorrow is a new day and serious work lies ahead.”
    Jansa congratulated the “relative winner” of the election in a speech.
    “The results are as they are,” Jansa said, praising his government’s work.    “Many challenges lie ahead for the new government, whatever it may look like, but the foundations are solid.”
    A veteran politician, Jansa became prime minister a little over two years ago after the previous liberal premier resigned.    An admirer of former President Donald Trump, Jansa had pushed the country toward right-wing populism since taking over at the start of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
    Reflecting strong interest in Sunday’s election, turnout was higher than usual – about 67% of Slovenia’s 1.7 million voters cast their ballot, compared with 52% in the previous election in 2018.
Robert Golob, president of the liberal Freedom Movement party, speaks virtually after his party won control
of government. Golob could not speak in public because he has COVID-19. JURE MAKOVEC/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/26/2022 Russia hits rail, fuel sites in Ukraine attacks - Putin accuses the US and its allies of trying to ‘split Russian society’ by David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Darya Piven, 33, watches her daughter Zlata, 6, as she visits the graves of her parents Nadiya Myakushko, 69, and Volodymyr Cherednichenko, 75,
who were, according to family, killed by the Russian army in Irpin on March 24. EMILIO MORENATTI/APZ
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia unleashed a string of attacks against Ukrainian rail and fuel facilities Monday, striking crucial infrastructure far from the front line of its eastern offensive.
    Meanwhile, two fires were reported at oil facilities in western Russia, not far from the Ukrainian border.    It was not clear what caused the blazes.
    As both sides in the 2-month-old war brace for what could be a grinding battle of attrition in the country’s eastern industrial heartland, top U.S. officials pledged more help to ensure Ukraine prevails.
    In a bold visit to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, the American secretaries of state and defense said Washington had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition – non-U.S. ammo, mainly if not entirely to fit Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons – along with more than $300 million in financing to buy more supplies.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday after the meeting that the West’s united support for Ukraine and pressure on Moscow are having “real results.”
    “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing.    Ukraine is succeeding,” Blinken said.
    In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the American support but said that “as long as Russian soldiers put a foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing is enough.”
    Kuleba warned that if Western powers want Ukraine to win the war and “stop Putin in Ukraine and not to allow him to go further, deeper into Europe,” then countries must speed up the delivery of the weapons requested by Ukraine.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “split Russian society and to destroy Russia from within.”
    When Russia invaded in late February, its apparent goal was the lightning capture of Kyiv and perhaps the toppling of its government.    But the Ukrainians, with the help of Western weapons, bogged Putin’s troops down and thwarted their push to Kyiv.br>     Moscow now says its goal is to capture the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region in the east.    While both sides said the campaign in the east is underway, Russia has yet to mount an all-out ground offensive and has not achieved any major breakthroughs.
    Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces and apparently keeping them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas.
    Britain said it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow began its invasion. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective,” and Russia had lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and over 60 helicopters and fighter planes.
    Ukrainian officials have said about 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops had been killed as of mid-April.
    Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the plant in a bid to dislodge the estimated 2,000 fighters.    Some 1,000 civilians were also sheltering in the steelworks, and the Russian military pledged to open a humanitarian corridor Monday for them to leave.
    The Russian offer was met with skepticism by Ukraine.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukraine does not consider the route safe and added that Russia had breached agreements on similar evacuation routes before.    She called on the United Nations to oversee an evacuation.
    Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war because of its strategic location on the Sea of Azov.    In addition to freeing up Russian troops, its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind the front lines, in an apparent bid to slow the movement of Ukrainian supplies toward the east and disrupt the flow of fuel needed by the country’s forces.
    Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit early Monday.    That included a missile attack near the western city of Lviv.
    Ukrainian authorities said that at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central Vynnytsia region.
    Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, along with fuel depots there, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.    In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.
    Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, said the war is, for now, settling into a campaign of incremental battlefield losses and gains.
    “The two sides are sort of every day weakening each other,” he said.    “So, it’s a question of what can you bring in that’s new” and “what can you destroy on the other side.”
    Meanwhile, a major fire erupted early Monday at an oil depot in a Russian city about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said.    No cause was given for the blaze.    Photos showed a huge, churning plume of thick smoke.
    The oil depot in Bryansk is owned by a subsidiary of the Russian state company Transneft, which operates the Druzhba pipeline that carries crude west to other European countries.    The ministry said the blaze damaged a depot containing diesel fuel.    It said the region has enough diesel for 15 days.
    It wasn’t clear if the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure, but Polish pipelines operator PERN said deliveries to Poland have not been affected.
    A Russian news report said another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire early Monday.
    Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil depot in Russia’s Belgorod region, close to the Ukrainian border.
    In a video address Monday, Zelenskyy described his meeting with Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as “encouraging and, importantly, effective.”
    The Ukrainian leader added that they agreed “on further steps to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army.”
    With Russia’s shift toward the Donbas, Zelenskyy is now focused on more heavy weaponry, such as tanks and artillery.
    “We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory,” Austin said.     “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
    In a boost for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term Sunday over far right challenger Marine Le Pen, who had pledged to loosen France’s ties to the European Union and NATO.
    Le Pen had spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had faced scrutiny during the campaign over her previous friendliness with the Kremlin.

4/26/2022 US promises more Ukraine aid - American officials met with Zelenksyy in Kyiv by Matthew Lee ASSOCIATED PRESS
In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin,
third from left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fourth from left, said the U.S.
had approved a $165million sale of ammunition. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
    NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER – Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday after a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy is committed to winning his country’s fight against Russia and that the United States will help him achieve that goal.
    'He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win,' Austin told reporters in Poland, the day after the three-hour face-to-face meeting with Zelenskyy in Ukraine.
    Austin said that the nature of the fight in Ukraine had changed now that Russia has pulled away from the wooded northern regions to focus on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas.    Because the nature of the fight has evolved, so have Ukraine’s military needs, and Zelenskyy is now focused on more tanks, artillery and other munitions.
    'The first step in winning is believing that you can win,' Austin said.    'We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can ... to ensure that gets to them.'
    Asked about what the U.S. sees as success, Austin said that 'we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory.    We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.'
    The trip by Blinken and Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February.
    They told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the U.S. would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165million sale of ammunition.
    'We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,' Blinken said.    'This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail.'
    Blinken said their meeting with the Ukrainians lasted for three hours for wide ranging talks, including what help the country needs in the weeks ahead.
    'The strategy that we’ve put in place, massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts, is having real results,' Blinken said.    'When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing.    Ukraine is succeeding.    Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence.    That has failed.'
    Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, praised the visit to Kyiv by Blinken and Lloyd and called them representatives of 'the country that did more than any other country in the world.'    Asked whether the new announcements went far enough, Kuleba said that 'as long as Russian soldiers put a foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing is enough.'
    'We appreciate everything that has been done, including by the United States,' Kuleba said.    'We understand that, for some, what has been done is already a revolution, but this is not enough as long as the war continues.'
    Kuleba warned that if Western powers want Ukraine to win the war and stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from going 'deeper into Europe,' then they to speed up the delivery of the weapons requested by Ukraine.    He said it takes longer for partner nations to decide to provide Ukraine with the most sophisticated equipment than it does for the Ukrainians to learn how to use it.
    'It will be true to say that the United States now lead the effort in ensuring this transition of Ukraine to Western-style weapons, in arranging trainings for Ukrainian soldiers,' he said, 'and I only regret that it didn’t happen a month or two months ago from the very beginning of the war.'
    Meanwhile, as expected, President Joe Biden announced on Monday his nomination of Bridget Brink to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.    Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia.    She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
    The announcement comes as American diplomats prepare to return to Ukraine this coming week, although the U.S. embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for now.
    Journalists who traveled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred from reporting on the trip until it was over, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in southeast Poland they met back up with the Cabinet members upon their return.    Officials at the State Department and the Pentagon cited security concerns.
    Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv.    The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.
    Such financing is different from previous U.S. military assistance for Ukraine.    It is not a donation of drawn-down U.S. Defense Department stockpiles but rather cash those countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.
    The new money, along with the sale of $165million in non-U.S.-made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, brings the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7billion since the invasion, officials said.
    Biden has accused Putin of genocide for the destruction and death wrought on Ukraine.    Just on Thursday, Biden said he would provide a new package of $800million in military aid to Ukraine that included heavy artillery and drones.
    Congress approved $6.5billion for military assistance last month as part of $13.6billion in spending for Ukraine and allies in response to the Russian invasion.

4/26/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - RUSSIA HITS FAR FROM FRONT LINES - US strategic goals take apparent turn as sale is approved by David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Inna, 53, cries inside her burnt house on Monday in Ozera, Ukraine. The towns around Kyiv are continuing a long road to what they hope is a
recovery following weeks of brutal war after Russia made its failed bid to take Ukraine’s capital. ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia unleashed a string of attacks Monday against rail and fuel installations deep inside Ukraine, far from the front lines of Moscow’s new eastern offensive, as Russia’s top diplomat warned against provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”
    The U.S., meanwhile, moved to rush more weaponry to Ukraine and said the assistance from the Western allies is making a difference in the 2-month-old war.
    “Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared, a day after he and the U.S. secretary of defense made a bold visit to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
    Blinken said Washington approved a $165 million sale of ammunition – non-U.S. ammo, mainly if not entirely for Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons – and will also provide more than $300 million in financing to buy more supplies.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took his comments further, saying that while the U.S. wants to see Ukraine remain a sovereign, democratic country, it also wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
    Austin’s comments about weakening Russia appeared to represent a shift in broader U.S. strategic goals.    Previously, the U.S. position had been that the goal of American military aid was to help Ukraine win and to defend Ukraine’s NATO neighbors against Russian threats.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said weapons supplied by Western countries “will be a legitimate target,” adding that Russian forces had already targeted weapons warehouses in western Ukraine.
    “Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said in a wide-ranging interview on Russian television.    He accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict.
    By providing weapons, NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” he said, according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
    Regarding the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, Lavrov said: “I would not want to see these risks artificially inflated now, when the risks are rather significant.”
    “The danger is serious,” he said.    “It is real.    It should not be underestimated.”
    When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, its apparent goal was the lightning capture of Kyiv, the capital.    But the Ukrainians, with the help of Western weapons, thwarted the push and forced President Vladimir Putin’s troops to retreat.
    Moscow now says its goal is to take the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine.    While both sides say the campaign in the east is underway, Russia has yet to mount an all-out ground offensive and has not achieved any major breakthroughs.
    On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind the front lines in an effort to thwart Ukrainian efforts to marshal supplies for the fight.
    Five railroad stations in central and western Ukraine were hit, and one worker was killed, said Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukraine’s state railway.    The bombardment included a missile attack near Lviv, the western city close to the Polish border that has been swelled by Ukrainians fleeing the fighting elsewhere around the country.
    Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central Vynnytsia region.
    Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, along with fuel depots there, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.    In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.
    Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016, said the latest strikes against fuel depots are part of a strategy to deplete key Ukrainian war resources.    The strikes against rail targets, on the other hand, are a newer tactic, he said.
    “I think they’re doing it for the legitimate reason of trying to interdict the flow of supplies to the front,” he said.    “The illegitimate reason is they know people are trying to leave the country, and this is just another intimidation, terrorist tactic to make them not have faith and confidence in traveling on the rails.”
    Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said the war is, for now, settling into a campaign of incremental battlefield losses and gains.
    “The two sides are sort of every day weakening each other,” he said.    “So it’s a question of what can you bring in that’s new” and “what can you destroy on the other side.”
    An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic southern port city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces and apparently keeping them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas.        Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the Azovstal plant to try to dislodge the holdouts.
    Some 1,000 civilians were also said to be taking shelter at the steelworks, and the Russian military pledged to open a humanitarian corridor Monday for them to leave.
    The Russian offer was met with skepticism by Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukraine does not consider the route safe and added that Russia had breached agreements on similar evacuation routes before.    She called on the United Nations to oversee an evacuation.
    The city council and mayor of Mariupol said a new mass grave has been identified about 6 miles north of the city.
    Ukraine’s foreign minister urged U.N. chief to press Russia for evacuation of Mariupol.
    Several explosions hit the Ministry of State Security building in separatist region of Transnistria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from left,
met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

4/27/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - US SAYS MORE ARMS NEEDED - Officials fear that fighting will expand as diplomatic efforts to end war continue by Yesica Fisch and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A destroyed hospital building on Tuesday in Novyi Bykiv, Ukraine. The towns around Kyiv
are continuing a long road to what they hope is recovery. ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES
    TORETSK, Ukraine – The U.S. pressed its allies Tuesday to move “heaven and earth” to keep Kyiv well-supplied with weapons as Russian forces rained fire on eastern and southern Ukraine amid growing new fears the war could spill over the country’s borders.    For the second day in a row, explosions rocked the separatist region of Trans-Dniester in neighboring Moldova, knocking out two powerful radio antennas close to the Ukrainian border.    No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Ukraine all but blamed Russia.
    In other developments, Poland and Bulgaria said the Kremlin is cutting off natural gas supplies to the two NATO countries starting Wednesday, the first such actions of the war.    Both nations had refused Russia’s demands that they pay in rubles.
    Poland has been a major gateway for the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and confirmed this week that it is sending the country tanks.
    The potential effect of the gas cutoff was not immediately clear.
    Two months into the fighting, Western arms have helped Ukraine stall Russia’s invasion, but the country’s leaders have said they need more support fast.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting Tuesday of officials from about 40 countries at the U.S. air base at Ramstein, Germany, and said more help is on the way.
    “This gathering reflects the galvanized world,” Austin said, adding that he wanted officials to leave the meeting “with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements because we’re going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them.”
    After unexpectedly fierce resistance by Ukrainian forces thwarted Russia’s attempt to take Ukraine’s capital, Moscow now says its focus is the capture of the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine.
    In the small city of Toretsk in the Donbas, residents are struggling to survive, collecting rainwater for washing up and fervently hoping for an end to the fighting.
    “It’s bad.    Very bad.    Hopeless,” said Andriy Cheromushkin.    “You feel so helpless that you don’t know what you should do or shouldn’t do.    Because if you want to do something, you need some money, and there is no money now.”
    Russian advances and heavy fighting were reported in the Donbas, with one town, Kreminna, apparently falling after days of street-by-street fighting, according to the British military.
    In the gutted southern port city of Mariupol, authorities said Russian forces hit the Azovstal steel plant with 35 airstrikes over the past 24 hours.    The plant is the last known stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in the city.    About 1,000 civilians were said to be taking shelter there with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders.
    “Russia has drastically intensified strikes over the past 24 hours and is using heavy bunker bombs,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor.    “The number of those wounded will be clear once the rubble is cleared.”
    He also accused Russian forces of shelling a route it had offered as an escape corridor from the steel mill.
    Beyond Mariupol, local officials said at least nine people were killed and several more wounded in Russian attacks on towns and cities in the east and south.    Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region of the Donbas, said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces “continue to deliberately fire at civilians and to destroy critical infrastructure.”
    Russian missile fire also knocked out a strategic railroad bridge along a route that links southern Ukraine’s Odesa port region to neighboring Romania, a NATO member, Ukrainian authorities said.    No injuries were reported.
    Ukraine also said Russian forces shelled Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, which lies in the northeast, outside the Donbas, but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent bid to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbas from the north, east and south.
    Ukrainian forces struck back in the Kherson region in the south.    The attack on the bridge near Odesa – along with a series of strikes on key railroad stations a day earlier – appears to mark a major shift in Russia’s approach.    Until now, Moscow has spared strategic bridges, perhaps in hopes of keeping them for its own use in seizing Ukraine.    But now it seems to be trying to thwart Ukraine’s efforts to move troops and supplies.
    The southern Ukraine coastline and Moldova have been on edge since a senior Russian military officer said last week that the Kremlin’s goal is too secure not just eastern Ukraine but the entire south, so as to open the way to Trans-Dniester, a long, narrow strip of land with about 470,000 people along the Ukrainian border where about 1,500 Russian troops are based.
    It was not clear who was behind the blasts in Trans-Dniester, but the attacks gave rise to fears that Russia is stirring up trouble so as to create a pretext to either invade Trans-Dniester or use the region as another launching point to attack Ukraine.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the explosions were carried out by Russia and were “designed to destabilize,” with the intention of showing Moldova what could happen if it supports Ukraine.
    Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, said the U.S. was still looking into blasts and trying to determine what was going on, but added: “Certainly we don’t want to see any spillover” of the conflict.
    With the potentially pivotal battle for the east underway, the U.S. and its NATO allies are scrambling to deliver artillery and other heavy weaponry in time to make a difference.
    German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said her government will supply Gepard self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced mounting pressure to send heavy weapons such as tanks and other armored vehicles.    Austin noted that more than 30 allies and partners have joined the U.S. in sending military aid to Ukraine and that more than $5 billion worth of equipment has been committed.
    The U.S. defense secretary said the war has weakened Russia’s military, adding, “We would like to make sure, again, that they don’t have the same type of capability to bully their neighbors that we saw at the outset of this conflict.”
    A senior Kremlin official, Nikolai Patrushev, warned that “the policies of the West and the Kyiv regime controlled by it would only be the breakup of Ukraine into several states.”
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cautioned that if the Western flow of weapons continues, the talks aimed at ending the fighting will not produce any results.
    Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting also continued. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the U.N. said they agreed in principle that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians trapped in the steel plant in Mariupol.    Putin said Ukrainian troops were using civilians in the plant as shields and not allowing them to leave.
  • Chernobyl seizure risked accident: Nuclear chief says situation still “not stable.”
  • Russia suspending gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.
  • Russia’s war heats up cooking oil prices.

4/27/2022 Russia suspending gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria by Vanessa Gera and Monika Scislowska, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Belarusian worker on duty at a gas compressor station of the Yamal-Europe pipeline near
Nesvizh, some 81 miles southwest of the capital Minsk, on Dec. 29, 2006. SERGEI GRITS/AP FILE
    WARSAW, Poland – Officials in Poland and Bulgaria said Tuesday that Russia is suspending their countries’ natural gas deliveries after they refused to pay for their supplies in Russian rubles.
    The governments of the two European Union and NATO members said Russian energy giant Gazprom informed them it was halting the gas supplies starting Wednesday.
    The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “unfriendly” foreign buyers would have to pay the state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of dollars and euros.
    If Gazprom suspends supplies to other countries, it could cause economic pain to Europe, causing gas prices to rise and possibly leading to rationing.    Germany is particularly vulnerable due to its heavy dependence on Russian gas.    But cutoffs would also deal a blow to Russia’s own economy.
    Poland’s state gas company, PGNiG, said it was informed by Gazprom that its deliveries through the Yamal-Europe pipeline would stop Wednesday morning.    Later, the Bulgarian Energy Ministry said it was notified that Bulgaria’s supplies of Russian gas via the Turk-Stream pipeline would cease on Wednesday as well.
    Poland has been a strong supporter of neighboring Ukraine during the Russian invasion.    It is a transit point for weapons the United States and other Western nations have provided Ukraine.
    The Polish government confirmed this week that it was sending tanks to Ukraine’s army.    On Tuesday, it announced a sanctions list targeting 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom.    Bulgaria, once one of Moscow’s closest allies, has cut many of its old ties with Russia after a new liberal government took the reigns last fall and after Putin’s military invaded Ukraine.    It has supported sanctions against Russia and provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
    It has been hesitant to provide military aid to Ukraine, but Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and members of his coalition government are heading to Kyiv on Wednesday for talks with Ukrainian officials about further aid to the country.
    Europe imports large amounts of Russian natural gas to heat homes, generate electricity and fuel industry.    The imports have continued despite the war in Ukraine.
    Around 60% of imports are paid in euros, and the rest in dollars.    Putin’s demand was apparently intended to help bolster the Russian currency amid the Western sanctions imposed over the war.
    European leaders said they would not comply with the rubles requirement, arguing that it violated the terms of contracts and their sanctions against Russia.    The Yamal pipeline carries natural gas from Russia to Poland and Germany, through Belarus.     Poland has been receiving some 9 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually, fulfilling some 45% of the country’s needs.
    Poland’s gas company said it was considering legal action over the Russian payment demand.    But Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa stressed that Poland was prepared for such a situation after working for years to reduce its reliance on Russian energy sources.
    Several years ago it opened its first terminal for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, in Swinoujscie, on the Baltic Sea coast, while later this year a pipeline bringing gas from Norway, called “Baltic Pipe,” is to become operational.
    “There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Moskwa tweeted.
    Bulgaria said the new gas payment system created considerable risks for the country and that it was working with state gas companies to find alternative sources to replace the supplies it gets from Russia.
    But the Bulgarian government said no restrictions on domestic gas consumption would be imposed for now even though the Balkan country of 6.5 million meets over 90% of its gas needs with Russian imports.
    In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S had been preparing for such a move by Russia “in anticipation of the possibility of this happening or a decrease in what they’re providing.”
    “Some of that has been asking some countries in Asia who have excess supply to provide that to Europe.    We’ve done that in some cases, and it’s been an ongoing effort,” Psaki said.

4/28/2022 Poland arrests Russian and Belarusian for alleged spying
    WARSAW, Poland – A Russian man and a Belarusian man have been arrested in Poland for three months on allegations of spying for Russia’s special services, security authorities in Poland said Wednesday.    Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s state security bodies, said that material gathered by Poland’s military intelligence formed the evidence for the arrests.    Zaryn said the men were gathering sensitive military information.    Prosecutors in Warsaw are investigating.    If convicted, the men can get 10-year prison terms.

4/28/2022 Russia cuts natural gas to two NATO nations - Leaders, analysts portray move as bid to divide Western allies by Yesica Fisch, Jon Gambrelland Vanessa Gera, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 releases decoy flares as it provides air support to troops on the ground during
a battle near Yampil, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday. Evgeniy Maloletka/AFP via Getty Images
    POKROVSK, Ukraine – Russia cut off natural gas to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday and threatened to do the same to other countries, dramatically escalating its standoff with the West over the war in Ukraine.
European leaders decried the move as 'blackmail.'
    A day after the U.S. and other Western allies vowed to speed more and heavier weapons to Ukraine, the Kremlin used its most essential export as leverage against two of Kyiv’s staunch backers.    Gas prices in Europe shot up on the news.
    The tactic could eventually force targeted nations to resort to gas rationing and could deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices.    At the same time, it could deprive Russia of badly needed income to fund its war effort.
    Western leaders and analysts portrayed the move by the Kremlin as a bid to both punish and divide the allies so as to undermine their united support for Ukraine.
    Poland has been a major gateway for the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and confirmed this week that it is sending the country tanks.    It has also been a vocal proponent of sanctions against the Kremlin.
    Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last fall, has cut many of its old ties to Moscow and likewise supported punitive measures against Russia.    It has also hosted Western fighter jets at a new NATO outpost on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
    The gas cuts do not immediately put the two countries in any dire trouble.    Poland, especially, has been working for many years to line up other suppliers, and the continent is heading into summer, making gas less essential for households.
    Still, the cutoff and the Kremlin warning that other countries could be next drew concern throughout the 27-nation European Union.    Germany, the largest economy on the continent, and Italy are among Europe’s biggest consumers of Russian natural gas, though they have already been taking steps to reduce their dependence on Moscow.
    'It comes as no surprise that the Kremlin uses fossil fuels to try to blackmail us,' said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.    'Today, the Kremlin failed once again in (President Vladimir Putin’s) attempt to sow division amongst member states.    The era of Russian fossil fuel in Europe is coming to an end.'
    State-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said it was shutting off the two countries because they refused to pay in rubles, as President Vladimir Putin has demanded of 'unfriendly' nations.    The Kremlin said other countries may be cut off if they don’t agree to the payment arrangement.
    Most European countries have publicly balked at Russia’s demand for rubles, but it is not clear how many have actually faced the moment of decision so far.    Greece’s next scheduled payment to Gazprom is due May 25, for example, and the government must decide then whether to comply.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Polish parliament that he believes Poland’s support for Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia were the real reasons behind the gas cutoff.    Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov called the suspension blackmail, adding: 'We will not succumb to such a racket.'
    Gianna Bern, a University of Notre Dame finance professor, portrayed the move as a warning from the Kremlin.
    'There are probably fewer consequences to turning off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria than larger countries in Europe. Russia is definitely sending a message,' she said.
    On the battlefield, fighting continued in the country’s east along a largely static front line some 300 miles (480 kilometers) long.
    Russia claimed its missiles hit a batch of weapons that the U.S. and European nations had delivered to Ukraine.    One person was killed and at least two were injured when rockets hit a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv.
    Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, said Russia has made slow progress in the Donbas region in the east, with 'minor gains,' including the capture of villages and small towns south of Izyum and on the outskirts of Rubizhne.
    The offensive continues to suffer from poor command, losses of troops and equipment, bad weather and strong Ukrainian resistance, the officials said.
    They said some Russian troops have been shifted from the gutted southern port city of Mariupol to other parts of the Donbas.    But some remain in Mariupol to fight Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold in the city.    About 1,000 civilians were said to be taking shelter there with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders.
    'The situation is very difficult.    There are huge problems with water, food,' Serhii Volynskyi, commander of the marine unit inside the plant, said in a Facebook video message. He said hundreds of fighters and civilians were wounded and in need of medical help, and those inside included children, older people and disabled ones.
    Just across the border in Russia, an ammunition depot in the Belgorod region burned after several explosions were heard, the governor said.    Explosions were also reported in Russia’s Kursk region near the border, and authorities in Russia’s Voronezh region said an air defense system shot down a drone.
    Earlier this week, an oil storage facility in the Russian city of Bryansk was engulfed by fire.
    Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak hinted at the country’s involvement in the fires, saying in a Telegram post that 'karma (is) a harsh thing.'
    In another development, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said the safety level at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, now under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a 'red light blinking' as his organization tries in vain to get access to the Zaporizhzhia power station for repairs.
    Amid rising tensions over gas, Moscow and Washington carried out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in the U.S.
    With the help of Western arms, Ukrainian forces have been unexpectedly successful at bogging Russia’s forces down and thwarted their attempt to take Kyiv.    Moscow now says its focus is the capture of the Donbas, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland.
    A defiant Putin vowed Wednesday that Russia will achieve its military goals, telling parliament, 'All the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on Feb.24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.'

4/28/2022 EXPLAINER - Why Russia halted natural gas - One of Putin’s motives may be political by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Solar panels are installed at a floating photovoltaic plant on a lake in Haltern, Germany. MARTIN MEISSNER/AP
    Russia’s Gazprom says it is halting natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, escalating tensions between the Kremlin and Europe over energy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and adding new urgency to plans to reduce and then end the continent’s dependence on Russia as a supplier of oil and gas.
    Here are key things to know about the natural gas situation in Europe:
What did Russia do?
    State-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom said it was cutting off Poland and Bulgaria because they refused to pay in Russian rubles, as President Vladimir Putin has demanded.
    European leaders say natural gas contracts spell out payment in euros or dollars and that can’t be suddenly changed by one side.    Poland has taken long-term steps to insulate itself from a cutoff, such as building an import terminal for liquefied gas that comes by ship, and had planned to cancel its import deal with Gazprom at year’s end anyway.    Bulgaria says it has enough gas for now.
    Still, the open questions about what the change could mean have sent shudders through energy markets, raising uncertainty about whether natural gas could be cut off to other European countries and cause a major hit to the economy.
    The Kremlin warned of that possibility if countries don’t pay for energy supplies in rubles.    But Russia also relies on oil and gas sales to fund its government as sanctions have squeezed its financial system.
    Under the new payment system, the Kremlin has said importers would have to establish an account in dollars or euros at Russia’s third-largest bank, Gazprombank, then a second account in rubles.    The importer would pay the gas bill in euros or dollars and direct the bank to exchange the money for rubles.
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that paying in rubles violates European Union sanctions and that companies with contracts “should not accede to the Russian demands.”
What is Putin after?
    Because Putin’s order for ruble payments targets “unfriendly countries,” it can be seen as retaliation for the sanctions that have cut off many Russian banks from international financial transactions and led some Western companies to abandon their businesses in Russia.
    The economic motives for demanding rubles aren’t clear because Gazprom already has to sell 80% of its foreign earnings for rubles, so the boost to Russia’s currency could be minimal.    One motive could be political, to show the public at home that     Putin can dictate the terms of gas exports.    And by requiring payments through Gazprombank, the move could discourage further sanctions against that bank.
    If Putin was looking for a pretext to cut off countries that have supported Ukraine, this could serve that function.    Russia is still sending gas to Hungary – whose populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has agreed to Putin’s payment arrangement – on the same pipeline system.
    Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert and senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, said “moving this way, Russia is leveraging EU fragmentation – it’s a divide and rule strategy … which is why we need a coordinated EU response.”
What’s the state of gas supply to Europe?
    Coordinated U.S. and European Union sanctions exempt payments for oil and gas.    That is a White House concession to European allies who are much more dependent on energy from Russia, which provides 40% of Europe’s gas and 25% of its oil at a cost of $850 million a day.
    Many aren’t happy that European utilities are still buying energy from Russia, which on average got 43% of its annual government revenue from oil and gas sales between 2011 and 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
    Russia’s decision to reduce gas sales outside of long-term contracts before the war, contributing to a winter energy crunch that drove up prices, served as a wakeup call that Europe’s dependence on Russian energy left it vulnerable.    The war has meant a fast reassessment of decades of energy policy in which cheap gas from Russia supported Europe’s economy.
    But cutting off Europe’s natural gas doesn’t benefit Russia either.    When it comes to oil, Russia could in theory ship oil by tanker elsewhere, such as to India and China, countries that are energy hungry and not taking part in sanctions.
    But gas is another matter.    The gas pipeline system from major deposits in northern Russia’s Yamal Peninsula to Europe doesn’t connect to the pipeline leading to China.    And Russia has only limited facilities to export liquefied gas by ship.
Could Europe survive a total gas cutoff?
    Europe’s economy would struggle without Russian natural gas, although the impact would vary based on how much countries use.    Economists’ estimates vary widely for lost growth for the European economy as a whole.    Analysts at Moody’s said in a recent study that a total energy cutoff – gas and oil – would throw Europe into a recession.
    Germany, the continent’s largest economy, is heavily dependent on Russian energy.    Its central bank said a total cutoff could mean 5 percentage points of lost economic output and higher inflation.
    The Bruegel think tank estimated that Europe would be 10% to 15% short of normal demand to get through the next winter heating season, meaning exceptional measures would have to be taken to reduce gas use.
What’s Europe doing to reduce reliance on Russian gas?
    European leaders have said they can’t afford the consequences of an immediate boycott.    Instead, they plan to reduce Russian gas use as fast as possible.    They’re ordering more liquefied natural gas by ship; seeking more gas from pipelines from places like Norway and Azerbaijan; accelerating deployment of wind and solar energy; and pushing conservation measures.
    The aim is to cut use of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year and completely by 2027.    It remains to be seen if that goal can be met in practice.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom Head Alexei Miller in 2020. Gazprom says
it is halting natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK AND KREMLIN POOL PHOTO VIA AP

4/28/2022 Report: Germany is top buyer of Russian energy by Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BERLIN – Germany was the biggest buyer of Russian energy during the first two months since the start of the war in Ukraine, an independent research group said Thursday.
    A study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia earned 63 billion euros ($66.5 billion) from fossil fuel exports since Feb. 24, the date Russian troops attacked Ukraine.
    Using data on ship movements, realtime tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers reckoned Germany alone paid Russia about 9.1 billion euros for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.
    Claudia Kemfert, a senior energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research who was not involved in the study, said the figures were plausible given the recent sharp increase in prices for fossil fuels.    Last year Germany paid about 100 billion euros in total for imports of oil, coal and gas – a quarter of which went to Russia, she said.
    The German government said it couldn’t comment on estimates and declined to provide any figures of its own, saying these would need to come from companies that procure the coal, oil and gas.
    Germany has faced strong criticism for its reliance on Russia fossil fuels despite warnings from allies that this could endanger its own and European security.    Then-Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back last year against U.S. efforts to sanction a Russian gas pipeline to Germany, a decision strongly backed by her successor, Olaf Scholz, whose Social Democratic Party has long advocated energy cooperation with Russia.
    The pipeline was only frozen by Scholz’s new center-left government shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    It has since scrambled to find alternative energy supplies, particularly for Russian natural gas, which now accounts for 35% of Germany’s imports.

4/29/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Explosions rock Kyiv again - Russia continues to rain fire on Ukraine by David Keyton and Inna Varenytsia, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Main photo: Emergency service personnel respond following an explosion in Kyiv after Russia struck the Ukrainian capital shortly after
a meeting between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday night. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia pounded targets from practically one end of Ukraine to the other Thursday, including Kyiv, bombarding the city while the head of the United Nations was visiting in the boldest attack on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago.    Several people were wounded in the attack on Kyiv, including one who lost a leg and others who were trapped in the rubble when two buildings were hit, rescue officials said.    The bombardment came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who said Ukraine has become “an epicenter of unbearable heartache and pain.” A spokesperson said Guterres and his team were safe.
    Meanwhile, explosions were reported across the country, in Polonne in the west, Chernihiv near the border with Belarus, and Fastiv, a large railway hub southwest of the capital.    The mayor of Odesa, in southern Ukraine, said rockets were intercepted by air defenses.
    Ukrainian authorities also reported intense Russian fire in the Donbas – the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin says is its main objective – and near Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside the Donbas that is seen as key to the offensive.
    In the ruined southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters holed up in the steel plant that represents the last pocket of resistance said concentrated bombing overnight killed and wounded more people.    And authorities warned that a lack of safe drinking water inside the city could lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
    The fresh attacks came as Guterres surveyed the destruction in small towns outside the capital that saw some of the worst horrors of the first onslaught of the war.    He condemned the atrocities committed in towns like Bucha, where evidence of mass killings of civilians was found after Russia withdrew in early April in the face of unexpectedly stiff resistance.
    “Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” the U.N. chief lamented.
    Separately, Ukraine’s prosecutor accused 10 Russian soldiers of being “involved in the torture of peaceful people” in Bucha.    Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova did not say her office had filed criminal charges, and she appealed to the public for help in gathering evidence.    Russia denies it targets civilians.
    During his nightly video address, Zelenskyy renewed his pledge to hold Russian soldiers accountable for crimes they commit and said about the 10 identified earlier Thursday: “Some of them may not, after all, live until a trial and fair punishment.    But only for one reason: This Russian brigade has been transferred to the Kharkiv region.    There they’ll receive retribution from our military.”
    In the attack on Kyiv, explosions shook the city and flames poured out of windows in at least two buildings — including a residential one — in the capital, which has been relatively unscathed in recent weeks.    Ukrainian emergency services said 10 people were wounded in the attack, which sent plumes of smoke billowing over the city.
    The explosions in northwestern Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky district came as residents have been increasingly returning to the city.    Cafes and other businesses have reopened, and a growing numbers of people have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather.
    It was not immediately clear how far away the attack was from Guterres.
    Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.    Several journalists have been killed in the war, now in its third month.
    Also, both Ukraine and the Moscow backed rebels fighting in the east have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
    Western officials say the Kremlin’s apparent goal is to take the Donbas by encircling and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south and east.
    But so far, Russia’s troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, taking several small towns as they try to advance in relatively small groups against staunch Ukrainian resistance.
    Russian military units were mauled in the abortive bid to storm Kyiv and had to regroup and refit.    Some analysts say the delay in launching a full-fledged offensive may reflect a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to wait until his forces are ready for a decisive battle, instead of rushing in and risking another failure that could shake his rule amid worsening economic conditions at home because of Western sanctions.
    As Russia presses its offensive, civilians again bear the brunt.
    “It’s not just scary.    It’s when your stomach contracts from pain,” said Kharkiv resident Tatiana Pirogova.    “When they shoot during the day, it’s still OK, but when the evening comes, I can’t describe how scary it is.”
    Ukraine’s military said that Russian troops were subjecting several places in the Donbas to “intense fire” and that over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces had repelled six attacks in the region.
    Four civilians were killed in heavy shelling of residential areas in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, according to the regional governor.
    Columns of smoke could be seen rising at different points across the Donetsk region of the Donbas, and artillery and sirens were heard on and off.
    Many of the Russian troops who were in Mariupol have been leaving and moving to the northwest, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, didn’t have exact numbers but said a “significant number” of the roughly one dozen battalion tactical groups that were in the city were moving out.
    Russian forces are making slow, incremental progress in the Donbas – gaining only several kilometers on any given day, the official said.    As of Thursday, Russia had launched about 1,900 missiles into Ukraine – the vast majority fired from outside Ukraine’s borders.    Most are strikes on Mariupol and the Donbas.
    In Mariupol, video posted online by Ukraine’s Azov Regiment inside the steel plant showed people combing through the rubble to remove the dead and help the wounded.    The regiment said the Russians hit an improvised underground hospital and its surgery room, killing an unspecified number of people.    The video couldn’t be independently verified.
    An estimated 100,000 people remained trapped in Mariupol.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres leave
a news conference during their meeting in Kyiv. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

Ukrainian soldiers rest at their position near Lyman in eastern Ukraine. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/29/2022 11-year-old among three injured in Russia strike - ‘It just takes one second and you’re left with nothing’ by Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Locals remove debris from destroyed houses Thursday after a Russian rocket – hit by Ukraine’s
anti-aircraft system – landed in a residential area in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Emergency services official
Pavlo Zhukov says a direct hit on the neighborhood would have been far worse. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – The boy was at home when the rocket struck across the street and the window shattered.    Stunned, he found his father and crawled under his blanket.    They clung to each other and asked, “Are you still alive?
    Then the father noticed blood.    Glass shards had cut the boy’s right leg to the bone.
    The 11-year-old Ukrainian boy was one of at least three people wounded Thursday morning in what emergency officials called the first strike in a residential area of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia since Russia’s invasion began.    The city has been a crucial waypoint for tens of thousands of people fleeing the besieged southern port of Mariupol and is home to Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
    The rocket strike came as parts of southern Ukraine are preparing for a further onslaught by Russian forces who seek to strip the country of its Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts.    Residents said at least eight homes in the neighborhood of cherry trees and wooden fences were damaged or destroyed.
    The rocket had been hit by Ukraine’s anti-aircraft system, emergency services official Pavlo Zhukov told the Associated Press at the scene, adding that a direct hit on the neighborhood would have been far worse.
    The boy’s father, Vadym Vodostoyev, stood in the courtyard and held up his still-shaking hands.
    “There’s no military here, no strategic facilities,” he said.    “We were no threat to them.”
    He thought of his son and came close to tears.
    “It just takes one second and you’re left with nothing,” he said.
    Ukrainians have been living with that fear for two months now.
    The rocket stripped the ordinary from a sunny morning.    It bent a metal garage door inward, rippled ceilings and cracked walls. It killed a neighbor’s dog.
    Katerina Klimasheva, 68, was standing in her kitchen making coffee.    The shock wave from the rocket slammed the door of her cupboard into her.    It left glass shards embedded in the chest of one of her sons.
    She opened the refrigerator, which was pierced by shrapnel, and smashed egg yolks dribbled out.
    “Fascists,” she said of the Russian leadership in Moscow.    “I’m Russian.    We’re Russian.    But I’ve lived here all my life.    I’ve not seen such people.    And then they say attacks like these are false.”
    Klimasheva said she assumed the rocket had been meant for the railway nearby or for the local steel plant.    Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure, smashing factories, fuel depots, bridges and highways in a destructive fury that will take billions to rebuild.
    Another of her sons, Anatoly Kongurtsev, waved a hammer through the broken kitchen window in anger.
    “Attacking children?    What can I say?” he said.    “They’re swine.”
    Across the street, steps from the rocket’s crater, Artem Lazarenko was thankful he had woken up when he did and wandered into a back room of his now-destroyed house.    Dried blood crusted in his left ear where his eardrum had burst.
    “Nobody knows what’s inside their heads,” he said of the Russians.    “Nobody wants to fight, but I will if I have to.”
    The 26-year-old construction worker was already planning to rebuild.    But the crushed yellow Lada parked next to the house was a total loss.
    “It was broken anyway,” Lazarenko said.    “But not like this.”

4/29/2022 Russia targets capital as war displaces more Ukrainians
Ukrainian security forces inspect an area following an explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Three women embrace Thursday in a street in Kyiv. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Iulia Shevchuk rests in a reception center for displaced people in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Thursday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

Firefighters try to put out a fire following an explosion in Kyiv on Thursday.
Ukrainian emergency services said 10 people were wounded. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

People take shelter in the basement of a residential building in Kyiv as Russia
struck the Ukrainian capital again on Thursday. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

4/30/2022 Ukraine: Kyiv attack was Putin’s ‘middle finger’ to UN by David Keyton and Inna Varenytsia, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Residents carry their belongings as they leave their damaged building following Russian strikes
in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. Russian strikes slammed into Kyiv on Thursday evening as
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting. Sergei SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to humiliate the United Nations by raining missiles on Kyiv during a visit to the city by the U.N. chief, an attack that shattered weeks of relative calm in the capital.
    Ukraine’s forces, meanwhile, fought to hold off Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, Zelenskyy reported.    And U.N.-backed efforts to arrange safe passage for residents trapped in the ruins of Mariupol continued.    Numerous previous attempts to evacuate civilians have fallen through.
    Russia pounded targets all over Ukraine on Thursday, hitting a residential high-rise and another building in Kyiv just as life seemed to be getting a little closer to normal.    U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said one of its journalists was killed.
    In an apparent reference to the attack in Kyiv, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed 'production buildings' at the Artem defense factory.
    The bombardment came barely an hour after Zelenskyy held a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who toured some of the destruction in and around Kyiv and condemned attacks on civilians.
    'This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude toward global institutions, about attempts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the U.N. and everything the organization represents,' Zelenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation.    'Therefore, it requires a correspondingly powerful response.'
    Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s way of giving Guterres 'his middle finger.'
    The strikes were the boldest Russian attack on the capital since Moscow’s forces retreated weeks ago following their failure to take the city.    Russia is now pushing into the Donbas, the country’s eastern industrial region, which the Kremlin says is its main objective.
    Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.    Both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east also have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
    But so far, Russia’s troops and the separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, and Britain’s Defense Ministry said those have been achieved at significant cost to the Kremlin’s forces.
    One aim of Guterres’ visit was to secure the evacuation of people from the gutted southern port of Mariupol, including a shattered steelworks where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders and 1,000 civilians were holed up in the last major stronghold of resistance in the city.    Previous evacuation attempts fell through.
    The Soviet-era steel plant has a vast underground network of bunkers able to withstand airstrikes.    But the situation has grown more dire after the Russians dropped 'bunker busters' and other bombs.
    'Locals who manage to leave Mariupol say it is hell, but when they leave this fortress, they say it is worse,' said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko.    'They are begging to get saved,' he said, adding: 'There, it’s not a matter of days, it’s a matter of hours.'
    About 100,000 people are believed trapped in the city with little water, food, heat or electricity.
    The U.N. humanitarian office gave no details on the evacuation arrangements under discussion, citing concerns for the safety of those involved.    Ukraine has blamed the failure of previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.
    This time, 'we hope there’s a slight touch of humanity in the enemy,' Boichenko said.
    Two towns in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region were hit by Russian rockets on Friday, the regional governor said.    There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.
    The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said that a border post came under mortar fire from Ukraine and that Russian border forces returned fire.    He said there were no casualties on the Russian side.
    Thursday’s missile attack in northwestern Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky district shook the city, and sent flames shooting from the windows of the buildings hit.
    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said the body of Vira Hyrych, a journalist who had worked for the broadcaster since 2018 and who lived in one of the buildings, was found in the rubble on Friday.
    Radio Free Europe President Jamie Fly said the broadcaster was 'shocked and angered by the senseless nature of her death at home in a country and city she loved.'
    Ten people were wounded in the attack, including at least one who lost a leg, according to emergency officials.
    Kyiv had been relatively unscathed in recent weeks, and cafes and other businesses have started to reopen, while a growing number of people have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather.
    The terrible human cost of the war, which has driven more than 11million Ukrainians from their homes, continues to climb.
    In Lyman, a town in the Donbas, shells rained on Tatiana Matsegora’s home this week.    Matsegora’s 14-year-old grandson, Igor, was declared dead after rescue workers drove him to the hospital.    Her daughter was in serious condition, and her son-in-law was also killed.
    '‘Grandma, will I live?’' she said Igor asked her when they were in the basement, waiting for help.    'I said that he would live.    But look what happened: I betrayed him.'
    Meanwhile, the international sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion are squeezing the country.    The Russian Central Bank said Russia’s economy is expected to contract by up to 10% this year, and the outlook is 'extremely uncertain.'

4/30/2022 HARROWING EVACUATION - UN works to broker deal to get civilians out of Mariupol amid dire conditions by David Keyton and Inna Varenytsia, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – The United Nations doggedly sought to broker an evacuation of civilians from the increasingly hellish ruins of Mariupol on Friday, while Ukraine accused Russia of showing its contempt for the world organization by bombing Kyiv when the U.N. leader was visiting the capital.
    The mayor of Mariupol said the situation inside the steel plant that has become the southern port city’s last stronghold is dire, and citizens are “begging to get saved.”    Mayor Vadym Boichenko added: “There, it’s not a matter of days.    It’s a matter of hours.”
    Ukraine’s forces, meanwhile, fought to hold off Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, where the Kremlin is seeking to capture the country’s industrial Donbas region.    Artillery fire, sirens and explosions could be heard in some cities.    And a senior U.S. defense official said the Russian offensive is going much slower than planned in part because of the strength of Ukrainian resistance.
    On Thursday, Moscow’s forces launched a missile attack on a residential high-rise and another building in Kyiv, shattering weeks of relative calm in the capital following Russia’s retreat from the region early this month.
    U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said one of its journalists, Vira Hyrych, was killed in the bombardment.    Ten people were wounded, one of them losing a leg, authorities said.
    The missile strike came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
    “This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude toward global institutions, about attempts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the U.N. and everything the organization represents,” Zelenskyy said.
A sunken Ukrainian warship is seen Friday in the Mariupol Sea Port in territory under the control of the separatist Donetsk
People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.    This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense. AP
    Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s way of giving “his middle finger” to Guterres.
    In an apparent reference to the Kyiv bombing, Russia’s military said it had destroyed “production buildings” at the Artem defense factory.
    The missile strike came just as life in Kyiv seemed to be getting back a little closer to normal, with cafes and other businesses starting to reopen and growing numbers of people going out to enjoy the arrival of spring.
    Volodymyr Fesenko, a Ukrainian political analyst and head of the Kyiv based Penta Center think tank, said the attack carried a message: “Russia is sending a clear signal about its intention to continue the war despite the international pressure.”    Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.    Both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east also have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
    But so far, Russia’s troops and the separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains.
    The U.S. believes the Russians are “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, said the senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the American military’s assessment.
    As Russian troops try to move north out of Mariupol so they can advance on Ukrainian forces from the south, their progress has been “slow and uneven and certainly not decisive,” the official said.
    In the bombed-out city of Mariupol, around 100,000 people were believed trapped with little food, water or medicine.    An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders and 1,000 civilians were holed up at the Azovstal steel plant.
    The Soviet-era steel plant has a vast underground network of bunkers able to withstand airstrikes.    But the situation has grown more dire after the Russians dropped “bunker busters” and other bombs.
    “Locals who manage to leave Mariupol say it is hell, but when they leave this fortress, they say it is worse,” said Boichenko, the mayor.    U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv to create safe passage.
    This time, “we hope there’s a slight touch of humanity in the enemy,” the mayor said.    Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuations attempts on continued Russian shelling.
    But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the real problem is that “humanitarian corridors are being ignored by Ukrainian ultra-nationals.”    Moscow has repeatedly claimed right-wing Ukrainians are thwarting evacuation efforts and using civilians as human shields.
    Also Friday, two towns in central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region were hit by Russian rockets, the regional governor said.    There was no immediate word on casualties or damage.
    Fighting could be heard from Kramatorsk to Sloviansk, two cities about 11 miles apart in the Donbas.    Columns of smoke rose from the Sloviansk area and neighboring cities.    At least one person was reported wounded in the shelling.
In other developments
  • A former U.S. Marine was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, his family said in what would be the war’s first known death of an American in combat.    The U.S. has not confirmed the report.
  • Ukrainian forces are cracking down on people accused of helping Russian troops. In the Kharkiv region alone, nearly 400 have been detained under anti-collaboration laws enacted after Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion.
  • The international sanctions imposed on the Kremlin over the war are squeezing the country.    The Russian Central Bank said Russia’s economy is expected to contract by up to 10% this year, and the outlook is “extremely uncertain.”
A damaged building is seen following Russian strikes in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Brown, right, with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, checks pallets of
155mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine on Friday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. ALEX BRANDON/AP

4/30/2022 UKRAINE WAR ETCHED ON FACES OF WOUNDED, BEREAVED Associated Press, EMILIO MORENATTI/AP
A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a building near a frontline position in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday. FELIPE DANA/AP
    Missing part of his leg after a Russian bombardment, a man lay dazed in a stretcher as civilians helped an EMT bustle him away for treatment.        nother sat stunned on a park bench, a strap cinched tightly around his leg just above a long, bloody gash. At a hospital, bandages shrouded a woman’s shoulder after she underwent surgery for wounds sustained during the shelling of her village.
  • The arrival of Eastern Orthodox Easter this week brought no respite from war to Ukraine some 60 days into Russia’s invasion, and the pain and suffering continued to be etched on the faces of the wounded, the bereaved and those fearful for what may yet be to come.
    In Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, a wiry gravedigger shoveled earth from the ground surrounded by hundreds of other new tombs adorned with flowers and photos of the deceased.
    In the village of Ozera, two women embraced in the street during a funeral for the husband of one of them.    The man was taken from his home by Russian soldiers the previous month and later found shot dead miles away.
    At a church in nearby Bucha, where evidence of torture and mass killings surfaced after Russian forces departed earlier this month, a woman sobbed openly during a church service on Easter Sunday.
    And in Chernihiv, a firefighter paused to sit in a child’s swing set and contemplate the debris from a building destroyed by a Russian bomb.
    There were also signs of a people girding themselves for more – particularly in Ukraine’s ravaged east, after Moscow refocused its war effort there.
    At a hospital in Kramatorsk, workers pinned a patient’s X-ray to dozens of sandbags lining a window to guard against bombardment.
    In the Donetsk region, a Ukrainian serviceman grimaced as he squeezed himself down into a tank to perform maintenance.
    And in Pokrovsk, also in the east, emergency crews labored to hoist an older and disabled woman onto a train for evacuation to a hopefully safer part of the country.
Decorated State Emergency Service unit member Anna Pinchuk attends a ceremony commemorating the Chernobyl nuclear
power plant disaster at the Those Who Saved the World monument in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on Tuesday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

A firefighter sits on a swing next to a building destroyed by a Russian bomb
in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on April 22. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Rescue workers help a disabled, elderly woman enter an evacuation train
in Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Russian tanks roll along a street in an area controlled by Russian-backed
separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 23. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

Petro Volin’ko, 87, attends the funeral of his neighbor Mykola Moroz, 47,
at his home in Ozera village, near Bucha, Ukraine, on Tuesday.

5/1/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - PLEADING FOR RESCUE - Mariupol in need as Russian advance crawls by Mstyslav Chernov and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOP: A man holds a child while waiting to receive food aid at a humanitarian aid station on Saturday
in Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Russia has stepped up its attacks in southeast Ukraine. CHRIS MCGRATH/GETTY IMAGES
    KHARKIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces fought village by village Saturday to hold back a Russian advance through the country’s east, while the United Nations worked to broker a civilian evacuation from the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol.    An estimated 100,000 civilians remain in the city, and up to 1,000 are living beneath a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant, according to Ukrainian officials.    Ukraine has not said how many fighters are also in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but Russia put the number at about 2,000.
    Russian state media outlets reported Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, though there was no confirmation from U.N. or Ukrainian officials.    Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said 19 adults and six children were brought out, but gave no further details.
    Video and images from inside the plant, shared with The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands are among the fighters refusing to surrender there, showed unidentified men with stained bandages; others had open wounds or amputated limbs.
    A skeleton medical staff was treating at least 600 wounded people, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard.    Some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene, they said.
    In the video the men said that they eat just once daily and share as little as 50 ounces of water a day among four people, and that supplies inside the besieged facility are depleted.
    The AP could not independently verify the date and location of the video, which the women said was taken in the last week in the warren of passageways beneath the plant.
    One shirtless man appeared to be in pain as he described his wounds: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that “was hanging on the flesh.”
    “I want to tell everyone who sees this: If you will not stop this here, in Ukraine, it will go further, to Europe,” he said.
    In other developments:
  • Lines formed at gas stations in Kyiv, Dnipro and other cities as Ukraine faced fuel shortages because Russia has destroyed its fuel infrastructure and blocked ports, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Friday address.    He said there were “no immediate solutions” to the shortages, but hoped the situation would improve.
  • The bodies of three men were found buried in a forest near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force said.    The men, whose bodies were found Friday, had been tortured before they were shot in the head, Andriy Nebytov wrote on Facebook.    Ukrainian officials have alleged that retreating Russian troops carried out mass killings of civilians in Bucha.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian and Ukrainian negotiators talk “almost every day.”    However, he told Chinese state news agency Xinhua, “progress has not been easy.”
  • Two buses sent to evacuate residents from the eastern town of Popasna were fired upon, and contact with the organizers was lost, Mayor Nikolai Khanatov said: “We know that (the buses) reached the town and then came under fire from an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group.”
  • A Russian rocket attack destroyed the airport runway in Odesa, Ukraine’s third-most populous city and a key Black Sea port, the Ukrainian army said.
    Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.    Also, both Ukraine and the Moscow backed rebels have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
    But Western military analysts suggested that Moscow’s offensive in the Donbas region, which includes Mariupol, was going much slower than planned.    So far, Russia’s troops and the separatists appeared to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would focus its military strength in the east.
    Numerically, Russia’s military manpower vastly exceeds Ukraine’s.    In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated Russia had positioned near the border as many as 190,000 troops; Ukraine’s standing military totals about 200,000, spread throughout the country.
    Yet, in part because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the U.S. believes the Russians are “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the American military’s assessment.
    With plenty of firepower still in reserve, Russia’s offensive still could intensify and overrun the Ukrainians.    Overall the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 active-duty personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy.
    Hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance has flowed into Ukraine since the war began, but Russia’s vast armories mean Ukraine’s needs are nearly inexhaustible.
    Mariupol officials have described dire shortages of food, water and medicine. U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv, but he could not provide details of the ongoing evacuation effort “because of the complexity and fluidity of the operation.”
    “There is, right now, ongoing, high-level engagements with all the governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure that you can save civilians and support the evacuation of civilians from the plant,” Abreu said.    He would not confirm video posted on social media purportedly showing U.N. marked vehicles in Mariupol.
    Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.
    The ferocity of the fighting has stunned the world.    In the U.S., Pentagon press secretary John Kirby grew emotional Friday as he discussed the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    “It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that,” Kirby, a retired rear admiral, told reporters.    “It’s difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that.”
    The women who said their husbands are in the Mariupol plant with the Azov Regiment said they feared soldiers will be tortured and killed if they are left behind and captured.
    The Azov Regiment has its roots in the Azov Battalion, which was formed in 2014.
People hold banners during the demonstration in support of Mariupol defenders
on Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine. ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES

People sit in a bus during evacuation from Lyman, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

5/1/2022 Students recount toll - For Ukrainians in Model UN program, diplomacy hopes dim by Bobby Caina Calvan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NEW YORK – For nearly a week in April, Mariia Pachenko took a respite from her studies in besieged Ukraine to share its plight with fellow college students in New York.    Soon after, the 18-year-old faced a wrenching decision: Return to her war-torn country or wait out the conflict as hopes for a diplomatic remedy dimmed by the day.
    Pachenko and a handful of other Ukrainian students recounted the war’s human toll and the perilous trip through Russian-occupied territories to make it to the National Model United Nations conference, relishing the opportunity to foster “communication between young people across the world because it’s so important to share ideas, to express your thoughts on the relevant political issues and to try to find the solutions.”
    But despite urgent calls to end the Russian invasion, diplomacy has made little progress in the real world.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Moscow and Kyiv to take “whatever urgent steps” to stop the fighting, but the lack of dialogue between the two governments has been disconcerting for Pachenko – now in France for the foreseeable future – and her peers in the widening diaspora of Ukrainians fleeing bombs, tanks and violence.
    “The United Nations as an organization needs to be reformed.    It has no power – no practical power in the real world,” said participant Olha Tolmachova, who has returned to her town in western Ukraine, which has been spared the Russian onslaught.
    Guterres spent nearly two hours in a one-on-one meeting Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by a Thursday meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.    While the Russians rebuffed his appeal to halt fighting, the U.N. said Putin did agree in principle to the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross’ participation in evacuating civilians from Mariupol.
    Artemy Kalinovsky, a faculty member of Temple University’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy, said they’re rightfully skeptical.
    The U.N. can highlight the ravages of war and serve as a platform for serious discussions, Kalinovsky said.    But in the end, he said, “I don’t think there’s anything that the U.N. can do … because one of the belligerents or the aggressors in this case is a member of the Security Council and can veto anything that could serve to end this conflict.”
    As the students’ conference was ongoing, the Kremlin simply withdrew altogether from the U.N. Human Rights Council after the 193-member General Assembly – where there are no vetoes – voted to suspend Russia.
    Planned many months beforehand, the war was not part of the Model U.N. conference’s central agenda.    And there were no Russian universities taking part because of visa problems and U.S. travel rules.    But the conflict wafted through as the Ukrainian delegation used the event as an informal podium from which to plead for continued dialogue and attention.
    The students’ adviser, Halyna Protsyk, has returned to Lviv, and worries about the toll on the students her country desperately needs to return.
    “They need to make sure that our country still functions in every sphere,” she said during her visit to New York, “and my mission is to make sure that higher education still performs high quality standards.”
    Those who have left Ukraine continue their studies online, much as they did during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.    Some plan to enroll in new universities.
    The hope now lies in a quick end to the war, the students’ adviser said.
    “The biggest challenge for us,” Protsyk said, “will be to bring back our youth to Ukraine – after we got our victory.”
    That outcome though, the Ukrainians acknowledged, remains uncertain.
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN/AP
Ukrainian students say goodbye as they depart their hotel for the airport after spending
almost a week taking part in the National Model United Nations Conference in New York.

5/1/2022 Angelina Jolie makes surprise Ukraine visit, meets children by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LVIV, Ukraine – Hollywood actress and U.N. humanitarian Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, the Lviv regional governor said on Telegram.     According to Maksym Kozytskyy, Jolie – who has been a UNHCR Special Envoy for Refugees since 2011 – had come to speak with displaced people who have found refuge in Lviv, including children undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station in early April.
    The attack in the eastern Ukrainian city appeared to deliberately target a crowd of mostly women and children trying to flee a looming Russian offensive, killing at least 52 and wounding dozens more.
    “She was very moved by (the children’s) stories,” Kozytskyy wrote.    “One girl was even able to privately tell Ms. Jolie about a dream she’d had.”
    He said Jolie also visited a boarding school, talk with students and took photos with them, adding “she promised she would come again.”
    According to Kozytskyy, Jolie also met with evacuees arriving at Lviv’s central railway station, as well as with Ukrainian volunteers providing the new arrivals with medical help and counseling, “The visit was a surprise to us all,” he wrote.    “Plenty of people who saw Ms. Jolie in the Lviv region could not believe that it was really her.    But since Feb. 24, Ukraine has shown the entire world that there are plenty of incredible things here.”
Angelina Jolie, Hollywood movie star and UNHCR goodwill ambassador, poses
with kids in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday. MAKSYM KOZUTSKY/LVIV CITY HALL VIA AP

5/1/2022 Serbia displays Chinese missiles as concerns heighten in Balkans by Dusan Stojanovic, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia on Saturday publicly displayed a recently delivered Chinese anti-aircraft missile system, raising concerns in the West and among some of Serbia’s neighbors that an arms buildup in the Balkans could threaten fragile peace in the region.
    The sophisticated HQ-22 surface-to-air system was delivered last month by a dozen Chinese Air Force Y-20 transport planes in what was believed to be the largest-ever airlift delivery of Chinese arms to Europe.
    Although Serbia officially seeks membership in the European Union, it has been arming itself mostly with Russian and Chinese weapons, including T-72 battle tanks, MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-35 attack helicopters and drones.
    Back in 2020, U.S. officials warned Belgrade against purchasing HQ-22 missile systems, whose export version is known as FK-3.    They said that if Serbia really wants to join the EU and other Western alliances, it must align its military equipment with Western standards.
    The Chinese missile system has been widely compared to the American Patriot and the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems although it has a shorter range than more advanced S-300s.    Serbia is the first operator of the Chinese missiles in Europe.
    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the end of the arms display at a military airport near Belgrade that the Chinese missiles, as well as other recently delivered military hardware, are not a threat to anyone and only represent a “powerful deterrent” against potential attackers.
    “We will no longer allow to be a punching bag for anyone,” Vucic said, apparently referring to NATO’s 78-day bombardment of Serbia for its bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999.
    Serbia, which was at war with its neighbors in the 1990s, does not recognize Kosovo’s independence declared in 2008.    It still has frosty relations with NATO-members Croatia and Montenegro as well as Bosnia, whose separatist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik attended the military drill on Saturday.
    Vucic said Serbia is also negotiating a purchase of French multi-purpose Dessault Rafale jets, as well as British Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.    He said that only “political hurdles” could prevent the purchase of the Western aircraft.
    There are widespread concerns that Russia could push its ally Serbia into an armed conflict with its neighbors to try at least partly to shift public attention from the war in Ukraine.
    Although Serbia has voted in favor of U.N. resolutions that condemn the bloody Russian attacks in Ukraine, it has refused to join international sanctions against its allies in Moscow or outright criticize the apparent atrocities committed by the Russian troops in Ukraine.
A recently delivered Chinese HQ-22 anti-aircraft system is displayed near Belgrade, Serbia. DARKO VOJINOVIC/AP

5/2/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - PUTIN’S RICHES - A Russian leader, a sprawling fortune - Putin’s financial empire built with methodical system by Josh Meyer, USA TODAY
Vladimir Putin enters his inauguration ceremony as Russia’s president in 2018, where he took the oath for his
fourth term. Opposition leaders have long cited corruption claims. POOL PHOTO BY ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO
    St. Petersburg was one of the richest seaports in Russia. But in the early 1990s, it was starving.
    The city once known as Leningrad was reeling amid the breakup of the Soviet Union.    Grocery shelves were bare.    So its deputy mayor hatched a plan.    St. Petersburg would license the export of some of the region’s natural resources and use the money to feed its people.
    Timber, ore and oil departed by sea, but much of the food money never arrived. Instead, investigators later found, it went to export businesses favored by the deputy mayor – a former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin.
    Putin had only recently been installed in the government hierarchy there, and while his official responsibilities included foreign trade and investment, city officials suspected he was really there to watch over the city for the spy agency’s interests.
    The food shortage was not solely because of post-Soviet economic turmoil, either.
    Putin had deliveries withheld and rerouted to keep the wares on government- store shelves at a bare minimum, said Karen Greenaway, a former FBI agent who taught in the city at the time and has spent much of her career investigating Russian organized crime.    With the pressure to supply food, superiors in Moscow were happy to approve the idea of the export-license deal.
    The plan issued noncompetitive contracts to companies largely of Putin’s choosing.    Another city official later concluded that as much as $122 million that could have gone to food instead went to a close circle surrounding him – and likely to Putin himself.
    “And what does he do with part of the money?    He sends it to Spain, where he buys his first villa,” Greenaway told USA TODAY.
    In the three decades since his first moves in St. Petersburg, Putin has amassed a fortune that some authorities believe is so vast that it makes him one of the richest people in the world.
    Now that wealth is in the crosshairs of the West.    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is believed to have killed thousands of civilians, has triggered economic sanctions that target him, his associates and now his adult children.
    “He has run his financial affairs in a way that’s totally consistent with the biggest organized crime boss on the face of the earth.” David Asher, Former State Department and Pentagon official.
    But the system that built Putin’s riches has also frustrated U.S. and European efforts to punish him.    Each round of sanctions raises new questions about whether those efforts can affect the man who treats the wealth of an entire nation as his own.
    That wealth was not built solely by simple corruption or theft, according to statements from an array of government officials, interviews with experts in U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, and a USA TODAY review of thousands of pages of reports and documents.    Instead, Putin built a financial empire methodically.
    He looted and co-opted public resources, investigators say, in St. Petersburg, as a Kremlin functionary, and then on a national scale once he assumed the presidency.
    There he reached a turning point.    While Putin was far from the first to capitalize on the wealth of the formerly communist country, he turned the tables on Russia’s oligarchs, using the power of his office to put himself in control of their futures – and their fortunes.
    He installed his closest allies from St. Petersburg as a new class of oligarchs whose business riches became, effectively,     Putin’s own.    Today, while Putin declares a $123,000 salary, his actual wealth is as hard to imagine as it is to quantify.    Billions of dollars reportedly have passed through bank accounts of people close to him, with little way to gauge how much of that money really belongs to the president.
    And the final step of amassing riches goes beyond any one person’s bank account.    With public resources and entire industries effectively under Putin’s control, intelligence veterans say, his personal wealth has become indistinguishable from the wealth of Russia.
    “He’s clearly, obviously, been in a position where he can amass pretty much as much as he wants,” said Steven Hall, a onetime Moscow station chief who retired from the CIA in 2015 after 30 years of running and managing intelligence operations in Central Eurasia and Latin America.
    “There may be a sort of quibbling question with regard to when Putin, for example, builds one of these huge castles … whether he paid for that out of his quote-unquote personal funds or if he simply used Russia as his personal bank account,” Hall said.
    “But that might be sort of a distinction without much of a difference.”
‘The biggest organized crime boss on the face of the earth’
    The web of holdings linked to Putin throughout the world make those of the world’s other tyrants and tycoons look small in comparison, according to David Asher, who has helped lead many of the U.S. government’s economic and financial pressure campaigns against defiant states, terrorist organizations, drug cartels and weapons proliferation networks over the past 25 years, including those targeting Iran, North Korea, the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.
    “He has run his financial affairs in a way that’s totally consistent with the biggest organized crime boss on the face of the earth,” said Asher, a former State Department and Pentagon official.
    “His networks are highly sophisticated, and they are set up in a way that is very difficult for the world to disrupt them.     They’re so vast in scale and scope that it is almost mind blowing when you look at them.”
    Perhaps the most notorious byproduct of that is “Putin’s Palace,” the Black Sea villa that political adversaries say was built under the president’s direct supervision and may be worth more than $1 billion.
    Other riches, according to investigators and Russian political opponents, include perhaps 20 palaces and villas across Russia and Europe, 43 aircraft and various yachts, including the 459-foot Scheherazade.
    Experts also believe Putin has taken care to amass an overseas stash of personal assets in case his political support dries up.    Estimates vary widely, in part because it may sit in the names of relatives, associates and layers of anonymous front companies.
    All of Putin’s strategic wealth-building and protection, Asher, Greenaway and other former U.S. officials say, depends on a core group around him.    That group’s origins are intertwined with the roots of Putin’s political career and the place where his empire began.
The first step: Riches of St. Petersburg
    After the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Vladimir Putin returned to the city of his birth.
    More than 100,000 KGB agents were dismissed as the Soviet Union broke up. Putin, though, remained with the spy agency after leaving his five-year posting in Dresden, East Germany.    It was there, running agents from West Germany, that he encountered the kinds of material riches that most Russians never see.
    In the early 1990s, St. Petersburg was considered a Wild West of sorts, a “state within a state” where the KGB was all-powerful and, investigators say, worked closely with black-market mafias.
    Men in St. Petersburg then, like Gennady Timchenko, Yury Kovalchuk and Vladimir Smirnov, would later become some of Putin’s closest friends and allies.
    He first oversaw foreign relations at his alma mater, Leningrad University, and soon became a chief aide to St. Petersburg’s mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, who needed someone to liaison with the federal security services.
    As deputy mayor, Putin had a broad portfolio, including the new position of promoting foreign relations and trade with the West in the post-Communist era.    But his close associations with former spy colleagues and known organized crime figures raised concerns among some city officials.
    “Everyone knew … that Putin was there as KGB and was watching over Sobchak,” St. Petersburg City Council member Nikolai Andruschenko would later say in an investigative documentary, “Who is Mr. Putin?
    At the time, St. Petersburg – Russia’s second-largest city – was in many ways more strategic than the landlocked capital, Moscow.    It had a thriving seaport at the head of the Gulf of Finland and lucrative oil terminals from which the country’s richest resource was shipped to Europe and beyond. Other natural resources also flowed through the port and the Pulkovo international airport for sale in the West.
    So, when Putin offered to raise money for food by issuing export licenses for the sale of a quota of those raw materials, political leadership in Moscow gave their enthusiastic approval.
    But when little or no food arrived, city official Marina Salye investigated.
    “I learned that we had allocated quotas for timber, oil, metals, rare metals and aluminum for barter,” Salye said in a videotaped interview.
    “Licenses were issued by the St. Petersburg Committee on External Economic Relations – that is, by Putin,” Salye added.    “Then the goods left for abroad, but the foodstuffs … never arrived.”
    Salye concluded that as much as $122 million overseen by Putin had disappeared. Further investigation suggested that as much as $900 million from other quota contracts orchestrated by Putin and associates also had vanished – and that he had earned commissions worth millions of dollars on those too, according to numerous sources.
    The investigations turned up no evidence that Putin had benefited personally.    But he was widely suspected of receiving kickbacks too from the companies that made a fortune by getting contracts from him to sell off Russian resources overseas, Salye and others said.
    Putin would later deny any wrongdoing, suggesting in one videotaped interview that the export quota contracts were never issued.    But Salye kept documentation of everything, including contracts with Putin’s signatures on them.
    Putin eventually would be tied to numerous other alleged scams in St. Petersburg, connected to the city’s fast-growing casino and gambling industry and other businesses that sprang up as the country moved from communism to capitalism.
    When his boss Sobchak lost his bid for reelection in June 1996, Putin was recruited by top federal bureaucrat Pavel Borodin to be his deputy, managing all of the Kremlin’s vast business and property holdings.
    In Moscow, Putin was responsible for overseeing the foreign property of the state and the organized transfer of the former assets of the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation.    In other words, it was a license to steal, and an opportunity to sell off “anything from buildings to art, all of that stuff” for a cut of the proceeds, Hall said.
    Putin was also working for Borodin when he was allegedly handing out inflated contracts for a $1 billion-plus renovation of the Grand Kremlin Palace complex.
    The scandal became public when Swiss authorities launched a sweeping fraud and money laundering investigation that initially focused on a Swiss construction company, Mabetex, accused of making many secret million-dollar payments into the Swiss bank accounts of leading Russian officials in exchange for those refurbishment contracts.
    Borodin received more than $25 million in commissions for awarding the contracts, according to documents produced by investigators in Switzerland.    In all, $62.5 million was paid in bribes for contracts worth $492 million on the project, with some of it distributed to friends and fellow Kremlin officials, including then-President Boris Yeltsin and his influential daughters, Swiss authorities alleged.    In July 1998, the ailing Yeltsin and his daughters elevated Putin, a relatively obscure functionary, to the position of director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor state security organization to the KGB.    A year later, Putin was appointed prime minister, or Yeltsin’s top deputy and heir apparent.    Yeltsin soon stepped down, which made Putin president on Dec. 31, 1999, and allowed him to coast to victory in the election that March.
    Putin’s activities in St. Petersburg and at the Kremlin were a springboard in his rise to the pinnacle of Russian government.    So were his successful efforts to block investigations of those activities.
    Numerous St. Petersburg officials would ultimately go public in accusing Putin of establishing a highly developed racketeering enterprise and monetizing his relationships with contacts in both the KGB and the criminal underworld.
    Salye, the former city official who investigated the exports-for-food licensing deal, made public her findings and openly called for Putin to resign.
    “The firms were obviously completely fake, phony,” Salye said during a videotaped interview later included in the “Who is Mr. Putin?” documentary, which was released by Radio Free Europe.
    Salye revived her allegations against Putin just as he was assuming the presidency, backing them up with evidence from her investigation.    A decade later, she revealed she had been in hiding ever since.
    “I have everything in my files,” Salye told a reporter who visited her remote hideaway.    She fled in 2000, she said, because she believed “they’re going to kill me.”
    Two years later, just weeks after again criticizing Putin publicly, Salye died, at 77, of a heart attack that some associates said was suspicious.
    Another corruption investigation into Putin’s activities in St. Petersburg had been launched by the major fraud section of the regional government.
    As soon as Putin became president, Russia’s top prosecutor shut down the case, and the chief investigator, Lt. Col. Andrei Zykov, was fired.
    That same month, Swiss authorities issued an arrest warrant for Borodin in the Mabetex probe.    Putin appointed him secretary of state overseeing the new union between Russia and Belarus, protecting him from prosecution.
    Another of his first acts as president was to grant Yeltsin immunity.
    Borodin would later be arrested in New York on money laundering charges but released – mostly because of lack of cooperation from Russian officials, Swiss authorities said.
    Putin moved quickly to consolidate power with the help of his former KGB network known as the “siloviki,” the Russian term for security strongmen.    He launched a major reorganization of the FSB that would give it broader powers and placed it under his direct control.
    The new president also began using his insider knowledge of what Russia owns – at home and internationally – for his personal benefit.
    “Because he’s the president of Russia, he can now avail himself of just enormous amounts of property and perks that technically belong to the Kremlin; the leased planes and dachas and ships and all kinds of things,” Putin biographer and former U.S. intelligence analyst Fiona Hill said in an interview.
    And he knew exactly how to access it, she said, “because he was the head of the Kremlin property agency.”
    Many Russians initially looked to Putin as their savior from the oligarchs who had snapped up the nation’s industries and resources during the rush from communism to capitalism.
    Putin, they believed, was the dynamic young leader needed to bring the oligarchs to heel.
    As businessman Sergey Kolesnikov would later write in a whistleblower letter, “How wrong we were.”
About this series
    A USA TODAY report examines the multistep process that made President Vladimir Putin one of the richest people in the world.
    Today: From small beginnings as a port city bureaucrat, Putin laid the framework for a wealthy future.
    Tuesday: As president, Putin turned the tables on Russia’s oligarchs.    Then he built a new ruling class.
    Wednesday: With the resources of an entire country at his direction, Putin’s wealth and Russia’s may be impossible to separate.
Evacuations underway
    Authorities say it’s safe for Mariupol residents to leave.
Warships take part in Russia’s Navy Day in 2021 in St. Petersburg,
where Putin’s political career began. ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Anatoly Sobchak, then the mayor of St. Petersburg, left, stands with Putin in 1994. DMITRI LOVETSKY/AP

Putin’s empire is believed to include the 459-foot yacht Scheherazade,
docked in Tuscany, Italy, in March. FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

A container ship at the port of St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2018. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s top aide Pavel Borodin, right,
recruited Vladimir Putin to be his deputy in June 1996. AP

Timchenko

5/3/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ONSLAUGHT RESUMES - Civilians rescued from plant head for safety by Cara Anna and Inna Varenytsia, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Inna, 37, shows her burnt house, on Monday in Fenevychi, Ukraine. The communities north of Kyiv
were in the path of Russia’s devastating but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seize
the Ukrainian capital with forces deployed from Belarus, a Russian ally. ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES
    Russia resumed pulverizing the Mariupol steel mill that has become the last stronghold of resistance in the bombed-out city, Ukrainian fighters said Monday, after a brief cease-fire over the weekend allowed the first evacuation of civilians from the plant.
    Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official warned that Russia is planning to annex large portions of eastern Ukraine this month and recognize the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic.
    Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that those suspected actions are “straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook” and will not be recognized by the United States or its allies.
    In Mariupol, more than 100 people – including elderly women and mothers with small children – left the rubble-strewn Azovstal steelworks on Sunday and set out in buses and ambulances for the Ukrainian- controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles to the northwest, according to authorities and video released by the two sides.
    Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC that the evacuees were making slow progress and would probably not arrive in Zaporizhzhia on Monday as hoped.    Authorities gave no explanation for the delay.
    At least some of the civilians were apparently taken to a village controlled by Russia-backed separatists.    The Russian military said some chose to stay in separatist areas, while dozens left for Ukrainian-held territory.
    In the past, Ukraine has accused Moscow’s troops of taking civilians against their will to Russia or Russian controlled areas.    The Kremlin has denied it.
    The Russian bombardment of the sprawling plant by air, tank and ship picked up again after the partial evacuation, Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, which is helping to defend the mill, said on the Telegram messaging app.
    Orlov said high-level negotiations were underway among Ukraine, Russia and international organizations on evacuating more people.
    The steel-plant evacuation, if successful, would represent rare progress in easing the human cost of the almost 10-week war, which has caused particular suffering in Mariupol.    Previous attempts to open safe corridors out of the southern port city and other places have broken down, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces of shooting and shelling along agreed-on evacuation routes.
    Before the weekend evacuation, overseen by the United Nations and the Red Cross, about 1,000 civilians were believed to be in the plant along with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders.    Russia has demanded that the fighters surrender; they have refused.
    As many as 100,000 people overall may still be in Mariupol, which had a prewar population of more than 400,000.    Russian forces have pounded much of the city into rubble, trapping civilians with little food, water, heat or medicine.
    Some Mariupol residents got out of the city on their own, often in damaged private cars.
    As sunset approached, Mariupol resident Yaroslav Dmytryshyn rattled up to a reception center in Zaporizhzhia in a car with a back seat full of youngsters and two signs taped to the back window: “Children” and “Little ones.”
    “I can’t believe we survived,” he said, looking worn but in good spirits after two days on the road.     “There is no Mariupol whatsoever,” he said.    “Someone needs to rebuild it, and it will take millions of tons of gold.”    He said they lived just across the railroad tracks from the steel plant.    “Ruined,” he said.    “The factory is gone completely.”
    Anastasiia Dembytska, who took advantage of the cease-fire to leave with her daughter, nephew and dog, said she could see the steelworks from her window, when she dared to look out.
    “We could see the rockets flying” and clouds of smoke over the plant, she said.    With most of Mariupol in ruins, a majority of the dozen Russian battalion tactical groups that had been around the city have moved north to other battlefronts in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the Pentagon’s assessment.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said he hoped more people would be able to leave Mariupol in an organized evacuation on Monday.    The city council told residents wanting to leave to gather at a shopping mall to wait for buses.
    Zelenskyy told Greek state television that remaining civilians in the steel plant were afraid to board buses because they feared they would be taken to Russia.    He said he had been assured by the U.N. that they would be allowed to go to areas his government controls.
    Also Monday, Zelenskyy said that at least 220 Ukrainian children have been killed by the Russian army since the war began, and 1,570 educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged.
    In other developments, European Union energy ministers met Monday to discuss new sanctions against the Kremlin, which could include restrictions on Russian oil.    Some Russia-dependent members of the 27-nation bloc, including Hungary and Slovakia, are wary of taking tough action.
    Thwarted in his bid to seize Kyiv, the capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shifted his focus to the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.
    Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, cited information that Russia is planning “sham referenda” in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” that would attach the entities to Russia.    He also said there were signs that Russia would engineer an independence vote in Kherson.
    He noted that local mayors and legislators there have been abducted, that internet and cellphone service had been severed and that a Russian school curriculum is soon to be imposed.    Ukraine’s government has said Russia also has introduced the ruble as currency there.
    Russia said Monday it struck dozens of military targets in the region in the past day.    It said it hit concentrations of troops and weapons and an ammunition depot near Chervone in the Zaporizhzhia region, west of the Donbas.
    Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow’s troops are raining fire indiscriminately, taking a heavy toll on civilians while making only slow progress.
    The governor of the Odesa region along the Black Sea Coast, Maksym Marchenko, said on Telegram that a Russian missile strike Monday on an Odesa infrastructure target caused deaths and injuries.    He gave no details.    Zelenskyy said the attack destroyed a dormitory and killed a 14-year-old boy.
    Ukraine said Russia also struck a strategic road and rail bridge west of Odesa.    The bridge was heavily damaged in previous Russian strikes, and its destruction would cut a supply route for weapons and other cargo from neighboring Romania.
    The attack on Odessa came eight years to the day after deadly clashes between Ukrainian government supporters and protesters calling for autonomy in the country’s east.    The government supporters in 2014 firebombed a trade union building containing pro-autonomy demonstrators, killing over 40 people.
    Also Monday, Ukraine claimed to have destroyed two small Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea.
    Mariupol, which lies in the Donbas, is key to Russia’s campaign in the east.    Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops for fighting elsewhere.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry said it believes more than a quarter of all the fighting units Russia has deployed in Ukraine are now “combat ineffective” – unable to fight because of loss of troops or equipment.
    Push to arm Ukraine puts strain on U.S. stockpile.
    Death in Kharkiv is everywhere, rarely explained.
A local man gestures next to a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

RPG shells lie Monday in the hall of a destroyed school in Mariupol, in territory under
the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

5/3/2022 Death in Ukraine’s Kharkiv is everywhere, rarely explained - Russia has restricted reporting in combat zone by Felipe Dana, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KHARKIV, Ukraine – The outskirts of Kharkiv have the feel of an open-air morgue, where the dead lie unclaimed and unexplained, sometimes for weeks on end, as Ukrainian and Russian forces fight for control of slivers of land.
    There is the charred body of a man, unidentifiable, propped on an anti-tank barrier made of crossed I-beams outside a town that has been under the control of both sides in recent days.    There are the dead soldiers, apparently Russian, four of them arranged in a Z like the military symbol found on Russian armored vehicles, visible to the Russian drones that continuously buzz overhead.    The door to an apartment opens to three bodies inside.
    Precisely how any of this happened will likely never be known.
    Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been under sustained Russian attack since the beginning of the war in late February.    With the Russian offensive intensifying in the east, the Russian onslaught has grown fiercer.
    Considered a strategic and industrial prize, territory on the eastern city’s outskirts has gone back and forth between Russian and Ukrainian forces for weeks now as the fighting shifts from village to village.
    Many, but by no means all, of Kharkiv’s 1 million residents have fled.
    Associated Press journalists saw the bodies formed into a Z, wearing the white arm bands commonly used by Russian soldiers, and with some Russian medical kits alongside them.    They were found on a front line where fighting had been taking place for days.    They, along with the burned man, were taken to a morgue on Monday.    There was no explanation for the Z formation – a symbol of the Russian invasion – nor the burned body propped on the barrier.    Either could be considered a war crime, for disrespecting the dignity of the dead.
    Next will come the investigation into their identities, maybe an attempt to notify family.
    But even that is hard to untangle.    The body of a man with Ukrainian insignia turned out to have the identity papers of a Russian soldier.    The apartment where the three bodies were found had been badly shelled, but it wasn’t clear what killed them.
    Shelling and airstrikes are a daily threat everywhere here, to everyone.    And, as long as that remains true, death can come at any time, without anyone around to answer why.
    It was a rare glimpse into the death and atrocities of the war. Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for journalists to move around.
    Russia has severely restricted reporting in the combat zone; Ukraine’s government has imposed fewer limits, mostly on how quickly material can be published or about military installations.
    In Washington on Monday, a senior U.S. defense official said Ukrainian forces had over the last 48 hours succeeded in pushing Russian forces further away from Kharkiv, even as it came under Russian aerial bombardment.    The Russians have now been pushed some 25 miles to the east of the city, further into the Donbas region, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment.
    According to the Red Cross, mutilating dead bodies in international armed conflicts is covered by the war crime of “committing outrages upon personal dignity” under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which according to the Elements of Crimes also applies to dead persons.

5/3/2022 Russians repair bridge blown up near Ukraine by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Teams of workers strove Monday to repair a bridge in southwestern Russia near the border with Ukraine that was damaged in what a local governor described as an act of sabotage.
    The regional administration said it expects the repair work will be completed Wednesday.
    Kursk regional Gov. Roman Starovoit said Sunday that the bridge was blown up by unidentified attackers and the Investigative Committee, Russia’s top state investigative agency, has launched a criminal probe into what it described as a “terrorist act.”
    Officials didn’t specify the significance of the bridge for the war, but it sits on a key railway link used to ferry supplies to Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the bridge, that follows a series of explosions and fires in western Russia amid the war in Ukraine that has entered a third month.
    On April 1, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships struck an oil depot in Belgorod, according to Russian officials, causing a massive fire.
    A week ago, a massive blaze erupted at an oil depot in the western city of Bryansk owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft that operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude to Europe.    The fire didn’t cause any disruption in oil deliveries.    On the same day, another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire.    And on Wednesday, several explosions rocked a huge ammunition depot in the Belgorod region, sparking a huge fire.
    Ukraine hasn’t officially taken responsibility for the incidents, and the Russian officials also haven’t publicly ascribed those to Ukrainian attacks, apart from the April 1 incident.
    “The frequency of explosions in Russia and their targeting speaks better than any words about who benefits from it.    But Ukraine does not want to take responsibility for the sabotage and remains silent,” Nikolai Sungurovsky, a military analyst at Ukraine’s Razumkov Center, told AP.
    “For all the obviousness of the situation, it is extremely unprofitable for Ukraine to take responsibility for sabotage and explosions in Russia, because then Kyiv risks losing the status of a ‘victim of aggression’ and this will create difficulties in international courts,” Vladimir Fesenko, an analyst at the Penta Center, told AP.    “Ukrainian lawyers are already preparing multi-volume materials for international courts in order to demand multibillion-dollar compensation from Russia for damage from aggression.”    Last week, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak hinted at Ukraine’s involvement although he stopped short of claiming responsibility.    He noted in a messaging app post that the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kursk regions that border Ukraine hosted depots serving the invasion and adding that “karma is a harsh thing.”
    “If you, Russians, decided to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush civilians with tanks and use warehouses in your regions to provide for these killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” Podolyak wrote Wednesday.    “Given the intensity and scale of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, it will not be possible to sit it out.”
    Explosions were frequently heard in Russian regions bordering Ukraine, drawing a stream of gleeful comments on social platforms in Ukraine.
    Earlier Monday, Belgorod region Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said that loud bangs heard in the region overnight came from a Russian airstrike in Ukraine, not “by something that flew to us from Ukrainian territory.”
This image released on April 14 by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reportedly shows Russian military vehicles
heading toward Izyum, over a destroyed bridge in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA AP

5/4/2022 Slovakia, Hungary won’t back Russian oil sanctions - Dependence too great with no alternatives by Karel Janicek, Justin Spike and Derek Gatopoulos, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BUDADPEST, Hungary – Slovakia and Hungary said Tuesday that they will not support sanctions against Russian energy that the European Union is preparing over the war in Ukraine, saying they are too reliant on those supplies and there are no immediate alternatives.
    The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, has drafted new proposals for sanctions, which could include a phased-in embargo on Russian oil.    The 27 member countries are likely to start discussing them Wednesday, but it could be several days before the measures take effect.
    EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that the commission wants to hit more banks, target those accused of spreading disinformation about the war, and “tackle oil imports.”    It’s not clear whether Slovakia and Hungary would receive exemptions.
    Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulik said the country’s sole refiner, Slovnaft, cannot immediately switch from Russian crude to another kind of oil.    Changing the technology would take several years, Sulik said.
    “So, we will insist on the exemption, for sure,” Sulik told reporters.
    Slovakia is almost fully dependent on Russian oil it receives through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.    Hungary is also heavily reliant, though Germany, another major energy importer, said it could cope if the EU banned Russian oil, with officials still noting that “it is a heavy load to bear.”
    Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the country will not vote for any sanctions “that will make the transport of natural gas or oil from Russia to Hungary impossible.”
    “The point is simple, that Hungary’s energy supply cannot be endangered because no one can expect us to allow the price of the war (in Ukraine) to be paid by Hungarians,” Szijjarto said Tuesday in Kazakhstan.    “It is currently physically impossible for Hungary and its economy to function without Russian oil.”
    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has developed a reputation as Putin’s closest ally in the EU.
    Orban has deepened dependence on Russian fossil fuels, noting that 85% of Hungary’s gas and more than 60% of its oil comes from Russia.
    Despite disagreement among EU members on new energy sanctions, European Council President Charles Michel vowed to “break the Russian war machine” by steering countries on the continent away from Russia’s natural gas supplies.
    The bloc is racing to secure alternative supplies to Russian energy, placing priority on global LNG imports from countries that include major producers like Algeria, Qatar and the United States.    That includes liquefied natural gas facilities being built in northern Greece.
    “We are also sanctioning Russia to put financial, economic and political pressure on the Kremlin because our goal is simple: We must break the Russian war machine,” Michel said.
European Council President Charles Michel has vowed to “break the Russian war machine” by steering countries
away from Russia’s natural gas supplies. DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS/GREEK PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE VIA AP

5/4/2022 RUSSIA STORMS MARIUPOL PLANT - After days of dread and despair, evacuees reach safety from bombed-out area by Cara Anna and Yesica Fisch, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Russian forces Tuesday began storming the steel mill containing the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, Ukrainian defenders said, just as scores of civilians evacuated from the bombed-out plant reached relative safety and told of days and nights filled with dread and despair from constant shelling.
  • Osnat Lubrani, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said that thanks to the evacuation effort over the weekend, 101 people – including women, the elderly, and 17 children, the youngest 6 months old – were able to emerge from the bunkers under the Azovstal steelworks and “see the daylight after two months.”    One evacuee said she went to sleep at the plant every night afraid she wouldn’t wake up.
ABOVE: A destroyed residential building is seen Tuesday in Borodyanka, Ukraine. The communities north of Kyiv were in the path of Russia’s
ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seize the capital with forces deployed from Russian ally Belarus. ANASTASIA VLASOVA/GETTY IMAGES
    “You can’t imagine how scary it is when you sit in the shelter, in a wet and damp basement which is bouncing, shaking,” 54-year-old Elina Tsybulchenko said upon arriving in the Ukrainian- controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles northwest of Mariupol, in a convoy of buses and ambulances.
    She said if the shelter were hit by a bomb like the ones that left the huge craters she saw on the two occasions she ventured outside, “all of us would be done.”
    Evacuees, a few of whom were in tears, made their way from the buses into a tent offering some of the comforts long denied them during their weeks underground, including hot food, diapers and connections to the outside world.    Mothers fed small children.     Some of the evacuees browsed racks of donated clothing, including new underwear.
    The news for those left behind was more grim. Ukrainian commanders said Russian forces backed by tanks began storming the sprawling plant, which includes a maze of tunnels and bunkers spread out over 4 square miles.
    How many Ukrainian fighters were holed up inside was unclear, but the Russians put the number at about 2,000 in recent weeks, and 500 were reported to be wounded.    A few hundred civilians also remained there, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
    “We’ll do everything that’s possible to repel the assault, but we’re calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians that remain inside the plant and to bring them out safely,” Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said on the messaging app Telegram.
    He added that throughout the night, the plant was hit with naval artillery fire and airstrikes.    Two civilian women were killed and 10 civilians wounded, he said.
    The U.N.’s Lubrani expressed hope for further evacuations but said none had been worked out.
    In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that by storming the steel mill, Russian forces violated agreements for safe evacuations.
    He said the prior evacuations are “not a victory yet, but it’s already a result.    I believe there’s still a chance to save other people.”
    In other battlefield developments, Russian troops shelled a chemical plant in the eastern city of Avdiivka, killing at least 10 people, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
    “The Russians knew exactly where to aim – the workers just finished their shift and were waiting for a bus at a bus stop to take them home,” Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post.    “Another cynical crime by Russians on our land.”
    Explosions were also heard in Lviv, in western Ukraine, near the Polish border. The strikes damaged three power substations, knocking out electricity in parts of the city and disrupting the water supply, and wounded two people, the mayor said.    Lviv has been a gateway for NATO-supplied weapons and a haven for those fleeing the fighting in the east.
    A rocket also struck an infrastructure facility in a mountainous area in Transcarpathia, a region in far western Ukraine that borders Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, authorities said.    There was no immediate word of any casualties.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian aircraft and artillery hit hundreds of targets in the past day, including troop strongholds, command posts, artillery positions, fuel and ammunition depots and radar equipment.
    Ukrainian authorities said the Russians also attacked at least a half-dozen railroad stations around the country.
    The assault on the Azovstal steelworks began almost two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military not to storm the plant to finish off the defenders but to seal it off.    The first – and so far only – civilians to be evacuated from the shattered plant got out during a brief cease-fire in an operation overseen by the U.N. and the Red Cross.
    At a reception center in Zaporizhzhia, stretchers and wheelchairs were lined up, and children’s shoes and toys awaited the convoy.    Medical and psychological teams were on standby.
    Some of the elderly evacuees appeared exhausted as they arrived.    Some of the younger people, especially mothers comforting babies and other young children, appeared relieved.
    “I’m very glad to be on Ukrainian soil,” said a woman who gave only her first name, Anna, and arrived with two children, ages 1 and 9.    “We thought we wouldn’t get out of there, frankly speaking.”
    A small group of women held up signs in English asking that fighters also be evacuated from the steel plant.
    The arrival of the evacuees was a rare piece of good news in the nearly 10-week conflict that has killed thousands, forced millions to flee the country, laid waste to towns and cities, and shifted the post-Cold War balance of power in Eastern Europe.
    “Over the past days, traveling with the evacuees, I have heard mothers, children and frail grandparents speak about the trauma of living day after day under unrelenting heavy shelling and the fear of death, and with extreme lack of water, food and sanitation,” Lubrani said.    “They spoke of the hell they have experienced.”
    In addition to the 101 people evacuated from the steelworks, 58 joined the convoy in a town on the outskirts of Mariupol, Lubrani said.    About 30 people who left the plant decided to stay behind in Mariupol to try to find out whether their loved ones were alive, Lubrani said.    A total of 127 evacuees arrived in Zaporizhzhia, she said.
    The Russian military said earlier that some of the evacuees chose to stay in areas held by pro-Moscow separatists.
    Tsybulchenko rejected Russian allegations that the Ukrainian fighters wouldn’t allow civilians to leave the plant.    She said the Ukrainian military told civilians that they were free to go but would be risking their lives if they did so.
    “We understood clearly that under these murder weapons, we wouldn’t survive, we wouldn’t manage to go anywhere,” she said.    Mariupol has come to symbolize the human misery inflicted by the war.    The Russians’ two-month siege of the strategic southern port has trapped civilians with little or no food, water, medicine or heat, as Moscow’s forces pounded the city into rubble.    The plant in particular has transfixed the outside world.
    After failing to take Kyiv in the early weeks of the war, Russia withdrew from around the capital and announced that its chief objective was the capture of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.
    Mariupol lies in the region, and its fall would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops for fighting elsewhere in the Donbas.
    But so far, Russia’s troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains in the eastern offensive.
    Ukraine’s resistance has been significantly bolstered by Western arms, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced $375 million in new military aid, including radar, drones and armored vehicles.
    In a speech delivered remotely to Ukraine’s parliament, he pronounced the battle Ukraine’s “finest hour,” echoing the words of Winston Churchill during World War II.
    “Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free,” Johnson said.
Orlyanske, left, hugs his wife, Kolya, next to their car as they arrive from Vasylivka to a reception center for displaced people in
Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Thousands of Ukrainians continue to leave Russian-occupied areas. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

Arina Pasko, 8, left, and Veronika Martynenko, 6, right, sit on a wooden bunk in an air raid shelter following an alert on Tuesday
in Lviv, Ukraine. The city has served as a haven for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES

5/5/2022 Zelenskyy: Russia’s advance was halted
    Ukraine has stopped Russia’s military advance and will not sign a peace deal that would allow Russian troops to remain in the country, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.
    Zelenskyy, speaking remotely to the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London, said that in some areas his troops are pushing forward and in others they are holding firm while awaiting military equipment needed to press ahead.
    “We are gaining ground and we are pushing away the Russian army,” he said.    “Therefore, not a single step back.”
    The Ukrainian leader said he wants to drive Russian forces back to their positions before the Feb. 24 invasion and then wants to use peace talks to regain control over the Crimean Peninsula that Russia seized in 2014.    Zelenskyy insisted that “we will not accept a frozen conflict” that may allow Russian forces to stay in occupied Ukrainian territory.
    Zelenskyy warned executives at the summit that Russia can’t be trusted by businesses since it can’t be trusted by other countries.
    “It seems to you that you have a business with Russia … a profitable business,” he said.    “But one day you wake up to find a rocket is flying toward you from Russia, and everything changes.    It’s not possible to do business with someone who tomorrow, instead of payment, will simply send rockets toward you.”
AP investigation: Almost 600 civilians died in theater bombing
    Evidence suggests close to 600 civilians died in the Russian airstrike on the Mariupol drama theater on March 16 that horrified the world and helped galvanize support for Ukraine’s effort to repel the invasion, according to an Associated Press investigation.
    The theater had been used as a bomb shelter in the early days of Russia’s siege of the port city and had large warnings visible from the sky reading “children” in Russian.
    AP’s death total is twice the city government’s estimate and marks the deadliest single known attack against civilians in the war.    AP said its journalists drew on accounts of 23 survivors, rescuers and people intimately familiar with the shelter operating at the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater.    It also used two sets of floor plans of the theater, photos and video taken inside before, during and after that day.
    Most witnesses said about 1,000 people were in the theater at the time of the assault.
Ukrainian refugees wait in Mexico City, hoping for US entry
    Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees have fled to Mexico’s capital in hopes of entering the United States next.    About 500 Ukrainians were waiting in a Mexico City refugee camp Tuesday, with 50 to 100 more arriving each day.    The camp, set up with large tents across a dusty field, has only been open a week.
    Over 5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded.    The U.S. in March pledged to accept 100,000 Ukrainians and individuals who have been displaced due to the war, and the Biden administration extended the eligibility for Ukrainians for temporary protected status in mid-April, which allows them to stay in the U.S. for 18 months and apply for work permits.    On April 21, President Joe Biden announced a new program to streamline the process for Ukrainian refugees to enter the U.S.
    Giorgi Mikaberidze, 19, arrived in Tijuana on April 25 but found the U.S. border closed.    He went from being just yards from the United States to some 600 miles away in the Mexico City area.    He said he traveled to Mexico alone.    “It’s very difficult to wait,” he said.    “We don’t know how the program will work.”
    Contributing: John Bacon, Celina Tebor and Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

5/5/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - Putin’s endgame could be long, grinding slog - Russia seeks any victories to justify cost of invasion by Maureen Groppe and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
A storage building burns after shells hit Temyrivka, Ukraine. There are no
firefighters in the village, which was evacuated. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    As the United States and its allies rush more cannons, tanks and ammunition to Ukraine, Russia’s diminished military is looking for victories to justify the huge cost of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
    Putin hopes to gain in eastern Ukraine and parts of the Black Sea coastline.    If successful, he could claim he met an initial objective of securing the Donbas area contested by Ukrainians and Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
    If Russia exhausts Ukrainian defenses there, Putin might force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the negotiating table, giving Russia time to rebuild its military for a renewed push on the rest of the country.
    Through $1.6 billion in military aid announced last month and visits to Ukraine by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the United States is trying to help block that option.
    Calling the next few weeks pivotal, a Defense Department official said Russia will “have some real decisions to make” if its new offensive doesn’t succeed.
    What happens in the next month, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, could determine security conditions in Europe for a generation.
    Even if Putin continues to be thwarted in his attempt to take over Ukraine, the war could settle into a long-term, low-level conflict as Russian troops remain in parts of the country.    Their presence would be a destabilizing force as Russia prepares for a new opportunity.
    “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said when asked how he would define success in Ukraine.
    President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve an additional $33 billion in military, economic, humanitarian and other assistance to Ukraine.    That would more than triple the amount the United States has committed to the cause.
    The funding is intended to meet the needs of the Ukrainian military “during the crucial weeks and months ahead,” Biden said, as well as begin a transition to longer-term security assistance to help Ukraine deter and defend against Russian aggression.
    Dmitri Alperovitch, the Russian born American chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a public policy nonprofit, said the focus in Ukraine’s south and east is the last major offensive Russia’s military can undertake for a while.
    This phase of the war, Alperovitch said in an online salon organized by the Defense Priorities think tank, is likely to end “one way or another” in the next four to five weeks.
    If Russia’s military can enlarge its holdings in Donbas and connect the area to Crimea, creating a strategic corridor between the Crimean Peninsula and Russian positions in eastern Ukraine, that could allow Putin to claim a victory he can sell to the Russian public, said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and professor of international affairs at Georgetown University.
    “The death and destruction that’s taken place in Ukraine, the atrocities, the dislocation of millions of families, all of this makes it less and less likely that this war will end with a formal settlement,” he said.    “It’s hard for me to imagine that Zelenskyy’s room for a political maneuver and Putin’s room for political maneuver overlap.”
    The result might be a years-long territorial dispute with low-level military conflict, as has happened in other areas of interest to Russia.
    “Historically speaking, these wars in the Russian periphery end with frozen conflicts,” Kupchan said.    “Russian troops have a tendency to show up and not go home.”
    After fighting a war with Georgia in 2008, Russia recognized the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent.    It maintains a military presence there and provides financial support.
    Similarly, Russian troops have been stationed for decades as “peacekeepers” in Transnistria, a pro-Russia breakaway region of Moldova.
    Putin uses frozen conflicts in former Soviet republics to upset their development and prevent them from aligning with the West, according to experts.
    Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February – aiming to topple the capital of Kyiv – Russian and proxy forces held about 35% of the territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of Donbas, according to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a William Perry Fellow at Stanford University.
    Taking over all of Donbas might be Putin’s new endgame, Pifer said, but Russia’s ability to do so is debatable.
    “There’s still a significant portion of the Ukrainian military in that territory,” he said.     The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in an analysis April 18 that Russian forces may gain ground in the east through the heavy concentration of firepower and the size of their forces.    Russia is unlikely to be dramatically more successful than major offensives around Kyiv, according to the analysis, because the military probably hasn’t fixed its underlying problems – poor coordination, the inability to conduct cross-country operations and low morale.
    “You can’t reform an army in a matter of a couple of weeks,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
    The United States increased its military assistance to include the type of weapons needed to fight back in eastern Ukraine, where artillery and armored vehicles are likely to play a central role.
    The Ukrainians’ greatest need is for long-range guns and rockets that can reach deep into Russian lines.    The terrain in eastern Ukraine is more open than that of the north where forests helped defenders ambush and thrash Russian convoys.
    “The open flatlands provide some advantage to the Russian army,” said Garret Martin, an expert on trans-Atlantic relations at American University, “but it exposes them as well.”
    Biden announced on April 21 an $800 million military aid package that includes 72 howitzer artillery cannons.    That came days after a separate $800 million batch of weapons included 18 howitzers.    With 90 cannons, the Ukrainian army can outfit about five artillery battalions.
    The howitzers have a range of about 15 miles or longer, depending on the type of shell they fire.    The aid package included 144,000 rounds of artillery ammunition.
    The Russians have a great deal of combat power inside Ukraine despite losing about 25% of those forces since the invasion began Feb. 24, according to the Pentagon.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met last month with Putin in Moscow and Zelenskyy in Kyiv.    While Guterres was in Ukraine, a Russian missile struck Kyiv, an attack Zelenskyy said was an attempt to “humiliate” the United Nations.
    Putin doesn’t appear to be looking for a way out of the conflict despite his major miscalculation on how events would unfold, experts said.    “I don’t see an offramp.    I don’t think Putin is interested in an off-ramp,” said Angela Stent, a senior adviser to the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies and author of “Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest.”
    Putin is “desperately looking for a big victory so Russia can dictate the terms of the negotiations,” said Zia Haque, director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Juniata College.
    “Putin feels like this is going to be his survival,” Haque said.    “He strongly feels that he cannot lose the war.    He cannot afford to lose it.”
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard

5/5/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ‘MISSILE TERRORISM’ - Russia using sea- and air-launched weapons in wide attacks against Ukrainian strongholds by Jon Gambrell and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Firefighters work at the site of an oil depot fire after missiles struck the facility in an area
controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday. AP
    LVIV, Ukraine – Complaining that the West is “stuffing Ukraine with weapons,” Russia bombarded railroad stations and other supply-line targets across the country, as the European Union moved to further punish Moscow for the war Wednesday by proposing a ban on oil imports.    Heavy fighting also raged at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol that represented the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined southern port city, according to the mayor.    But a Russian official denied Moscow’s troops were storming the plant, as Ukrainian commanders have claimed.
    The Russian military also said it used sea- and air-launched missiles to destroy electric power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also struck troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots.
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of “resorting to the missile terrorism tactics in order to spread fear across Ukraine.”
    Air raid sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night, and attacks were reported near Kyiv, the capital; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.    In Dnipro, authorities said a rail facility was hit.
    Videos on social media suggested a bridge there was attacked.
    There was no immediate word on casualties or the extent of the damage.
    Responding to the strikes in his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “All of these crimes will be answered, legally and quite practically – on the battlefield.”
    The flurry of attacks comes as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.
    The world is watching for whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the occasion to declare a victory in Ukraine or expand what he calls the “special military operation.”
    A declaration of all-out war would allow Putin to introduce martial law and mobilize reservists to make up for significant troop losses.    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the speculation as “nonsense.”
    Meanwhile, Belarus, which Russia used as a staging ground for its invasion, announced the start of military exercises Wednesday.    A top Ukrainian official said the country will be ready to act if Belarus joins the fighting.
    The attacks on rail infrastructure were meant to disrupt the delivery of Western weapons, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the West is “stuffing Ukraine with weapons.”
    A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said that while the Russians have tried to hit critical infrastructure around the western city of Lviv, specifically targeting railroads, there has been “no appreciable impact” on Ukraine’s effort to resupply its forces.    Lviv, close to the Polish border, has been a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.
    Weaponry pouring into Ukraine helped its forces thwart Russia’s initial drive to seize Kyiv and seems certain to play a central role in the growing battle for the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that Moscow now says is its main objective.
    Ukraine has urged the West to ramp up the supply of weapons ahead of that potentially decisive clash.    Chancellor Olaf Scholz of     Germany, which had been slow at first to help arm Ukraine, said his government is considering supplying howitzers, in addition to Gepard anti-aircraft guns and other equipment it has agreed to send.
    The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, which lies in the Donbas, said Russian attacks left 21 people dead on Tuesday, the highest number of known fatalities since April 8, when a missile attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk killed at least 59.
    In addition to supplying weapons to Ukraine, Europe and the U.S. have sought to punish Moscow with sanctions.    The EU’s top official called on the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday to ban Russian oil imports, a crucial source of revenue.
    “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
    The proposal needs unanimous approval from EU countries and is likely to be the subject of fierce debate.    Hungary and Slovakia have already said they won’t take part in any oil sanctions.    They could be granted an exemption.
    The EU is also talking about a possible embargo on Russian natural gas.    The bloc has already approved a cutoff of coal imports.
    Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas exports. Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said European purchases of Russian energy produce billions in revenue and support the Kremlin’s “war machine.”
    Von der Leyen also proposed that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks be disconnected from the SWIFT international banking payment system.
    In Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said that Russian forces were targeting the already shattered Azovstal plant with heavy artillery, tanks, aircraft, warships and “heavy bombs that pierce concrete 3 to 5 meters thick.”
    “Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult,” he said.
    Ukrainian fighters said Tuesday that Russian forces had begun storming the plant.    But the Kremlin said that was not true.    “There is no assault,” Peskov said.
    Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment that’s defending the plant, said Russian forces have broken into the plant’s territory.
    Prokopenko said in a video that the incursions continued for a second day, “and there are heavy, bloody battles.”
    “The situation is extremely difficult, but in spite of everything, we continue to carry out the order to hold the defense,” he added.
    His wife, Kateryna Prokopenko, told The Associated Press: “We don’t want them to die.    They won’t surrender.    They are waiting for the bravest countries to evacuate them.”     Meanwhile, the United Nations announced that more than 300 civilians were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and other nearby communities.    The evacuees arrived in Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles to the northwest, where they were receiving humanitarian assistance.
    “Many came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and we will now support them during this difficult time, including with much-needed psychological support,” said Osnat Lubrani, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.
    Over the weekend, more than 100 people were evacuated from the plant during a cease-fire in an operation overseen by the U.N. and the Red Cross.    But the attacks on the plant soon resumed.
A man cooks next to his house in Mariupol, in territory under the control
of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, on Wednesday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

5/6/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ‘SEEMED LIKE GOODBYE’ - Last Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol make their stand at battered steel plant by Jon Gambrell and Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A girl looks through the window of a car as her family arrives from Mariupol
at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday.
    LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian fighters in the tunnels underneath Mariupol’s pulverized steel plant held out against Russian troops Thursday in an increasingly desperate and perhaps doomed effort to deny Moscow what would be its biggest success of the war yet: the complete capture of the strategic port city.
    The bloody battle came amid growing speculation that President Vladimir Putin wants to present the Russian people with a battlefield triumph – or announce an escalation of the war – in time for Victory Day on Monday.    Victory Day is the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar, marking the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany.
    Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, were holed up at Mariupol’s sprawling Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of resistance in a city largely reduced to rubble over the past two months.    A few hundred civilians were also believed trapped there.
    The defenders will “stand till the end.    They only hope for a miracle,” Kateryna Prokopenko said after speaking by phone to her husband, a leader of the steel plant defenders.    “They won’t surrender.”
    She said her husband, Azov Regiment commander Denys Prokopenko, told her he would love her forever.
    “I am going mad from this.    It seemed like words of goodbye,” she said.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attack was preventing the evacuation of civilians remaining in the plant’s underground bunkers.
    “Just imagine this hell!    And there are children there,” he said late Thursday in his nightly video address.    “More than two months of constant shelling, bombing, constant death.”
    The Russians managed to get inside with the help of an electrician who knew the layout, said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry.
    “He showed them the underground tunnels which are leading to the factory,” Gerashchenko said in a video posted late Wednesday.    “Yesterday, the Russians started storming these tunnels, using the information they received from the betrayer.”
    The Kremlin denied its troops were storming the plant.
    The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin says is now its chief objective.
    Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, pleaded on Ukrainian TV for the evacuation of civilians and wounded fighters from the steelworks, saying soldiers were “dying in agony due to the lack of proper treatment.”
    The Kremlin has demanded the troops surrender.    They have refused.    Russia has also accused them of preventing the civilians from leaving.
    The head of the United Nations said another attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol and the plant was underway.    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes.”
    More than 100 civilians were rescued from the steelworks over the weekend. But many previous attempts to open safe corridors from Mariupol have fallen through, with Ukraine blaming shelling and firing by the Russians.
    Meanwhile, 10 weeks into the devastating war, Ukraine’s military claimed it recaptured some areas in the south and repelled other attacks in the east, further frustrating Putin’s ambitions after his abortive attempt to seize Kyiv.    Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting village by village.
    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian forces are making only “plodding” progress in the Donbas.
    The head of Britain’s armed forces, Chief of the Defense Staff Adm. Tony Radakin, said Putin is “trying to rush to a tactical victory” before Victory Day.    But he said Russian forces are struggling to gain momentum.
    Radakin told British broadcaster Talk TV that Russia is using missiles and weapons at such a rate that it is in a “logistics war” to keep supplied.    “This is going to be a hard slog,” he said.
    Fearful of new attacks surrounding Victory Day, the mayor of the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk urged residents to leave for the countryside over the long weekend and warned them not to gather in public places.
    And the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, a key transit point for evacuees from Mariupol, announced a curfew from Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.
    In other developments, Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an interview with The Associated Press but said he didn’t expect the conflict to “drag on this way.”
    Lukashenko, whose country was used by the Russians as a launch pad for the invasion, said Moscow had to act because Kyiv was “provoking” Russia.
    But he also created some distance between himself and the Kremlin, repeatedly calling for an end to the conflict and referring to it as a “war” – a term Moscow refuses to use.    It insists on calling the fighting a “special military operation.”
    Mariupol, which had a prewar population of over 400,000, has come to symbolize the misery inflicted by the war.    The siege of the city has trapped perhaps 100,000 civilians with little food, water, medicine or heat.
    As the battle raged there, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian bombardment Thursday hit dozens of Ukrainian military targets, including troop concentrations in the east, an artillery battery near the eastern settlement of Zarozhne, and rocket launchers near the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Teenagers on bicycles pass a bridge destroyed by shelling near Orihiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. PHOTOS BY EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

A Ukrainian sapper searches for unexploded ordnance near the remains of the Antonov An-225, the world’s biggest cargo aircraft,
which was destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, in Hostomel, Ukraine, on Thursday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

5/6/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - Life in occupied city: ‘We don’t want to live in Russia’ - Panicked residents flee as invading force raises fears of annexation by Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
People hold a Ukrainian flag with the message “Kherson is Ukraine” during a rally against Russian
occupation of the city March 20. Many worry the Russians plan a permanent stay. OLEXANDR CHORNYI/AP
    After six weeks under Russian occupation, Tetiana Danets decided it was time to flee her Ukrainian city of Kherson as the signs multiplied of Russia’s long-term control.
    The Russian currency was set to be introduced and reports mounted that a sham referendum would be held to legitimize Russian annexation, she said.    Military checkpoints are everywhere, and she began having panic attacks.
    “If we don’t go now ... we go never,” Danets, 22, told USA TODAY by phone Monday from Romania two weeks after she fled by car.    She couldn’t persuade her aging parents to join her.
    Kherson, a southern city of about 280,000 and home to ship-building industry on the Dnieper River, became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces March 2. Since then, Russia’s actions to cement control and warnings from U.S. and Ukrainian officials of possible annexation plans have ramped up fear and uncertainty in the strategic provincial capital.
    “It’s terrible for people.    We don’t want to live in Russia.    People are worried, they cry.    Many people leave Kherson, very many people,” Danets said.
    Last week, the city’s mayor was replaced with a Russian appointee, and Reuters reported that a pro-Ukraine protest was broken up on April 27, a date that Ukrainian officials had said could mark a referendum toward creating a breakaway region.
    Last weekend, Russia was scheduled to introduce its own currency.    An internet outage hit the city.    Service was restored but rerouted through Russian infrastructure, which is “likely now subject to Russian internet regulations, surveillance and censorship,” the internet service disruption monitor NetBlocks said on its website.
    On Monday, Michael Carpenter, the U.S. permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, warned of a push by Russia to “engineer a referendum” amid an effort to annex the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, along with Kherson.    That followed a British intelligence update that found Russia intends to “exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term.”
    For Russia, Kherson’s transport links are important to its war effort and for control over Crimea, the British report said.
    Fears about what that might mean – from the economic fallout to concerns that Russia intends to mobilize the population to support the war effort – have led more to flee Kherson.
    In Odesa, Kherson residents show up each day to an aid center for evacuees, Nikolay Viknianskiy, who helps lead the volunteer aid center effort, told USA TODAY.
    CNN reported a convoy of hundreds of people fled Kherson on Sunday, driving north toward the city of Kryvyi Rih.    Some vehicles had white cloths wrapped around the door handles and side mirrors and banners with the word “children” written on them.
    Oksana Hliebushkina, 41, who led a Kherson nongovernmental organization, said she felt in constant danger over two months of occupation amid shortages of medicine and streets that emptied out by the afternoon.    It was the internet cell service cutoff that followed rumors of a referendum that led her to leave Monday.
    “It was a difficult decision,” she said in a phone call Wednesday, lamenting that some residents had lost jobs and couldn’t afford to leave.
    Danets, a sports trainer, traveled the clogged roads before she made it through Russian checkpoints to Romania, spending a night in Mykolaiv when it was hit by a bomb.    She said she was grateful to be alive.
    Many are turned back from heading east, she said, and travel to Crimea and Georgia before flying to Europe.    Some can’t afford the expense, and others don’t want to leave homes and businesses.
    Kherson resident Vladyslava Kulik, 17, said that when the war began, she piled into a home with 12 relatives as explosions boomed and jets roared overhead.
    “We laid mattresses in the corridor and slept there ... away from the windows and hid behind the load-bearing walls,” she said.
    Under occupation, Kulik said, she was afraid soldiers would break into their homes to rape or kill.
    “I was scared to live with them,” said Kulik, a college student studying music.    “When civilians went out to rallies, they fired into the air and threw tear grenades.    Phones were checked on the streets.    If there was any information about the war or a word about (Russian President Vladimir) Putin ... they shot phones.”
    Fearing the fighting if there was a counterattack, she and her fiancé and several others took a four-car convoy to Cherkasy in central Ukraine, she said.
    As Russia makes moves for long-term control, she won’t return unless her home is liberated.
    “My family will not live in Kherson if the city becomes Russia,” she said.
    Residents hoped Ukrainian forces would liberate the city, but there were few indications of a counteroffensive.    Others said they worry that Russian control will harm the economy, making it harder for businesses to operate.
    The internet and cell outage left relatives in other countries fretting about family in Kherson, some of whom are struggling without work.
    Yuliya Makiyevskaya, who immigrated to the USA at age 14 and lives in Kentucky, has been in touch almost daily with her 58-year-old brother, Valeriy, who has been hunkered down in his Kherson apartment with his son, wife and daughter-in-law.
    After running to shelters from overhead artillery fire, Valeriy wrote last month to Makiyevskaya that prices for food had shot up and only one of his four household members still had a job.
    Kherson suffers from a shortage of medicine, cash, dairy and other food products.
    “I am worried,” Valeriy wrote to Makiyevskaya, who shared the message with USA TODAY with her brother’s permission.    “How does one survive?    What will happen next? … There is a complete absence of future planning.”     Russia blocked all humanitarian assistance except its own.    With no cash deliveries to Kherson’s banks, the circulation of     Ukraine’s hryvnia currency is dwindling.    Access to Ukrainian TV was blocked and replaced by Russian state channels.    A strict curfew was imposed. Hliebushkina said some farmers had equipment taken, which threatens their harvests.
    Russia has not clarified whether a referendum will take place.    If it does, U.S. officials fear Russia could declare a breakaway region similar to those in eastern Ukraine.
    Danets wants to return to Ukraine and attend medical school but isn’t certain what’s ahead.
    Her father, at 71, wants to stay in his home.
    “Kherson will be occupied for (many) long years,” she said.    “Putin seems to think that Ukraine is his territory.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
    “My family will not live in Kherson if the city becomes Russia.”    Vladyslava Kulik, 17, College student, Ukraine deputy commander asks for help.
    Military officer makes plea to country’s leader, world for assistance in evacuations and helping injured soldiers.
AP

A woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag stands in front of Russian troops during
a protest against the occupation of Kherson on March 19. OLEXANDR CHORNYI/AP

5/7/2022 New effort races to rescue civilians from Mariupol plant - Zelenskyy says he’s open to negotiations but Russia must withdraw forces by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Workers bury the coffin of a member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces at a cemetery
in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday. YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – The United Nations raced Friday to rescue more civilians from the tunnels under a besieged steel plant in Mariupol and the city at large, even as fighters holed up at the sprawling complex made their last stand to prevent Moscow’s complete takeover of the strategic port.
    The fight in the last Ukrainian stronghold of a city reduced to ruins by the Russian onslaught appeared increasingly desperate amid growing speculation that President Vladimir Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar.
    Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in a vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath Azovstal steelworks – and they have repeatedly refused to surrender.    Ukraine has said a few hundred civilians were also trapped there – and as the battle has ramped up in recent days, fears for their safety have only grown.
    U.N. officials announced Thursday that it was launching a third effort to evacuate citizens from the plant and the city.    But on Friday, the organization did not divulge any new details of the operation; it has been similarly quiet about previous ones while they were ongoing.    And it could take days to know the results since people escaping Mariupol typically have to pass through contested areas and many checkpoints before reaching the relative safety in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles to the northwest, where many have gathered.
    “We conducted another stage of a complex operation to evacuate people from Mariupol and Azovstal,” the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said Friday on the Telegram messaging app.    “I can say that we managed to take out almost 500 civilians.”
    Two previous evacuations negotiated by the United Nations and the Red Cross brought roughly 500 people from the steel plant and elsewhere in Mariupol.    It was not clear if Yermak was saying more people have since been rescued.
    Fighters defending the plant said on Telegram that Russian troops fired on an evacuation vehicle that was moving through the territory of the plant.
    “This car was moving towards civilians in order to evacuate them from the territory of the plant.    As a result of the shelling, 1 soldier was killed and 6 wounded,” the message from the Azov Regiment said.
    Moscow did not immediately acknowledge renewed fighting there Friday.
    Ahead of Victory Day – which marks the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany – municipal workers and volunteers cleaned up what remains of Mariupol, a city that is now under Russia’s control apart from the steel plant.
    Bulldozers scooped up debris and people swept streets – with a backdrop of buildings hollowed out by shelling.    Workers repaired a model of a warship, and Russian flags were hoisted on utility poles.
    The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin says is now its chief objective.    Its capture also holds symbolic value since the city has been the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war and a surprisingly fierce resistance.
    While they pounded away at the plant, Russian forces struggled to make significant gains elsewhere, 10 weeks into a devastating war that has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee the country and flattened large swaths of cities.
    Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy told a meeting at London’s Chatham House think tank that he remains open to negotiations with Russia, but repeated that Moscow must withdraw its forces.
    The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Friday that its forces repelled 11 attacks in the Donbas and destroyed tanks and armored vehicles, further frustrating Putin’s ambitions after his abortive attempt to seize Kyiv.    Russia gave no immediate acknowledgment of those losses.
    Ukrainian chief of defense, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, meanwhile, said Thursday that a counteroffensive could begin to push Russian forces away from Kharkiv and Izyum – two cities key to the Russian campaign in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops for eight years.    Already, Ukrainian fighters have driven Russian troops some 25 miles east of Kharkiv in recent days.
    The goal could be to push Russian forces out of artillery range of the city, which has been pummeled by strikes, as well as forcing Moscow to divert troops from other areas of the front line, according to an assessment from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War on Thursday.
    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian forces are making only “plodding” progress in the Donbas, while the institute said their operations there were “ineffectual” and had not secured any significant territorial gains in the preceding 24 hours.
    Russia may be struggling to execute its plan in the Donbas, in part, because it’s bogged down at the plant in Mariupol, the British Defense Ministry said in an assessment on Friday.
    The fighting at the plant “has come at personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia,” it said.    “Whilst Ukrainian resistance continues in Avozstal, Russian losses will continue to build and frustrate their operational plans in southern Donbas.”
    The Ukrainians say Russian troops have stormed the steelworks and are also striking it from the air, but the wife of one commander at the plant said they would not surrender.
    “They only hope for a miracle,” Kateryna Prokopenko said Thursday after speaking by phone to her husband, Denys.
    The Russians have pulverized much of Mariupol, which had a prewar population of over 400,000, and a two-month siege that has trapped perhaps 100,000 civilians with little food, water, electricity or heat.    Civilians sheltering inside the plant have perhaps suffered even more – hunkering underground without seeing daylight in months.
    Asked whether Russia would soon take full control of the besieged port city of Mariupol, Zelenskyy said: “Mariupol will never fall.    I’m not talking about heroism or anything.”
    “It is already devastated,” he told the London meeting by video.
    The Russians managed to get inside the plant Wednesday with the help of an electrician who knew the layout, said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry.
    “He showed them the underground tunnels which are leading to the factory,” Gerashchenko said in a video.
    The Kremlin has denied its troops were storming the plant, and Russia has also accused the fighters of preventing the civilians from leaving.
    More than 100 civilians were rescued from the steelworks over the weekend; several hundred more were evacuated from the city and surrounding areas a few days later.    But many previous attempts to open safe corridors from Mariupol have fallen through, with Ukraine blaming shelling and firing by the Russians.
    On Thursday, an American official said the U.S. shared intelligence with Ukraine about the location of a Russian flagship before the mid-April strike that sank it, one of Moscow’s highest-profile failures in the war.
    The U.S. has provided “a range of intelligence” that includes locations of warships, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.    The official said the decision to target the missile cruiser Moskva was purely a Ukrainian decision.
Municipal workers change Ukrainian road signs to Russian outside the
city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday. DONETSK PEOPLE REPUBLIC MINISTRY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/7/2022 Sweden reintroduces border checks, citing ‘a serious threat’
    STOCKHOLM – Sweden said Friday it was reintroducing temporary border controls at ferry terminals, airports, road crossings and other entry points to the Scandinavian nation because there “still is a serious threat to public order and internal security.”    The Swedish government said the temporary controls would start immediately and last until Nov. 11.    The government did not mention a specific threat but said the security situation is “extremely serious, and the overall terrorist threat level in Sweden remains elevated.”

5/7/2022 We don’t want to live in Russia’ - Panicked residents flee amid annexation fears by Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, Ukraine. AP
    After six weeks under Russian occupation, Tetiana Danets decided it was time to flee her Ukrainian city of Kherson as the signs multiplied of Russia’s long-term control.
    The Russian currency was set to be introduced and reports mounted that a sham referendum would be held to legitimize Russian annexation, she said.    Military checkpoints are everywhere, and she began having panic attacks.
    'If we don’t go now ... we go never,' Danets, 22, told USA TODAY by phone Monday from Romania two weeks after she fled by car. She couldn’t persuade her parents to join her.
    Kherson, a southern city of about 280,000 and home to ship-building industry on the Dnieper River, became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces March 2.    Since then, Russia’s actions to cement control and warnings from U.S. and Ukrainian officials of possible annexation plans have ramped up fear and uncertainty in the strategic provincial capital.
    'It’s terrible for people.    We don’t want to live in Russia.    People are worried, they cry.    Many people leave Kherson, very many people,' Danets said.
    Last week, the city’s mayor was replaced with a Russian appointee, and Reuters reported that a pro-Ukraine protest was broken up on April 27, a date that Ukrainian officials had said could mark a referendum toward creating a breakaway region.
    Last weekend, Russia was scheduled to introduce its own currency.    An internet outage hit the city.    Service was restored but rerouted through Russian infrastructure, which is 'likely now subject to Russian internet regulations, surveillance and censorship,' the internet service disruption monitor NetBlocks said on its website.
    On Monday, Michael Carpenter, the U.S. permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, warned of a push by Russia to 'engineer a referendum' amid an effort to annex the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, along with Kherson.    That followed a British intelligence update that found Russia intends to 'exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term.'
    For Russia, Kherson’s transport links are important to its war effort and for control over Crimea, the British report said.
    Fears about what that might mean – from the economic fallout to concerns that Russia intends to mobilize the population to support the war effort – have led more to flee Kherson.
    In Odesa, Kherson residents show up each day to an aid center for evacuees, Nikolay Viknianskiy, who helps lead the volunteer aid center effort, told USA TODAY.
    CNN reported a convoy of hundreds of people fled Kherson on Sunday, driving north toward the city of Kryvyi Rih.    Some vehicles had white cloths wrapped around the door handles and side mirrors and banners with the word 'children' written on them.
    Oksana Hliebushkina, 41, who led a Kherson nongovernmental organization, said she felt in constant danger over two months of occupation amid shortages of medicine and streets that emptied out by the afternoon.    It was the internet cell service cutoff that followed rumors of a referendum that led her to leave Monday.
    'It was a difficult decision,' she said in a phone call Wednesday, lamenting that some residents had lost jobs and couldn’t afford to leave.
    Danets, a sports trainer, traveled the clogged roads before she made it through Russian checkpoints to Romania, spending a night in Mykolaiv when it was hit by a bomb. She said she was grateful to be alive.
    Many are turned back from heading east, she said, and travel to Crimea and Georgia before flying to Europe.    Some can’t afford the expense, and others don’t want to leave homes and businesses.
    Kherson resident Vladyslava Kulik, 17, said that when the war began, she piled into a home with 12 relatives as explosions boomed and jets roared overhead.
    'We laid mattresses in the corridor and slept there ... away from the windows and hid behind the load-bearing walls,' she said.
    Under occupation, Kulik said, she was afraid soldiers would break into their homes to rape or kill.
    'I was scared to live with them,' said Kulik, a college student studying music.    'When civilians went out to rallies, they fired into the air and threw tear grenades.    Phones were checked on the streets.    If there was any information about the war or a word about (Russian President Vladimir) Putin ... they shot phones.'
    Fearing the fighting if there was a counterattack, she and her fiancé and several others took a four-car convoy to Cherkasy in central Ukraine, she said.
    As Russia makes moves for long-term control, she won’t return unless her home is liberated.
    'My family will not live in Kherson if the city becomes Russia,' she said.
    Residents hoped Ukrainian forces would liberate the city, but there were few indications of a counteroffensive.    Others said they worry that Russian control will harm the economy, making it harder for businesses to operate.
    The internet and cell outage left relatives in other countries fretting about family in Kherson, some of whom are struggling without work.
    Russia blocked all humanitarian assistance except its own.
    Russia has not clarified whether a referendum will take place.    If it does, U.S. officials fear Russia could declare a breakaway region.
People hold a Ukrainian flag with the message 'Kherson is Ukraine' during a March 20 rally. Olexandr Chornyi/AP

5/7/2022 Victory Day in Russia unlike past - Putin might push for bigger Ukraine effort by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
last year in Moscow. Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik, Kremlin pool photo via AP file
    The invasion of Ukraine means that fewer Russian tanks and other military hardware will rumble through Moscow’s Red Square on Monday, when the country marks its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.    The patriotic fervor associated with the sacred holiday, however, could be as strong as ever.
    This year’s Victory Day won’t just honor a conflict that ended 77 years ago.    Many Russians will be thinking about the thousands of troops fighting in neighboring Ukraine.
    Signs of support for the military have grown across the country since the invasion began Feb. 24, with the letter 'Z' appearing on billboards and signs in the streets and subways, and on television and social media.
    The Kremlin has refused to refer to the fighting in Ukraine as a 'war,' instead calling it a 'special military operation.'    Some observers believe that President Vladimir Putin could use the holiday to finally declare the operation to be a war in order to bolster Russia’s national commitment to the effort.
    A look at the significance of Victory Day in Russia:
Remembrance
    The Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people in World War II, which it calls the Great Patriotic War.    The conflict, which devastated cities and the countryside, caused enormous suffering and left a deep scar in the national psyche.
    Victory Day is a rare event in the nation’s divisive post-Soviet history that is revered by all political players, and the Kremlin has used that sentiment to encourage patriotic pride and underline Russia’s role as a global power.
    The annual celebrations feature a massive military parade on Red Square showcasing the latest armaments from tanks to fighter jets to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
    This year, the array of weapons to be displayed in the parade has been significantly curtailed from last year, apparently due to the fighting in Ukraine.
False rhetoric
    In ordering the invasion, Putin declared that it was aimed at the 'demilitarization' of Ukraine to remove a perceived military threat to Russia by 'neo-Nazis'–rhetoric condemned by Ukraine and the West as a fictitious cover for a blunt act of aggression.
    To try to back up the claim, Putin and his officials have pointed to the adulation by Ukraine’s right-wing groups of nationalist leaders Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, who sided with the Nazis during World War II and their perceived use of Nazi units’ symbols.
    The rhetoric also has been used by the Kremlin to try to bolster public support for the war amid heavy losses of troops and equipment and massive economic damage from Western sanctions.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, has derided the Kremlin 'denazification' claim.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov fired back by drawing a parallel between Zelenskyy and Adolf Hitler – a statement sharply criticized by Israel.
Rushing the offensive
    Some in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to try to seek quick gains before the May 9 holiday in a possible attempt to present it as a decisive victory and use it as an exit from what increasingly looks like a disastrous quagmire bleeding Russia’s resource and threatening its stability.
    After a failed attempt to storm Kyiv and other big cities in Ukraine’s north in the early stages of the war, the Kremlin has shifted its focus to the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014. That conflict erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
    The Russian military has rearmed and resupplied its forces withdrawn from Kyiv and moved them to Donbas in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and seasoned Ukrainian troops concentrated there.
    But that offensive in the east has faced staunch Ukrainian defenses and made only incremental advances, dashing Kremlin hopes for a quick victory. Significant gains look all but impossible before May 9.
    In an interview this week, Lavrov said: 'Our military isn’t going to artificially link its action to any date, including Victory Day.'
Upping the ante
    Some Russian hard-liners have criticized the Kremlin for using only a limited force and urged a nationwide mobilization effort.
    Some Western officials and observers believe Putin may use May 9 to formally declare a war and announce a total mobilization of the population to boost troop numbers for an offensive.
    'He’s been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people,’' British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio.
    Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, issued a similar warning Monday, alleging that Russia has covertly begun preparations for a broad mobilization.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the claims as 'nonsense' on Wednesday.
Russian forces
    Russia’s military has about 1 million service personnel – 400,000 of them contract soldiers, including 147,000 in ground forces.    Western officials estimated the initial strength of Russia’s invasion force at about 180,000.
    The military acknowledged losing 1,351 soldiers as of March 25 and hasn’t updated its casualty numbers since then.    Western officials have said Russian losses were much heavier and estimated that up to a quarter of Moscow’s initial attacking force was made unfit for combat.
    If the war drags on, the current Russian troops numbers in Ukraine could be insufficient to sustain the operations, forcing the Kremlin to rely on poorly trained conscripts or call up reservists.
    The Kremlin faces a stark choice between trying to win the war with a limited force or attempting to bolster its troops with draftees and reservists, a move that could bring public outrage.

5/7/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Dozens more civilians rescued from steel plant - Russian military says group included 11 children by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Main photo: Olga Babich reacts after arriving from the village of Mali Shcherbaky at a registration
and processing area for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Dozens more civilians were rescued Friday from the tunnels under the besieged steel mill where Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol have been making their last stand to prevent Moscow’s takeover of the strategically important port city.
    Russian and Ukrainian officials said 50 people were evacuated from the Azovstal plant and handed over to representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.    The Russian military said the group included 11 children.
    Russian officials and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said evacuation efforts would continue Saturday.    The latest evacuees were in addition to roughly 500 other civilians who got out of the plant and city in recent days.
    The fight for the last Ukrainian stronghold in a city reduced to ruins by the Russian onslaught appeared increasingly desperate amid growing speculation that President Vladimir Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar.
    As the holiday commemorating the Soviet Union’s World War II victory over Nazi Germany approached, cities across Ukraine prepared for an expected increase in Russian attacks, and officials urged residents to heed air raid warnings.
    “These symbolic dates are to the Russian aggressor like red to a bull,” said Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister, Yevhen Yenin.    “While the entire civilized world remembers the victims of terrible wars on these days, the Russian Federation wants parades and is preparing to dance over bones in Mariupol.”
    By Russia’s most recent estimate, roughly 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holed up in the vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steelworks, and they have repeatedly refused to surrender.    Ukrainian officials said before Friday’s evacuations that a few hundred civilians were also trapped there, and fears for their safety have increased as the battle has grown fiercer in recent days.
    Kateryna Prokopenko, whose husband, Denys, commands the Azov Regiment troops inside the plant, issued a desperate plea to also spare the fighters.    She said they would be willing to go to a third country to wait out the war but would never surrender to Russia because that would mean “filtration camps, prison, torture and death.”
    If nothing is done to save her husband and his men, they will “stand to the end without surrender,” she told the Associated Press on Friday.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “influential states” are involved in efforts to rescue the soldiers, although he did not mention any by name.
    “We are also working on diplomatic options to save our troops who are still at Azovstal,” he said in his nightly video address.
    U.N. officials have been tight-lipped about the civilian evacuation efforts, but it seemed likely that the latest evacuees would be taken to Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian-controlled city about 140 miles northwest of Mariupol where others who escaped the port city were brought.
    Some of the plant’s previous evacuees spoke to the AP about the horrors of being surrounded by death in the moldy, underground bunker with little food and water, poor medical care and diminishing hope.    Some said they felt guilty for leaving others behind.
    “People literally rot like our jackets did,” said 31-year-old Serhii Kuzmenko, who fled with his wife, 8-year-old daughter and four others from their bunker, where 30 others were left behind.    “They need our help badly.    We need to get them out.”
    Fighters defending the plant said Friday on the Telegram messaging app that Russian troops had fired on an evacuation vehicle on the plant’s grounds.    They said the car was moving toward civilians when it was hit by shelling, and that one soldier was killed and six were wounded.
    Moscow did not immediately acknowledge renewed fighting there Friday.
Patrick Michael Jones, 34, a volunteer from Houston, hands a man a plastic bag with food
at a distribution center in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Jones came to Ukraine to help people in their
difficult situation. He worked as a salesman at a gun store in Houston. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

A woman holding a baby is part of a family that fled from Enerhodar and was reunited upon
their arrival to a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

A man throws debris from the window of a residential apartment block damaged
by a Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk, Ukraine. CHRIS MCGRATH/GETTY IMAGES

A man who left a shelter in the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal steel plant walks to a bus between
servicemen of the Russian Army and the Donetsk People’s Republic militia in Mariupol, Ukraine. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

5/7/2022 Hope prevails amid a few surviving flowers in Irpin by ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman is carried out of a bus with people who fled from Mariupol, Tokmak and Berdyansk as they arrive
to a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on Tuesday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    Anna Shevchenko waters the few surviving flowers outside her destroyed home in the Ukrainian town of Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv.    The house, built by the 35-year-old woman’s grandparents, was leveled during Russian bombing in late March.
    But in her beloved flowerbed this week, some roses, lilies, peonies and daffodils survived, giving her hope.    “It is new life.    So, I tried to save my flowers,” she said.
    The house was left a pile of splintered wood, a closet filled with the family’s dust- and debris-covered clothing visible amid the destruction.    In one day, the family lost their house and Shevchenko’s father lost his leg to an explosion as he tried to flee Irpin.
    Shevchenko’s flowers were among signs of Ukrainian resilience and resistance during a week of devastating death and loss in the war.    In Irpin alone, block upon block of homes were destroyed.
    In Zaporizhzhia, Vera Velakanova and Lyudmila Vondarenko were among the many residents who gathered in cemeteries on Sunday, the day Ukrainians mark the day of the dead.    The women ate lunch at a table amid the tombstones in the Kapustyanyy cemetery.
    Sunday was also the day that some 100 women, children and the elderly were the first to be evacuated from a steel plant in the strategic port of Mariupol where they had been under Russian bombardment for weeks along with about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the tunnels beneath the Azovstal steelworks.    They arrived in Zaporizhzhia a day later.
    The week was also marked by horrific images that offered a rare glimpse of the death and atrocities of the war.    In Kharkiv,     Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been under sustained Russian attack since the beginning of the war in late February, bodies were everywhere.
    Among them was the charred corpse of a man, unidentifiable, propped on an anti-tank barrier made of crossed I-beams outside the town, which has been under the control of both sides in recent days.
    Elsewhere, the body of another man lay face down in an apartment as Russian bombardments continued in a village recently retaken by Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv.
An icon stands next to a military helmet at a checkpoint in Mariupol, in territory under
the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic on Wednesday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

Vehicles are on fire at an oil depot after missiles struck the facility in an area
controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday. AP

People have a meal after arriving from Mariupol at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Clothes of Anna Shevchenko’s family are photographed inside their house in Irpin, near Kyiv, on Tuesday. In one day,
they lost their house and Anna’s father lost his leg to an explosion as he tried to flee Irpin. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

5/8/2022 Ukraine braces for attacks ahead of V-Day - All women, children, elderly out of steel mill by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Women collect belongings in their apartment, destroyed by a Russian
airstrike, in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Saturday. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Russian forces fired cruise missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa on Saturday and bombarded a steel mill in Mariupol housing Ukrainian civilians and fighters, hoping to complete their conquest of the port city in time for Victory Day celebrations.    Ukraine announced that all women, children and elderly had been evacuated from the steel plant, a key Russian war objective that has long been under siege.
    In a sign of the unexpectedly effective defense that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military flattened Russian positions on a Black Sea Island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
    Western military analysts said a Ukrainian counteroffensive also was advancing around the nation’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, even as it remained a key target of Russian shelling.    The Ukrainian army said it retook control of five villages and part of a sixth near hotly contested Kharkiv.
    As Russia’s Monday holiday commemorating Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II approached, cities across Ukraine prepared for an expected increase in Russian attacks.    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged residents numbed by more than 10 weeks of war to heed air raid warnings.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Zelenskyy and his people 'embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.'    He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying 'to twist history to attempt to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.'
    'As war again rages in Europe, we must increase our resolve to resist those who now seek to manipulate historical memory in order to advance their own ambitions,' Blinken said in a statement issued as the United States and United Kingdom marked the Allied victory in Europe 77 years ago.
    The most intense battles in recent days have befallen eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce race to capture or reclaim territory.    Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine has focused on claiming the industrial Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014 and occupy some areas.
    Moscow’s also has sought to sweep across southern Ukraine to both cut off the country from the sea and to connect its territory to the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, long home to Russian troops.    But it has struggled to achieve those objectives.
    On Saturday, six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the region of Odesa, where authorities have a curfew in place until Tuesday morning.    Videos posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising over Odesa with sirens wailing in the background.
    Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the Black Sea.    A satellite image taken early Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft against the island’s northern beach.
    The image corresponds with a Ukrainian military video showing a drone striking the Russian vessel, engulfing it in flames.    Snake Island, located some 20miles off the coast, figured in a memorable incident early in the war when Ukrainian border guards stationed there defied Russian orders to surrender, purportedly using colorful language.
    Against that backdrop, Ukrainian fighters made a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol.    Securing the strategically important Sea of Azov port would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion.
    New satellite photos analyzed by the AP showed vast devastation at a sprawling seaside steel mill that is the last corner of Ukrainian resistance in the city.    Buildings at the Azovstal plant, including one under which hundreds of fighters and civilians are likely hiding, had large, gaping holes in the roof, according to the images shot Friday by Planet Labs PBC.
    The bombardment of the steel mill intensified in recent days despite a Russian pledge for a temporary cease-fire to allow civilians inside to escape.    Russia has used mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from sea to target the facility.
    'The president’s order has been carried out: All women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal (steelworks),' Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday, without elaborating.    'This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.'
    The Russian news agency Tass had reported that 50 civilians were evacuated from the plant on Saturday.    A similar number left on Friday.    The latest evacuees followed roughly 500 others who were allowed to leave the plant and other parts of the city in recent days.
    Evacuating civilians from the plant them has drawn the world’s attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross desperately trying to organize departures.
    In recent days, fighters inside the plant had described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding for weeks.    The fighters issued a statement via social media saying both they and the Russians have used a white flag system to halt fighting in order to get civilians out.

5/8/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - STEEL MILL UNDER SIEGE - Ukraine evacuates civilians from target of Russian shelling by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. Ukraine said its fighters drove back a
Russian thrust on the plant, which was also being heavily bombed from above. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Russian forces fired cruise missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa on Saturday and bombarded a besieged steel mill in Mariupol, hoping to complete their conquest of the port in time for Victory Day celebrations.    Officials announced that the last women, children and older adults had been evacuated from the mill, but Ukrainian fighters remained trapped.
  • In a sign of the unexpectedly effective defense that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military flattened Russian positions on a Black Sea Island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of resistance.    Western military analysts also said a Ukrainian counteroffensive was advancing around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, even as it remained a key target of Russian shelling.
    The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition that has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes and destroyed large swaths of some cities.    Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Russia’s holiday on Monday celebrating Nazi Germany’s defeat 77 years ago, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged people to heed air raid warnings.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Zelenskyy and his people “embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.”    He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying “to twist history to attempt to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.”
    “As war again rages in Europe, we must increase our resolve to resist those who now seek to manipulate historical memory in order to advance their own ambitions,” Blinken said in a statement as the United States and United Kingdom commemorated the Allied victory in Europe.
    The most intense fighting in recent days has been in eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce battle to capture or reclaim territory.    Moscow’s offensive there has focused on the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.
    The governor of the Luhansk region, one of two that make up the Donbas, said a Russian strike destroyed a school in the village of Bilogorivka where 90 people were seeking safety in the basement.    Gov. Serhiy Haidai, who posted pictures of the burning rubble on Telegram, said 30 people were rescued.    The emergency services later reported that two bodies had been found and more could still be buried under the rubble.    Rescue work was suspended overnight but was to resume on Sunday.
    Haidai also said two boys aged 11 and 14 were killed by Russian shelling in the town of Pryvillia, while two girls aged 8 and 12 and a 69-year-old woman were wounded.
    Moscow also has sought to sweep across southern Ukraine both to cut off the country from the sea and create a corridor to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, long home to Russian troops.    But it has struggled to achieve those objectives.
    On Saturday, six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit Odesa, where a curfew is in place until Tuesday morning. Videos posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising over the Black Sea port city as sirens wailed.
    The Odesa city council said four of the missiles hit a furniture company, with the shock waves and debris badly damaging high-rise apartment buildings.    The other two missiles hit the Odesa airport, where the runway had already been taken out in a previous Russian attack.
    Air raid sirens sounded several times early Sunday, the city council said.
    Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the Black Sea.    An image taken early Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed that most of the island’s buildings had been destroyed by Ukrainian drone attacks, as well as what appeared to be a Sernaclass landing craft against the island’s northern beach.
    The image corresponds with a Ukrainian military video showing a drone striking the Russian vessel, engulfing it in flames.    Snake Island, located some 20 miles off the coast, figured in a memorable incident early in the war when Ukrainian border guards stationed there defied Russian orders to surrender, purportedly using colorful language.
    In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters made a final stand against a complete Russian takeover of the strategically important city, which would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion.
    Satellite photos shot Friday by Planet Labs PBC showed vast devastation at the sprawling Azovstal seaside steel mill, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city.    Buildings had gaping holes in the roofs, including one under which hundreds of fighters were likely hiding.
    After rescuers evacuated the last civilians Saturday, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the focus would turn to extracting the wounded and medics: “Of course, if everyone fulfills the agreements.    Of course, if there are no lies.”
    He added that work would also continue Sunday on securing humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.
    The situation at the plant has drawn the world’s attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross desperately trying to organize evacuations.
    In recent days, fighters inside described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding there for weeks.    The fighters said via social media that both they and the Russians had used a white flag system to halt fighting in order to get civilians out.
    But Russian forces have intensified fire on the mill with mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from the sea, making evacuation operations difficult.
    Three Ukrainian fighters were reportedly killed and six more wounded during an evacuation attempt Friday.    Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said his troops had waved white flags, and he accused Russian forces of firing an antitank weapon at a vehicle.
    It remains unclear what will happen to the estimated 2,000 fighters at Azovstal, both those still in combat and the hundreds believed to be wounded.    In recent days the Ukrainian government has been reaching out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for them.    The fighters have repeatedly vowed not to surrender.
    Zelenskyy said officials were trying to find a way to evacuate them. He acknowledged the difficulty, but said: “We are not losing hope, we are not stopping.    Every day we are looking for some diplomatic option that might work.”
    Russian forces have probed the plant and even reached into its warren of tunnels, according to Ukrainian officials.
    Kharkiv, which was the first Soviet capital in Ukraine and had a prewar population of about 4 million, remained a key target of Russian shelling in the northeast.    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that the Russian military also hit large shipments of weapons from the U.S. and other Western countries with Iskander missiles in the region.    His claims couldn’t be independently verified.
    But Western military analysts said Ukrainian forces were making progress in securing positions around the city.    The Ukrainian military said it retook control of five villages and part of a sixth, and that Russian forces destroyed three bridges on a road northeast of the city to try to slow Ukraine’s advance.
    A Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, said in its most recent assessment that Ukraine may be able to push Russian forces “out of artillery range of Kharkiv in the coming days,” providing a respite for the city and an opportunity to build the defenders’ momentum “into a successful, broader counteroffensive.”
Wooden crosses dedicated to people deceased during the Russian occupation of the Kyiv region are seen in Irpin, Ukraine.

An aerial view shows a new road next to a destroyed bridge over the Irpin River on Saturday. PHOTOS BY ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES

An aerial view shows a new road next to a destroyed bridge over the Irpin River on Saturday in Irpin, Ukraine.
The most intense fighting in recent days has moved to eastern Ukraine. ALEXEY FURMAN/GETTY IMAGES

5/9/2022 Dozens feared dead after Russian bomb levels Ukraine school by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A family who fled from Myrne embrace Sunday at a reception center for displaced people in
Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians continue to leave Russian-occupied areas. Francisco Seco/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Dozens of Ukrainians were feared dead Sunday after a Russian bomb flattened a school sheltering about 90 people in its basement, while Ukrainian troops refused to surrender at a besieged steel plant that Moscow’s invading forces sped to seize before Russia’s Victory Day holiday.
    The governor of Luhansk province, one of two areas that make up the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, said the school in the village of Bilohorivka caught fire after Saturday’s bombing.    Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, he said.
    'Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,' Gov. Serhiy Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.    Russian shelling also killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said.
    The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition due to the Ukrainian military’s unexpectedly effective defense.    Since failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Moscow’s forces have attacked cities, towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine but not gained much ground, according to Western military analysts.
    To demonstrate success in time for Victory Day on Monday, the Russian military worked to complete its takeover of Mariupol, which has been under relentless assault since the start of the invasion.    The sprawling seaside steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters made a last stand is the only part of the city not under Russian control.
    All the remaining women, children and older civilians who were sheltering with the fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated Saturday.    The Ukrainian troops rejected deadlines given by the Russians who said the defenders could leave with their lives if they laid down their arms.
    Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian National Guard battalion holding the steel mill, told an online news conference Sunday that the site was targeted overnight by three fighter jet sorties, artillery and tanks.
    'We are under constant shelling,' he said, adding that Russian infantry tried to storm the plant – a claim Russian officials denied in recent days – and to lay landmines.
    Palamar said there was a 'multitude of casualties' at the plant.
    Lt. Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov Regiment, said there were a 'couple of hundred' wounded soldiers at the plant, but he declined at the same news conference to reveal how many able-bodied fighters also remained in the plant.
    He described the situation as dire because they didn’t have life-saving equipment in their tunnels.    He also said fighters had to dig out people by hand when some bunkers collapsed under the Russian shelling.
    'The truth is, we are unique because no one expected we would last so long,' Samoilenko said.    'Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy.'
    After rescuers evacuated the last civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was trying to secure humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.
    The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the fighters remaining in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers.
    The Ukrainian leader was expected to hold online talks Sunday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders from other Group of Seven countries.    The meeting is partly meant to display unity among Western allies on Victory in Europe Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s 1945 surrender.
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Irpin on Sunday, which had been damaged by Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv at the start of the war, according to Ukrainian media outlet Suspilne and Irpin Mayor Olexander Markushyn.
    Markushyn posted images of Trudeau on social media, saying that the Canadian leader was shocked by the damage he saw at civilian homes.
    Canadian officials said the prime minister would meet with Zelenskyy and 'reaffirm Canada’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.'
    Zelenskyy also met Sunday with Bärbel Bas, the German parliament speaker, in Kyiv to discuss further defense assistance as well as sanctions against Russia, according to Zelenskyy’s press office.
    Trudeau is the latest Western leader to visit Ukraine to offer support to the war-ravaged country.    The prime ministers of the U.K., Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia traveled there earlier, as did the U.N.’s secretary-general.
    U.S. first lady Jill Biden also made an unannounced visit to western Ukraine Sunday for a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with Zelenskyy’s wife, first lady Olena Zelenska.    They visited a village school as Russia pressed its punishing war in the eastern regions.
    Elsewhere, on Ukraine’s coast, explosions echoed again Sunday across the major Black Sea port of Odesa, which Russia struck with six cruise missiles on Saturday, while rocket fire damaged some 250 apartments, according to the city council.
    Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Victory Day, the May9 holiday when Russia celebrates Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945 with military parades.    Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops on Red Square on Monday.
    Zelenskyy released a video address Sunday marking the day of the Allied victory in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism.
    The black-and-white video, published on social media, showed Zelenskyy standing in front of a ruined apartment block in Borodyanka, one of the Kyiv suburbs pummeled before Russian troops withdrew from the capital region weeks ago.
    'Every year, on May8, along with the whole civilized world, we pay our respects to everyone who defended the planet against Nazism during World War II,' Zelenskyy said, adding that prior generations of Ukrainians understood the significance of the words 'Never again,' a phrase often used as a vow to never allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.
    'We knew the price our ancestors have paid for this wisdom.    We knew how important it was to protect it and pass it on to our descendants. ... But we hadn’t any notion that our generation will witness the abuse of these words,' he said.
    In neighboring Moldova, Russian and separatists troops were on 'full alert,' the Ukrainian military warned.    The region has increasingly become a focus of worries that the conflict could expand beyond Ukraine’s borders.
    Pro-Russian forces broke off the Transnistria section of Moldova in 1992, and around 1,500 Russian troops have been stationed there since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.    Those forces are on 'full combat readiness,' Ukraine said, without giving details on how it came to the assessment.
    Vadim Krasnoselsky, the president of the unrecognized territory, denied those claims, saying it 'does not pose a threat to neighboring states, observes neutrality and remains committed to the principle of resolving all issues at the negotiating table.'
    Moscow has sought to sweep across southern Ukraine both to cut off the country from the Black Sea and to create a corridor to Transnistria.    But it has struggled to achieve those objectives.
    In a sign of the dogged resistance that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
    Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the sea.
    A satellite image taken Sunday morning by Planet Labs PBC showed smoke rising from two sites on the island.    On the island’s southern edge, a fire smoked next to debris.    That corresponded to a video released by the Ukrainian military showing a strike on a Russian helicopter that had flown to the island.
    The most intense combat in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine.    A Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv, a city in the northeast that is the country’s second-largest, 'is making significant progress and will likely advance to the Russian border in the coming days or weeks,' according to the Institute for the Study of War.
    The Washington-based think tank added that 'the Ukrainian counteroffensive demonstrates promising Ukrainian capabilities.'
    However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from Luhansk province’s embattled city of Popasna, Haidai, the regional governor, said Sunday.    In a video interview posted on his Telegram channel, Haidai said that Kyiv’s troops had 'moved to stronger positions, which they had prepared ahead of time.'
CORRECTION
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5/9/2022 Patriotism, unease mix in Russia - Poll: 82% of population concerned by military campaign in Ukraine by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian National Guardsmen march through a street with the letter Z on Thursday in Sevastopol, Crimea.
'Z' has become a symbol of the Russian military, which honors Victory Day on Monday.
    Red Soviet flags and orange-and-black striped military ribbons are on display in Russian cities and towns.    Neighborhoods are staging holiday concerts.    Flowers are being laid by veterans’ groups at monuments to the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known in the country.
    At first glance, preparations for Monday’s celebration of Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, seem to be the same as ever.
    But the mood this year is very different, because Russian troops are fighting and dying again.
    And this invasion, now in its 11th week, is going on in neighboring Ukraine, against what the government has falsely called a campaign against 'Nazis.'
    The pride and patriotism usually associated with Russia’s most important holiday, marked by a huge parade of soldiers and military hardware through Red Square, is mixing with apprehension and unease over what this year’s Victory Day may bring.
    Some Russians fear President Vladimir Putin will use it to declare that what the Kremlin has previously called a 'special military operation' in Ukraine will now be a full-fledged war, bringing with it a broad mobilization of troops to bolster Russia’s forces.
    'I can’t remember a time when the May9 holiday was anticipated with such anxiety,' historian Ivan Kurilla wrote on Facebook.
    Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, said Moscow was covertly preparing such a plan.    British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio that Putin was 'laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people.’'
    The Kremlin denied having such plans, calling the reports 'untrue' and 'nonsense.'
    Asked by The Associated Press on Friday whether mobilization rumors could dampen the Victory Day mood, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said 'nothing will cast a shadow' over 'the sacred day, the most important day' for Russians.
    Still, human rights groups reported a spike in calls from people asking about laws concerning mobilization and their rights in case of being ordered to join the military.
    'Questions about who can be called up and how have started to flow on a mass scale through our hotline about the rights of conscripts and the military,' said Pavel Chikov, founder of the Agora legal aid group, on the messaging app Telegram.
    Russian state TV has ramped up the patriotic rhetoric.    In announcing the military operation Feb.24, Putin declared it was aimed at the 'demilitarization' of Ukraine to remove a perceived military threat to Russia by 'neo-Nazis.'
    A recent TV commentary said Putin’s words were 'not an abstract thing and not a slogan' and praised Russia’s success in Ukraine, even though Moscow’s troops have gotten bogged down, making only minor gains in recent weeks.
    Ukraine, which has a democratically elected Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust, and the West have condemned the remarks as a fictitious cover for a blunt act of aggression.
    But many Russians fed a steady diet of the official narrative have cheered on their troops, comparing them to 'our grandfathers' who fought the Germans.
    Popular support in Russia for the war in Ukraine is difficult to gauge in a country that has seen a steady crackdown on journalists in recent years, with independent media outlets shut down and state-controlled television providing a pervasive influence.
    A recent poll by the independent Levada Center found that 82% of Russians remain concerned by the military campaign in Ukraine.    The vast majority of them – 47% – are worried about the deaths of civilians and Russian soldiers in the war, along with the devastation and suffering.    Only 6% of those concerned by the war said they were bothered by the alleged presence of 'Nazis' and 'fascists' in Ukraine.
    'A significant part of the population is horrified, and even those who support the war are in a permanent psychological militant state of a perpetual nightmare,' said political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov.
    A government campaign encouraging support for the military is using the distinctive black-and-orange St. George’s ribbon that is traditionally associated with Victory Day.    The letter 'Z' has become a symbol of the conflict, decorating buildings, posters and billboards across Russia, and many forms of it use the ribbon’s colors and pattern.
    Rallies supporting the troops have taken place in recent days at World War II memorials, with participants singing wartime songs from the 1940s.
    One official has suggested that Victory Day marchers display photos of soldiers now fighting in Ukraine.    Normally on the holiday, Russians carry portraits of their relatives who took part in World War II to honor those in the so-called 'Immortal Regiment' from a conflict in which the Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people.
AP A car drives past a billboard of Russian President Vladimir Putin that reads: 'For Russia' in Grozny on Saturday.
Red Soviet flags and orange-and-black striped military ribbons are on display in cities and towns. Musa Sadulayev/AP

5/9/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ‘IT IS CIVILIANS THAT PAY THE HIGHEST PRICE’ - Dozens feared dead in bombing of Ukrainian school by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely reduced to rubble.     The sprawling seaside steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand was the only part of the city not under Russian control.
Firefighters intervene after Russian missiles hit a school in eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk region on Saturday. Sixty civilians
died in the bombing, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday. UKRAINIAN STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – More than 60 people were feared dead Sunday after a Russian bomb flattened a school being used as a shelter, Ukrainian officials said, while Moscow’s forces kept up their attack on defenders inside Mariupol’s steel plant in an apparent race to capture the city ahead of Russia’s Victory Day holiday.    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled” by the reported school bombing Saturday in the eastern village of Bilohorivka and called it another reminder that “it is civilians that pay the highest price” in war.    Authorities said about 90 people had been taking shelter in the basement.    Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, but “most likely all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, wrote on a messaging app.
    Russian shelling also killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said.    Luhansk is part of the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east that Russia’s forces are bent on capturing.
    As Moscow prepared to celebrate the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany with a Victory Day military parade on Monday, a lineup of Western leaders and celebrities made surprise visits to Ukraine in a show of support.
    U.S. first lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart.    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his country’s flag at its embassy in Kyiv.    And U2’s Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed in a Kyiv subway station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song “Stand by Me.”
    The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, posted a picture of herself at the American Embassy, trumpeting plans for the eventual U.S. return to the Ukrainian capital after Moscow’s forces abandoned their effort to storm Kyiv weeks ago and began focusing on the capture of the Donbas.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others warned in recent days those Russian attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Victory Day, and some cities declared curfews or cautioned people against gathering in public.    Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops on Red Square.
    “They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN.    “They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians.    They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO.    And they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the globe.”
    Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely reduced to rubble.    The sprawling seaside steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand was the only part of the city not under Russian control.
    The last of the women, children and older civilians who were taking shelter with the fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated Saturday.    Buses carrying over 170 evacuees from the steelworks and other parts of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday, U.N. officials said.
    The Ukrainian defenders in the steel mill have rejected deadlines set by the Russians for laying down their arms.
    Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, a unit holding the steel mill, said the site was targeted overnight by warplanes, artillery and tanks.
    “We are under constant shelling,” he said online, adding that Russian ground troops tried to storm the plant – a claim Russian officials denied – and lay mines.    Palamar reported a “multitude of casualties.”
    Lt. Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov Regiment, said there were a couple of hundred wounded soldiers at the plant but declined to reveal how many able-bodied fighters remained.    He said fighters didn’t have lifesaving equipment and had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed under the shelling.
    “Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy,” Samoilenko said.
    The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the defenders.
    On the economic front, leaders from the Group of Seven industrial democracies pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil.    The G-7 consists of the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
    The U.S. also announced new sanctions against Russia, cutting off Western advertising from Russia’s three biggest TV stations, banning U.S. accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia’s industrial sector from wood products, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.
    Trudeau met with Zelenskyy and made a surprise visit to Irpin, which was damaged in Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv.    The Ukrainian president also met with the German parliament speaker, Bärbel Bas, in Kyiv to discuss further defense assistance.
    Jill Biden visited western Ukraine for a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska.
    Zelenskyy released a video address marking the day of the Allied victory in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism.    The black-and-white footage showed Zelenskyy standing in front of a ruined apartment block in Borodyanka, a Kyiv suburb.
    Zelenskyy said that generations of Ukrainians understood the significance of the words “never again,” a phrase often used as a vow not to allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.
    Elsewhere, on Ukraine’s coast, explosions echoed again across the major Black Sea port of Odessa.    At least five blasts were heard, according to local media.
    The Ukrainian military said Moscow was focusing its main efforts on destroying airfield infrastructure in eastern and southern Ukraine.
    In a sign of the dogged resistance that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days.    A satellite image by Planet Labs showed smoke rising from two sites on the island.
    But Moscow’s forces showed no sign of backing down in the south.    Satellite photos show Russia has put armored vehicles and missile systems at a small base in the Crimean Peninsula.
    The most intense combat in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine.    A Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, is making “significant progress,” according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.
    However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the embattled eastern city of Popasna, regional authorities said.    Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin, separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said its forces and Russian troops had captured most of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.
    The Kharkiv regional administration said three people were killed in shelling of the town of Bohodukhiv, about 30 miles from Kharkiv city.
    South of Kharkiv, in Dnipropetrovsk province, the governor said a 12-yearold boy was killed by a cluster munition that he found after a Russian attack.    An international treaty bans the use of such explosives, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has signed the agreement.
    “This war is treacherous,” the governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, wrote on social media.    “It is near, even when it is invisible.”
A woman holds her dog after arriving from Russian-occupied territory at a registration and processing area
for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine, on Sunday. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

People who fled from Mariupol, a few of them from the Azovstal steel plant, are processed upon
their arrival by bus to a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Sunday.
Thousands of Ukrainians continue to leave Russian occupied areas. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

A man who fled from a small village near Polity rests upon his arrival to a reception center for displaced people in
Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Sunday. Thousands of Ukrainian continue to leave Russian occupied areas. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

5/9/2022 Last civilians flee battered Ukraine steel mill - Survivors talk of constant shelling by Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
People who fled from Mariupol, a few of them from the Azovstal steel plant, arrive by bus to a reception center for
displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians continue to leave Russian-occupied areas. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Pale and drawn, the last civilians sheltering in bunkers beneath a sprawling steel mill in the decimated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol arrived late Sunday night in Zaporizhzhia, the first major Ukrainian city beyond the front lines.
    The shattered survivors spoke of constant shelling, dwindling food, ubiquitous mold – and using hand sanitizer for cooking fuel.
    Ten buses slowly pulled into Zaporizhzhia’s deserted streets under darkness, carrying 174 evacuees from the Mariupol area.    They included more than 30 of the 51 civilians evacuated in the last day from the Azovstal steel mill, where an estimated 2,000     Ukrainian fighters are making what appears to be their last stand.    Ukrainian and Russian officials have said these civilians are the last noncombatants from the industrial complex.
    “It was terrible in the bunkers,” said 69-year-old Lyubov Andropova, who had been in Azovstal since March 10.    “Water would run down from the ceilings.    There was mold everywhere.    We were worried for the children, for their lungs.”
    The shelling was constant, and there was fear “that our bunker would collapse,” she said.    “Everything shook, we didn’t go out.”
    The seaside steel mill is the only part of Mariupol not under Russian control.    Because of its warren of tunnels and bunkers deep underground, many civilians chose it as the safest place to take cover from the relentless shelling of the formerly thriving port city that has now been largely destroyed.
    Just a few days after the war began on Feb. 24, Dmytro Sviydakov took shelter in the bunkers with his wife and 12-year-old daughter.    They entered Azovstal on Feb. 27.    It would be more than two months before they could leave.
    Huddled in a bunker with about 50 to 60 people, the first month and a half was bearable, he said, but then the shelling intensified.    A food storage area was blown up, and he and others resorted to scavenging, including searching through workers’ lockers.    Fuel for cooking was scarce too, but then they discovered that hand sanitizer – well-stocked because of the coronavirus pandemic – was a good substitute.
    “What can’t you do when you have nothing!” he said, as he waited for a bus that would carry Azovstal evacuees to temporary accommodations in Zaporizhzhia.    Yehor, a steel mill employee sheltering in the bunker who would only provide his surname, was in the bunker with his two sons, wife and their dog.    He said that when food ran low, soldiers defending Azovstal helped.    “We wouldn’t have made it otherwise,” he said.    “I don’t know how long we could have survived, but for sure we wouldn’t have survived until today.”    In the last few days, they had just pasta, water and some spices left - enough for soup once a day.
    His family entered the mill on March 1 for safety, he said, after he narrowly escaped being shelled while walking his dog.    Despite the widespread destruction of Mariupol, some of the 51 evacuated from Azovstal chose to remain in the city, said United Nations officials, who were involved in securing safe passage for the evacuees.
    Two – a man and a woman – were detained by Russian forces. The woman, who was held on suspicion of being a military medic, had been traveling with her 4-year-old daughter.    The mother and child were separated, and the girl made it to Zaporizhzhia with the rest of the evacuees, U.N. officials said.
    But several hundred more who wanted to join the evacuation convoy from other areas held by Russian forces had to stay behind after Russia and Ukraine could not reach an agreement on their evacuation.
    “It was quite heartbreaking to see them waiting and not being able to join us,” said United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Osnat Lubrani.
    “Overall, within a period of 10 days we’ve been able to bring a total of 600 people in very complex, high-risk, very sensitive safe passage operations,” Lubrani said, adding that the U.N. hoped to be able to bring more civilians out in the future.

5/10/2022 Putin’s troops make meager war gains - As intense fighting continues in Ukraine’s east, Russian forces seek to finish off the defenders making their last stand at Mariupol steel plant by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A sculpture of a Ukrainian woman holding a Soviet-era red flag is seen during celebration of the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II
in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Monday. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin marked his country’s biggest patriotic holiday Monday without a major new battlefield success in Ukraine to boast of, as the war ground on through its 11th week with the Kremlin’s forces making little or no progress in their offensive.
    The Russian leader oversaw a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square, watching as troops marched in formation and military hardware rolled past in a celebration of the Soviet Union’s role in the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.
    While Western analysts in recent weeks had widely expected Putin to use the holiday to trumpet some kind of victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, he did neither.    Instead, he sought to justify the war again as a necessary response to what he portrayed as a hostile Ukraine.
    “The danger was rising by the day,” Putin said.    “Russia has given a preemptive response to aggression.    It was forced, timely and the only correct decision.”     He steered clear of battlefield specifics, failing to mention the potentially pivotal battle for the vital southern port of Mariupol and not even uttering the word “Ukraine.”
    On the ground, meanwhile, intense fighting raged in Ukraine’s east, the vital Black Sea port of Odesa in the south came under repeated missile attack, and Russian forces sought to finish off the Ukrainian defenders making their last stand at a steel plant in Mariupol.
    Putin has long bristled at NATO’s creep eastward into former Soviet republics.    Ukraine and its Western allies have denied the country posed any threat.
    As he has done all along, Putin falsely portrayed the fighting as a battle against Nazism, thereby linking the war to what many     Russians consider their finest hour: the triumph over Hitler.    The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in what Russia refers to as the Great Patriotic War.
    After unexpectedly fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to abandon its effort to storm Kyiv over a month ago, Moscow’s forces have concentrated on capturing the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region.    But the fighting there has been a back-and-forth, village-by-village slog, and many analysts had suggested Putin might use his holiday speech to present the Russian people with a victory amid discontent over the country’s heavy casualties and the punishing effects of Western sanctions.
    Others suggested he might declare the fighting a war, not just a “special military operation,” and order a nationwide mobilization, with a call-up of reserves, to replenish the depleted ranks for an extended conflict.
    In the end, he gave no signal as to where the war is headed or how he might intend to salvage it.
    Specifically, he left unanswered the question of whether or how Russia will marshal more forces for a continuing war.
    “Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia can’t fight a long war, and the clock starts ticking on the failure of their army in Ukraine,” tweeted Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
    Nigel Gould Davies, former British ambassador to Belarus, said: “Russia has not won this war.    It’s starting to lose it.”
    Despite Russia’s crackdown on dissent, antiwar sentiment has seeped through.    Dozens of protesters were detained around the country on Victory Day, and editors at a pro-Kremlin media outlet revolted by briefly publishing a few dozen stories criticizing Putin and the invasion.
    In Warsaw, antiwar protesters splattered Russia’s ambassador to Poland with what appeared to be red paint as he arrived at a cemetery to pay respects to Red Army soldiers who died during World War II.
    As Putin laid a wreath in Moscow, air raid sirens echoed again in the Ukrainian capital.    But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in his own Victory Day address that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.
    “Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine,” he said in a video.    He added: “We are fighting for freedom, for our children, and therefore we will win.”
    A Zelenskyy adviser interpreted Putin’s speech as indicating that Russia has no interest in escalating the war through the use of nuclear weapons or direct engagement with NATO.
    Speaking late Monday in an online interview, Oleksiy Arestovych pointed to Putin’s statement that Russia would honor the memory of those who fought in World War II by doing “everything so that the horror of a global war does not happen again.”
    Instead, he predicted Russia would make “a sluggish attempt” to take control of the Donbas, including Mariupol, and a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    Arestovych said Russia would drag out the war while bleeding the Ukrainian economy with the aim of getting Ukraine to agree to give up that territory.
    Russia has about 97 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, largely in the east and the south, a slight increase over last week, according to a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment.    Each unit has roughly 1,000 troops, according to the Pentagon.
    The official said that overall, the Russian effort in the Donbas hasn’t achieved any significant progress in recent days and continues to face stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.
    The Ukrainian military warned of a high probability of missile strikes around the holiday, and some cities imposed curfews or warned people not to gather in public places.
    More than 60 people were feared dead over the weekend after Russian bombardment flattened a Ukrainian school being used as a shelter in the eastern village of Bilohorivka, Ukrainian officials said.
    Russia may be closest to a victory in Mariupol. The U.S. official said roughly 2,000 Russian forces were around Mariupol, and the city was being pounded by airstrikes.    As many as 2,000 Ukrainian defenders were believed to be holding out at the steel plant, the city’s last stronghold of resistance.
    The fall of Mariupol would also deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas and give the Kremlin a badly needed success.
    Odesa, too, has increasingly been bombarded in recent days.    The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles at Odesa on Monday night, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse.    One person was killed and five were wounded, the military said.
People pay their last tribute to volunteer soldier Oleksandr Makhov, 36, a well-known Ukrainian journalist killed
by Russian troops, during his funeral at St. Michael cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Ukrainian servicemen carry an injured comrade on a stretcher to the hospital after
an attack by Russian forces in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

5/10/2022 Putin Victory Day speech passionate, empty - Seems to suggest war could be brutal grind by Danica Kirka, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on Monday in Moscow during the Victory Day military parade marking the
77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany. MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN PHOTO VIA AP POOL
    Vladimir Putin had no victories in Ukraine to proclaim on Victory Day.    Nor did his speech at the Red Square military parade offer any clear pictures of when a victory may come or how it would be achieved.
    Instead, the Russian president’s address Monday seemed to suggest that the war that many expected would be brief and decisive could be a long and brutal grind.
    Victory Day commemorates another campaign of grisly determination: the Red Army’s offensive against Nazi forces that eventually brought the Soviet troops to Berlin, ending the European theater of World War II.    The suffering was immense on the battlefield and among civilians; the Soviet Union lost 27 million people in the war.
    The pain of all the deaths combines with the defeat of odious opponents to give Victory Day a deep emotional resonance in Russia.    Putin on Monday tried to portray the war in Ukraine as having the same high moral purpose as the fight against Adolf Hitler’s forces.
    He repeated his frequent contention that Ukraine is in thrall to Nazism and that this war, too, is necessary to repel a malign aggressor – even though Ukraine had made no incursions into Russia and is led by a president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.
    The strategy appears aimed in part at diverting attention from Russia’s failure to overcome the smaller Ukrainian military.
    “The regime has no more screws to turn.    The brakes have clearly failed, and only one pedal is left: conflating what Russia is doing in Ukraine with the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.    This explains why the Kremlin continues to insist that in Ukraine it is fighting neo-Nazis cultivated by the West,” Andrei Kolesnikov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote shortly before Victory Day.
    “Every word is a lie, of course,” he added, “but the regime has no other justification for what is happening in Ukraine.    So, the discourse has been reduced to agitprop and shouting,” Ahead of the holiday, expectations were wide that Putin would push for at least one unequivocal military success that he could flaunt in his speech.    That might have been the city of Mariupol, but despite Russian forces laying waste to the city, a determined Ukrainian contingent still puts up resistance while holed up in a steel mill.
    Some speculated that recent explosions in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, where Russia has about 1,500 troops based, could be provocations to justify Russia trying to take control of that area by Victory Day. But Russia has only bombed a railway bridge in Ukraine that is the main transport link to Transnistria.
    The most intense speculation was that Putin would use Victory Day to declare the fight in Ukraine was a full-fledged war, rather than a “special military operation” as the Kremlin insists it be called, and that this would prompt a general mobilization to bring in vast numbers of new soldiers.    But he did not do that either.
    “There seems an awareness of the political risks at home of national mobilization.    So, there is a real sense in which the Kremlin is faced with growing difficulties and dilemmas in this war that it has chosen to unleash,” Nigel Gould-Davies, a fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told The Associated Press.    In any case, announcing a national mobilization would not foretell a swift end to the war.
    “Mobilization isn’t like a button you press and then suddenly Russia has more access to military power than before.    It takes time to mobilize and not just to call up, but to conscript the population essentially, but also to supply them as well.    And so it wouldn’t make any immediate difference,” Gould-Davies said.
    An indelible image for Victory Day is the dramatic photo of a soldier raising the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag atop the Reichstag in 1945, ruined buildings stretching to the horizon.    Putin’s speech gave no hint of whether he envisions a similar scene of occupation as the final goal of the Ukraine war, or whether Russia would settle for partitioning off of the eastern republics that it has declared are sovereign states.
    And Putin has never explained what his call for “denazification” of Ukraine entails.
    The speech was full of emotion and self-justification, yet empty of information.
    “It’s the dog that didn’t bark,” Gould-Davies said.    “There was no new announcement, but no clear way out of the problems that they have created for themselves.”
    “There was ... no clear way out of the problems that they have created for themselves.”
Gould-Davies - Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies

5/11/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - UKRAINE MAY EXPAND GOALS - Russia pummels port of Odesa as Kyiv official suggests liberating all occupied territory by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
People stand near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday. The Ukrainian
military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier at the Black Sea port.
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Russia pummeled the vital port of Odesa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt supply lines and Western weapons shipments as Ukraine’s foreign minister appeared to suggest the country could expand its war aims.    With the war now in its 11th week and Kyiv bogging down Russian forces and even staging a counteroffensive, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba seemed to indicate that the country could go beyond merely pushing Russia back to areas it or its allies held on the day of the Feb. 24 invasion.
    The idea reflected Ukraine’s ability to stymie a larger, better-armed Russian military, which has surprised many who had anticipated a much quicker end to the conflict.
    One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine’s ability to prevent easy victories is in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters remained holed up at a steel plant, denying Russia full control of the city.    The regiment defending the plant said Russian warplanes continued bombarding it.
    In recent days, the United Nations and Red Cross organized a rescue of what some officials said were the last civilians trapped at the plant.    But two officials said Tuesday that about 100 were believed to still be in the complex’s underground tunnels.    Others said that was impossible to confirm.
    In another example of the grisly toll of the war, Ukrainian officials said they found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a building destroyed weeks ago in the northeastern city of Izyum.
    New U.N. figures, meanwhile, said that 14 million Ukrainians were forced from their homes by the end of April, including more than 5.9 million who have left the country.
    In Washington, a top U.S. intelligence official testified Tuesday that eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed in the war.    Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee that because Russia lacks a noncommissioned officer corps, its generals have to go into combat zones and end up in dangerous positions.
    Ukraine said Russian forces fired seven missiles Monday at Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse in the country’s largest port.    One person was killed and five wounded, the military said.
    Images showed a burning building and debris – including a tennis shoe – in a heap of destruction in the city on the Black Sea.    Mayor Gennady Trukhanov later visited the warehouse and said it “had nothing in common with military infrastructure or military objects.”
    Ukraine alleged at least some of the munitions used dated to the Soviet era, making them unreliable in targeting.    Ukrainian, British and U.S. officials say Russia is rapidly using up its stock of precision weapons, raising the risk of more imprecise rockets being used as the conflict grinds on.
    Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to take Kyiv early in the war, his focus has shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas – but one general has suggested Moscow’s aims also include cutting Ukraine’s maritime access to both the Black and Azov seas.    That would also give it a swath of territory linking Russia to both the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova.
    Even if it falls short of severing Ukraine from the coast – and it appears to lack the forces to do so – continuing missile strikes on Odesa reflect the city’s strategic importance.    The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport and claimed it destroyed several batches of Western weapons.
    Odesa is also a major gateway for grain shipments, and its blockade by Russia already threatens global food supplies.    Beyond that, the city is a cultural jewel, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and targeting it carries symbolic significance as well.
    In Mariupol, Russians also bombarded the Azovstal steel mill, the Azov regiment said, targeting the sprawling complex 34 times in the past 24 hours.    Attempts to storm the plant also continued, it said.
    Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, estimated on social media that at least 100 civilians are trapped in the plant.    Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said those who remain are people “that the Russians have not selected” for evacuation.
    The two officials did not say how they knew civilians were still in the complex – a warren of tunnels and bunkers spread over 4 square miles.
    Fighters with the Azov regiment released photos of their wounded comrades inside the plant, including some with amputated limbs.    They said the wounded were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with non-sterile remnants of bandages, without the necessary medication and even food.”
    In its statement on Telegram, the regiment appealed to the U.N and Red Cross to evacuate the wounded servicemen to Ukrainian-controlled territories.
    The photos could not be independently verified.
    With Russian forces struggling to gain ground in the Donbas, military analysts suggest that hitting Odesa might serve to stoke concern about southwestern Ukraine, thus forcing Kyiv to put more forces there.    That would pull them away from the eastern front as Ukraine’s military stages counteroffensives near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, aiming to push the Russians back across the border there.
    Kharkiv and the surrounding area has been under sustained Russian attack since early in the war.    In recent weeks, grisly pictures testified to the horrors of those battles, with charred and mangled bodies strewn in one street.
    Dozens of bodies were found in a five-story building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 75 miles from Kharkiv, said Oleh Synehubov, the head of the regional administration.
    But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that the military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv.    The Ukrainian military’s general staff said its forces drove the Russians out of four villages to the northeast of Kharkiv as it tries to push them back toward the Russian border.
    Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, meanwhile, appeared to voice increasing confidence – and expanded goals – amid Russia’s stalled offensive.
    “In the first months of the war, the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before Feb. 24 and payment for inflicted damage,” Kuleba said in an interview with the Financial Times.    “Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories.”
    The comments seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Many analysts acknowledge that although Russia isn’t capable of making quick gains, the Ukrainian military isn’t strong enough to drive the Russians back.
    Zelenskyy used his nightly address to pay tribute to Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukraine, who died Tuesday at 88.    Zelenskyy said Kravchuk showed courage and knew how to get the country to listen to him.
    That was particularly important in “crisis moments, when the future of the whole country may depend on the courage of one man,” said Zelenskyy, whose own communication skills and decision to remain in Kyiv when it came under Russian attack have helped make him a strong wartime leader.
    In the U.S., President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure Monday to reboot the World War II-era “lend-lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to bolster Kyiv and its allies.
    Ukraine said Russian forces fired seven missiles Monday at Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse in the country’s largest port.    One person was killed and five wounded, the military said.
A firefighter works near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa on Tuesday. PHOTOS BY MAX PSHYBYSHEVSKY/AP

People stand near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine,
on Tuesday. The city is dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike. MAX PSHYBYSHEVSKY/AP

5/11/2022 Fighters seek evacuation of wounded at Mariupol mill - Say they’re living in unsanitary conditions by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KYIV, Ukraine – Fighters of the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit holed up in the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the devastated port city of Mariupol, have released photos of their wounded comrades in arms who they say are in the plant, along with an appeal to the United Nations and Red Cross to arrange for their evacuation.
    In a statement accompanying the photos posted on a Telegram channel titled “Azov – Mariupol” on Tuesday, they said the wounded, who they noted were no longer combatants, were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with nonsterile remnants of bandages, without the necessary medication and even food.”
    The statement said that “the whole civilized world must see the conditions in which the wounded, crippled defenders of Mariupol are and act.”
    “We demand the immediate evacuation of wounded servicemen to Ukrainian- controlled territories, where they will be assisted and provided with proper care,” the statement concluded, noting there were several hundred wounded fighters in the plant.
    The series of 10 photos shows fighters with severe injuries, including two standing on crutches who have had their left legs amputated, one with his left arm amputated at the shoulder and another with his right arm amputated above the elbow, with the stump bandaged.    Two others are shown being treated by medics, and another has an external fixation device, which is screwed into broken limbs to stabilize them, on his right arm.
    It was not possible to independently verify where the photos were shot or the identities of those depicted.
    The seaside steel mill is the only part of the strategic port city that has not been taken over by Russian forces.    With a warren of tunnels and bunkers extending deep beneath the plant, hundreds of civilians had taken shelter there from the intense bombardment of their city.    Ukrainian and Russian officials had said the last remaining women, children and the elderly were evacuated from the plant earlier this week, but confusion remained as to whether all civilians had been evacuated after two Ukrainian officials on Tuesday estimated that some remained.
    The Azov Regiment has a controversial past.    It derives from a group called the Azov Battalion, which formed in 2014 as one of many volunteer brigades in the fight against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east.    It drew its initial fighters from far-right circles and elicited criticism for its tactics.
    Later in 2014 it splintered into two groups, with one folded into the National Guard as the Azov Regiment, and another becoming a far-right political movement.
An injured Azov Special Forces Regiment’s soldier is one of many still inside the Azovstal steel plant.
DMYTRO ‘OREST’ KOZATSKYI/ AZOV SPECIAL FORCES REGIMENT OF THE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL GUARD PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

5/12/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - WAR CRIMES TRIAL TO COMMENCE - Prosecutor’s office has identified more than 600 suspects by Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A burnt car and tractor after shelling by Russian forces in the town of Orikhiv,
near Zaporizhzhia, eastern Ukraine. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – Ukraine’s top prosecutor disclosed plans Wednesday for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier, as fighting raged in the east and south and the Kremlin left open the possibility of annexing a corner of the country it seized early in the invasion.
  • Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was gunned down while riding a bicycle in February, four days into the war.
  • Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, was accused of firing through a car window on the man in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka.    Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison.    She did not say when the trial would start.
    Venediktova’s office has said it has been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.
    Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow’s forces aborted their bid to capture Kyiv and withdrew from around the capital, exposing mass graves and streets and yards strewn with bodies in towns such as Bucha.    Residents told of killings, burnings, rape, torture and dismemberment.
    Volodymyr Yavorskyy of the Center for Civil Liberties said the Ukrainian human rights group will be closely following Shyshimarin’s trial to see if it is fair.    “It’s very difficult to observe all the rules, norms and neutrality of the court proceedings in wartime,” he said.
    On the economic front, Ukraine shut down a pipeline that carries Russian gas across the country to homes and industries in Western Europe, marking the first time since the start of the war that Kyiv disrupted the flow westward of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.
    But the immediate effect is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert the gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers.
    Meanwhile, a Kremlin-installed politician in the southern Kherson region, site of the first major Ukrainian city to fall in the war, said officials there want Russian President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson a “proper region” of Russia – that is, annex it.
    “The city of Kherson is Russia,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kherson regional administration appointed by Moscow, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
    That raised the possibility that the Kremlin would seek to break off another piece of Ukraine as it tries to salvage an invasion gone awry.    Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which borders the Kherson region, after a disputed referendum in 2014, a move denounced as illegal and rejected by most of the international community.
    Kherson, a Black Sea port of roughly 300,000, provides Crimea with access to fresh water and is seen as gateway to wider Russian control over southern Ukraine.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be “up to the residents of the Kherson region after all to decide whether such an appeal should be made or not.”    He said any move to annex territory would have to be closely evaluated by legal experts to make sure it is “absolutely legitimate, as it was with Crimea.”
    Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak mocked the notion of Kherson’s annexation, tweeting: “The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter.    The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what games with words they play.”
    Inside Kherson, people have taken to the streets to decry the Russian occupation.    But a teacher who gave only her first name, Olga, for fear of Russian retaliation said such protests are impossible now because Moscow’s troops “kidnapped activists and citizens simply for wearing Ukrainian colors or ribbons.”    She said “people are scared of talking openly outside their homes” and “everyone walks on the street quickly.”
    “All people in Kherson are waiting for our troops to come as soon as possible,” she added.    “Nobody wants to live in Russia or join Russia.”
    On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said a Russian rocket attack targeted an area around Zaporizhzhia, destroying unspecified infrastructure.    There were no immediate reports of casualties. The southeastern city has been a refuge for civilians fleeing the devastated port city of Mariupol.
    Russian forces continued to pound the steel plant that is the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, its defenders said.    The Azov Regiment said on social media that Russian forces carried out 38 airstrikes in the previous 24 hours on the grounds of the Azovstal steelworks.
    The plant has sheltered hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians during a monthslong siege.
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war if Russia will allow the badly injured fighters to be evacuated.
    An adviser to the Mariupol mayor said Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city.
    Petro Andriushchenko said there are few apartment buildings fit to live in and little food or drinking water.    He said some remaining residents are cooperating with occupying Russian forces in exchange for food.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested Tuesday that Ukraine’s military is gradually pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city and a key to Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region whose capture the Kremlin says is its main objective.
    Ukraine is also targeting Russian air defenses and resupply vessels on Snake Island in the Black Sea in an effort to disrupt Moscow’s efforts to expand its control over the coastline, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
    Separately, Ukraine said it shot down a cruise missile targeting the Black Sea port city of Odesa.
    Elsewhere, the governor of a Russian region near Ukraine said at least one civilian was killed and six wounded by Ukrainian shelling in the village of Solokhi, near the border.    Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov’s account couldn’t be independently verified, but he said the village will be evacuated.
    Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it moved to stop the flow of Russian gas through a compressor station in part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists because enemy forces were interfering with its operation and siphoning off gas.
    The hub handles about one-third of Russian gas passing through Ukraine to Western Europe.    But analysts said much of the gas can be redirected through another pipeline from Russia that crosses Ukraine, and there were indications that was happening.    In any case, Europe also gets natural gas from other pipelines and other countries.
    It was not clear whether Russia would take any immediate hit, since it has long-term contracts and other ways of transporting gas.    Still, the cutoff underscored the broader risk to gas supplies from the war.
A cemetery is damaged Wednesday after shelling by Russian forces in the
town of Orikhiv, near Zaporizhzhia, eastern Ukraine. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/12/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - Russia’s not first to spew ‘firehose of falsehood’ - Propaganda a common tool to try to justify conflict by Michael Collins, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – In the daily diet of propaganda that Russia feeds its citizens, Ukrainians are Nazis, Russian soldiers are liberators, Americans are schemers and Ukrainian forces are practitioners of satanism.
    None of those falsehoods compares with an epic tale spread by the British government during World War II.
    A story that hit some American newspapers in 1941 detailed how British troops parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, overpowered German guards at an airfield, destroyed 30 planes, took 40 Germans hostage and safely made their escape back to England aboard torpedo boats.
    It was an incredible tale of British bravery and chutzpah.    But none of it was true.
    Britain’s intelligence service fabricated the story and planted it in American newspapers in a covert campaign to persuade the United States to enter the war.
    Russia has drawn global condemnation for its use of misinformation and censorship of outside voices to stir up pro-Russian sentiment in its war against Ukraine.    But governments throughout history have often relied on less-than truthful narratives and outright fabrications to rally support for wars or achieve other political goals.
    “It’s important to remember that the good guys, as we now think of them, have used fakes and disinformation,” said Nicholas Cull, an expert on propaganda at the University of Southern California.
    Anton Shirikov, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, sees clear parallels between the misinformation campaign Russia is waging in support of its war in Ukraine and how propaganda has been used in previous conflicts.
    Russia portrays the war in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West – a narrative it circulated years earlier to defend its involvement in the civil war in Syria, Shirikov said.
    Russia invokes World War II and Nazism in an effort to smear Ukrainian leaders, including attacks on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov raised the unproven claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestry. Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, accused Russia of spreading antisemitic tropes.
    “Right now, at times, Russian propaganda even equates Nazis and Western civilization,” said Shirikov, who specializes in propaganda and misinformation.
    Russia’s propaganda machine is a “firehose of falsehood” whose primary target audience is Russians themselves, said Christopher Paul, senior social scientist at the Rand Corp., a global policy think tank based in Santa Monica, California.
    “It isn’t new for a country to propagandize their domestic audience during wartime,” Paul said.    “Maintaining the national will to fight is important for a country when they’re at war.”     World War I was the first conflict in which mass media and propaganda played a significant role in attempting to influence public opinion, according to the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Television hadn’t been invented, and radio was in its infancy, yet governments found ways to rally public support for the war effort and demonize their enemy.
    The United States and other nations mass-produced war posters by the millions and plastered them on buildings, fences and any other place with a flat surface, said Doran Cart, the museum’s senior curator.
    “As much as cartridges, artillery shells and helmets, they were flying off the production line,” Cart said.
    In the USA, the posters promoted war bonds and encouraged Americans to enlist.    One of the most iconic images from the era was James Montgomery Flagg's recruitment poster that showed Uncle Sam pointing his finger at the viewer and declaring, “I Want You For U.S. Army.”
    A German placard from the era urged women to cut and sell their hair to support the war effort.    An Australian flyer pictured an ape-like monster wearing a German spiked helmet and grasping a globe with bloody hands.    The poster contained no text, but the message was obvious.
    President Woodrow Wilson’s administration created the first true U.S. propaganda agency, the Committee on Public Information, to influence public opinion in support of the war.    The agency oversaw the production and distribution of pamphlets, news releases, magazine ads, films and school campaigns to promote American “State-controlled media is still spewing the same kinds of false baloney that they have been for quite a while.    It hasn’t really changed.    They’ve been accusing Ukraine’s government of being fascists or Nazis for many years.” Christopher Paul, RAND Corp. involvement in the war.
    The committee recruited volunteers known as Four Minute Men to give pro-war speeches in movie theaters, churches, synagogues and other public spaces.    The recruits – men and women trained by the government – got their name by delivering their message in theaters during the four-minute breaks needed to change movie reels.    Armed with government- approved topics, they urged Americans to buy Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps, recited patriotic poems about American soldiers or warned of German atrocities.
    The speeches were effective, Cart said, because “if it’s someone speaking to you, it tends to be more believable.”
    The propaganda campaigns continued during World War II.    The British government bought controlling interest in a small news agency and used it to distribute made-up stories about secret Allied victories and raise questions about Hitler’s sanity, Cull said.    Britain circulated a fake Nazi map that purported to show Germany’s plans to conquer South America.
    During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government exaggerated a confrontation with the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin, giving President Lyndon Johnson an opening to escalate U.S. military involvement in the conflict.
    What’s most striking about Russia's propaganda campaign in its war against Ukraine is its censorship of outside voices, Paul said.
    “State-controlled media is still spewing the same kinds of false baloney that they have been for quite a while,” he said.    “It hasn’t really changed.    They’ve been accusing Ukraine’s government of being fascists or Nazis for many years.    But what’s different is that they’ve gone out of their way to cut off possible competing voices by closing down access to external social media, by passing incredibly restrictive laws.”
    Russia even outlawed use of the words “war,” “assault” or “invasion” to describe its attack on Ukraine.    Media outlets that ignore the ban can be blocked or fined.
    Ukraine fights back with its own propaganda operation.
    Billboards along roads and highways taunt Russian soldiers and President Vladimir Putin.    One includes a drawing of a Russian warship sinking in blood.    Another shows a woman putting a gun in Putin’s mouth.    A popular poster depicts Putin committing suicide by carving into his abdomen the letter “Z,” which Russian propaganda uses as a symbol for its invasion.
    Propaganda is most effective when it focuses on things that people already know or reinforces their fears or beliefs, Cull said.
    “We see that not only in the way that Russia speaks to its people but in the way American political figures have spoken to their own populations, affirming prejudices that they know the population already has and exploiting those for political ends,” he said.
    Russia’s propaganda machine is characterized by “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fiction” via the internet, social media, satellite television and traditional radio and television broadcasting, according to a 2016 Rand Corp. report co-written by Paul.
    The report noted that Russia has a team of paid internet trolls who go onto online chat rooms, discussion forums and comment sections of news and other websites to attack or undermine views or information that run counter to Russian themes.    One of the former cyber mischief-makers reported that the trolls are on duty 24 hours a day, working 12-hour shifts, and each has a daily quota of 135 posted comments of at least 200 characters, the report said.
    Television is the main medium through which most Russians are fed propaganda, Shirikov said.
    Russians may not believe everything they see on TV, Shirikov said, “but they are buying this general narrative that Ukraine and the West are united against Russians.”
    “It’s hard for many people to believe that television could be lying about everything,” he said.
    Russia plans to annex occupied Kherson.
    Black Sea port city is one of few major Ukrainian cities held by Russia.
Z” has become a symbol of support for Russian military action in Ukraine. A poster at a bus stop
in St. Petersburg reads, “We are proud of Russia! We are not ashamed!” AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/13/2022 NEWS BRIEFING - Finland’s leaders support bid to join NATO
An apartment building stands damaged by Russian shelling Thursday
in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP
    Finland’s leadership announced support Thursday for expedited NATO membership despite dire Kremlin warnings of “retaliatory steps.”
    The decision by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin is strongly supported by lawmakers and citizens of Finland, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin.    Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO in the coming days.
    “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” the leaders said in a joint statement.    “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.    Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.”
    They said they hoped the application would be submitted in the next few days.    Finland’s minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, said Finland’s parliament will vote on the matter early next week.    Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia.
    “We want to defend our freedom and our equality,” Tuppurainen said.    “This is not only about territories and borders.    This war is also about values and ideology.”
    Russia would view the move as a violation of international legal obligations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.    “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of military and other nature, in order to curtail the threats that arise to its national security in this regard,” the ministry said in a statement.
Anti-corruption foundation hails seizure of alleged Putin yacht
    Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation on Thursday hailed Italy’s seizure of the $700 million mega-yacht Scheherazade, saying it will deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin and his alleged mistress Alina Kabaeva of one of their biggest perks.
    “In March, we released an investigation where we proved that Scheherazade belonged to Putin, and we’ve been pursuing its arrest ever since.    So now we can celebrate victory,” said an email sent to supporters by the foundation.    “Thanks to you, Putin and Kabaeva will no longer be using the gold-plated jacuzzi and spa.”
    The foundation is raising money for Navalny’s release.    He’s serving 2 1/2 years in a penal colony east of Moscow after his arrest in early 2021 and was sentenced to another nine years in a maximum-security prison in March in a trial Kremlin critics see as an attempt to keep Putin’s most ardent opponent incarcerated as long as possible.
    Italian authorities seized the Scheherazade on Friday night as it appeared to be readying to leave the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara, where it had been undergoing maintenance work.
    The vessel is being held pending a decision by the European Union related to its latest package of sanctions against Russia, the Italian government said in a statement.
EU unveils plans to help Ukraine export agricultural products
    The European Commission on Thursday unveiled plans to establish “solidarity lanes” to help Ukraine export its agricultural produce and import products and humanitarian aid.    Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports has bottled up     Ukrainian grain and other agricultural goods in the country, threatening global food security.    EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said 20 million tons of grains must leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure.
    “This is a gigantesque challenge,” she said, adding that it was essential to coordinate supply chains, set up new routes and “avoid as much as possible the bottlenecks.”
    Ukraine and Russia provide about 30% of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its corn and more than half of its sunflower oil.
    Parts of Africa, the Near East and Central Asia have been hit the hardest by price shocks, the UN said.    In Somalia, many farmers rely on irrigation powered by diesel engines.    High fuel prices compounded with drought have experts worried about famine.
Putin blames world hunger issues on West’s drive for ‘domination’
    The West is to blame for the fast-rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices sweeping across the globe that have left some of the world’s poorest countries vulnerable to food insecurity, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
    Putin, speaking at a meeting on economic issues, said sanctions placed on Russia will prompt consequences elsewhere that would be difficult to reverse.
    “The blame for this entirely and completely rests with the elites of the Western countries, who for the sake of preserving their global domination are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world,” Putin said.    He claimed that Russia is coping well, with domestic companies providing goods lost due to sanctions “after unscrupulous partners left.”
Ukraine liberates several towns, villages near Kharkiv
    Ukrainian counterattacks have been recapturing several towns and villages north of Kharkiv toward the Russian border, the British Defense Ministry said in an assessment Thursday.
    Russia’s prioritization of operations in the eastern Donbas region has left elements deployed around Kharkiv vulnerable to the mobile and “highly motivated” Ukrainian counter-attacking force, the assessment says.    Russia encircled Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict but reportedly has withdrawn units from the region to reorganize and replenish elsewhere following heavy losses, the assessment adds.
    Contributing: John Bacon, Kim Hjelmgaard, Celina Tebor, Deirdre Shesgreen, Maureen Groppe and Josh Meyer, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

5/13/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russian threats push Finland toward NATO - On the ground, Ukraine says aid units, hospital facilities, school targeted by Oleksandr Stashevskyi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian soldiers sit on a tank that is being carried by a transporter
near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – Finland’s leaders Thursday came out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment on the continent 2 1/2 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors.
    The Kremlin reacted by warning it will be forced to take retaliatory “military-technical” steps.
    On the ground, meanwhile, Russian forces pounded areas in central, northern and eastern Ukraine, including the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, as part its offensive to take the industrial Donbas region, while Ukraine recaptured some towns and villages in the northeast.
    The first war-crimes trial of a Russian soldier since the start of the conflict is set to open Friday in Kyiv.    A 21-year-old captured member of a tank unit is accused of shooting to death a civilian on a bicycle during the opening week of the war.
    Finland’s president and prime minister announced the Nordic country should apply right away for membership in NATO, the military defense pact founded in part to counter the Soviet Union.
    “You (Russia) caused this. Look in the mirror,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said this week.
    Although the country’s Parliament still has to weigh in, the announcement means Finland is all but certain to apply – and gain admission – though the process could take months to complete.    Sweden, likewise, is considering putting itself under NATO’s protection.
    That would represent a major change in Europe’s security landscape: Sweden has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, and Finland adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in World War II.
    Public opinion in both nations shifted dramatically in favor of NATO membership after the invasion, which stirred fears in countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next.
    Such an expansion of the alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic and would amount to a stinging setback for Putin, who had hoped to divide and roll back NATO in Europe but is instead seeing the opposite happen.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance would welcome Finland and Sweden.    Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Moscow “will be forced to take retaliatory steps of military- technical and other characteristics in order to counter the emerging threats to its national security.”     NATO’s funneling of weapons and other military support to Ukraine has been crucial to Kyiv’s surprising success in stymieing the invasion, and the Kremlin warned anew in chilling terms Thursday the aid could lead to direct conflict between NATO and Russia.
    “There is always a risk of such conflict turning into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for all,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.
    Although Russia’s advance in the Donbas has been slow, its forces have gained some ground and taken some villages.    Four civilians were killed Thursday in three communities in the Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbas, the regional governor reported.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia’s focus on the Donbas has left its remaining troops around the northeastern city of Kharkiv vulnerable to counterattack from Ukrainian forces, which recaptured several towns and villages across the city.    Russian strikes Thursday killed at least two civilians on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, local authorities said.    The attacks also damaged a building housing a humanitarian aid unit, municipal offices and hospital facilities, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, the mayor of the suburban town of Derhachi, wrote in a Telegram post. None of the sites “had anything to do with military infrastructure,” Zadorenko said.
    Ukraine also said Russian forces had fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops around Zaporizhzhia, which has been a refuge for civilians fleeing Mariupol, and attacked in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions to the north.    Overnight airstrikes near Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, killed at least three people, Ukraine’s military said.    It said that Russian troops fired rockets at a school and student dormitory in Novhorod-Siversky and that some other buildings, including private homes, were also damaged.
    In his evening address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the assaults.
    “Of course, the Russian state is in such a state that any education only gets in its way,” he said.    “But what can be achieved by destroying Ukrainian schools? All Russian commanders who give such orders are simply sick and incurable.”
    Twelve Russian missiles struck an oil refinery and other infrastructure in the central Ukrainian industrial hub of Kremenchuk on Thursday, the region’s acting governor, Dmytro Lunin, wrote in a Telegram post.    In early April, he said, the refinery, which had been the last fully functional one in Ukraine at the time, was knocked offline by an attack.    In the southern port of Mariupol, which has largely been reduced to smoking rubble with little food, water or medicine, or what the mayor called a “medieval ghetto,” Ukrainian fighters continued to hold out at the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the city.
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said negotiations were underway with Russia to win the release of 38 severely wounded Ukrainian defenders from the plant.    She said Ukraine hoped to exchange them for 38 “significant” Russian prisoners of war.
A crater caused by Russian shelling is seen next to a damaged apartment
building in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

Employees for the Donetsk People Republic Emergency Situations Ministry
clear rubble at the side of the damaged Mariupol theater building during heavy fighting. AP

Associate professor of Ukrainian literature Mykhailo Spodarets gives an
online lesson from the basement of his house in Kharkiv. MSTYSLAV CHERNOV/AP

5/14/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russia toll heavy in river crossing - Ukraine says troops ‘drowned the occupiers’ by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A nun holds a cat recovering from surgery at Saint Michael monastery in Odesa, Ukraine. The monastery houses
about 200 cats, most of them left there by people who fled the city because of the war. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.
    Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict Friday.    The defendant, a captured Russian soldier, stands accused of shooting to death a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war.
    The trial got underway as Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, seemed to turn increasingly into a grinding war of attrition.
    Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River in Bilohorivka and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby – the Ukrainians said they destroyed at least 73 tanks and other military equipment during the two-day battle earlier this week.
    The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”    Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.
    Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict Friday.    The defendant, a captured Russian soldier, stands accused of shooting to death a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war.
    The trial got underway as Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, seemed to turn increasingly into a grinding war of attrition.
    Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky     Donets River in Bilohorivka and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby – the Ukrainians said they destroyed at least 73 tanks and other military equipment during the two-day battle earlier this week.
    The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”    Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack.    A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 troops.
    “Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
    In other developments, a move by Finland and, potentially, Sweden to join NATO was thrown into question when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is “not of a favorable opinion” toward the idea.    He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others Turkey considers terrorists.
    Erdogan did not say outright that he would block the two nations from joining NATO.
    But the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of its 30 member countries has a veto over who can join.
    An expansion of NATO would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who undertook the war in what he said was a bid to thwart the alliance’s eastward advance.    But in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, other countries along Russia’s flank fear they could be next.
    With Ukraine pleading for more arms to fend off the invasion, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give Kyiv an additional $520 million to buy heavy weapons.
    Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the heavy weapons making their way to the front lines but admitted there is no quick end to the war in sight.
    “We are entering a new, long-term phase of the war,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
    “Extremely difficult weeks await us.    How many there will be?    No one can say for sure.”
    The battle for the Donbas has turned into a village-by-village, back-and-forth slog with no major breakthroughs on either side and little ground gained.    In his nightly address Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said no one can predict how long the war will last but that his country’s forces have been making progress, including retaking six Ukrainian towns or villages in the past day.
    Fierce fighting has been taking place on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, said Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst.
    The Ukrainian military has launched counterattacks but has failed to halt Russia’s advance, he said.
    “The fate of a large portion of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.
    The Ukrainian military chief for the Luhansk region of the Donbas said Friday that Russian forces opened fire 31 times on residential areas the day before, destroying dozens of homes, notably in Hirske and Popasnianska villages.    He said Russian troops have taken nearly full control of Rubizhne, a city with a prewar population of about 55,000.
    In the ruined southern port of Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters holed up in a steel plant faced continued Russian attacks on the last stronghold of resistance in the city.        Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said his troops will hold out “as long as they can” despite shortages of ammunition, food, water and medicine.
    Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who is now a security consultant, said Moscow’s losses have forced it to downsize its objectives in Ukraine.
    He said the Russians have had to use hastily patched-together units that haven’t trained together.
    “This is not going to be quick.    So, we’re settled in for a summer of fighting at least.    I think the Russian side is very clear that this is going to take a long time,” he said.
    As the war grinds on, teachers are trying to restore some sense of normalcy after the fighting shuttered Ukraine’s schools and upended the lives of millions of children.
    In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lessons are being given in a subway station that has become home for many families.    Children joined their teacher Valeriy Leiko around a table to learn about history and art, with youngsters’ drawings lining the walls.
    “It helps to support them mentally.    Because now there is a war, and many lost their homes. … Some people’s parents are fighting now,” Leiko said.    In part because of the lessons, he said, “they feel that someone loves them.”
    An older student, Anna Fedoryaka, monitored a professor’s online lectures on Ukrainian literature, admitting: “It is hard to concentrate when you have to do your homework with explosions by your window.”
An elderly woman sleeps inside a basement used as a bomb shelter
during Russian attacks in Severodonetsk, Ukraine. LEO CORREA/AP

A ruined pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed or damaged Russian armored vehicles on both banks of the Siverskyi Donets
River are shown after their pontoon bridges were blown up in eastern Ukraine. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

5/14/2022 Moscow sees losses as bridge is destroyed - Moscow sees losses as bridge is destroyed - Ukraine says it took out another Russian ship by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Municipal workers prepare a new tube to restore water supply in front
of a building damaged by a Russian attack in Bahmut, Ukraine. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia suffered heavy losses when Ukrainian forces destroyed the pontoon bridge enemy troops were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.
    Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict.    The defendant, a captured Russian soldier, stands accused of shooting to death a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war.
    Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.
    Ukrainian news reports said troops thwarted an attempt by Russian forces to cross the river earlier this week, leaving dozens of tanks and other military vehicles damaged or abandoned.    The command said its troops 'drowned the Russian occupiers.'
    Britain’s Defense Ministry said that Russia lost 'significant armored maneuver elements' of at least one battalion tactical group as well as equipment used to deploy the makeshift floating bridge.
    'Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,' the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
    In other developments, a move by Finland and, potentially, Sweden to join NATO was thrown into question when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is 'not of a favorable opinion' toward the idea.    He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others Turkey considers terrorists.
    An expansion of NATO would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who undertook the war in what he said was a bid to thwart the alliance’s eastward advance.    But the invasion of Ukraine has stirred fears in other countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next.
    With Ukraine pleading for more arms to fend off the invasion, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give the country an additional $520million to buy heavy weapons.
    The battle for the Donbas has turned into a village-by-village slog with no major breakthroughs on either side and little ground gained.
    The Ukrainian military chief for the Luhansk region of the Donbas said Friday that Russian forces opened fire 31 times on residential areas the day before, destroying dozens of homes, notably in Hirske and Popasnianska villages, and a bridge in Rubizhne.
    In the south, Ukrainian officials claimed another success in the Black Sea, saying their forces took out another Russian ship, though there was no confirmation from Russia and no casualties were reported.
    The Vsevolod Bobrov logistics ship was badly damaged but not thought to have sunk when it was struck while trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island, said Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser.
    In April, Ukraine sank the Moskva, a guided missile cruiser that was the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.    In March it destroyed a landing ship.
    Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who is now a security consultant, said Moscow’s losses have forced it to downsize its objectives.    He said the Russians have had to use hastily patched-together units that haven’t trained together and are thus less effective.
    'This is not going to be quick. So, we’re settled in for a summer of fighting at least.        I think the Russian side is very clear that this is going to take a long time,' he said.
    Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of potential war crimes.    Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow’s forces abandoned their bid to capture Kyiv and withdrew from around the capital, exposing mass graves and streets strewn with bodies.
    As the war grinds on, teachers are trying to restore some sense of normalcy after the fighting shuttered Ukraine’s schools and upended the lives of millions of children.
    In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lessons are being given in a subway station that has become home for many families.    Children joined their teacher Valeriy Leiko around a table to learn about history art, with youngsters’ drawings lining the walls.
    'It helps to support them mentally,' Leiko said.
    Amendment, which would have needed 60 votes to pass, rather than add it directly into the aid package before senators vote to approve it.
    That wasn’t good enough for Paul.    “My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation.    And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.
    Paul, who has long been skeptical of U.S. military involvement in and foreign aid for other nations, criticized the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on Ukraine, both since Russia invaded the nation in February and in past years.
    “With a $30 trillion debt, America can’t afford to be the world’s policeman,” he said.
    McConnell publicly urged his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky to change course — to no avail.
    Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell recommended Paul accept the compromise being offered: Let senators vote separately on his proposed amendment, and then pass the aid package for Ukraine so they could get this done by the end of the day.    (The House of Representatives already approved the aid, and if the Senate amended the bill it would have required another vote in the House.)
    “Ukraine is not asking us to fight this war.    They’re only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion, and they need this help right now,” McConnell said.    “This conflict has direct and major consequences for America’s national security and America’s national interest.”
    Schumer derided Paul’s intransigence in his own speech on the Senate floor, noting that “the vast majority” of Democratic and Republican senators support the aid package.
    “There is now only one thing holding us back.    The junior senator from Kentucky is preventing swift passage of Ukraine aid because he wants to add, at the last minute, his own changes directly into the bill.    His change is strongly opposed by many members from both parties,” he said Thursday of Paul.    “He is simply saying: ‘My way, or the highway.’    When you have a proposal to amend a bill, you can’t just come to the floor and demand it by fiat.    You have to convince other members to back it first.    That is how the Senate works.”
    Paul didn’t budge.    He defended his move on Twitter Thursday night, saying: “All I requested is an amendment to be included in the final bill that allows for the Inspector General to oversee how funds are spent.    Anyone who is opposed to this is irresponsible.”
    “Passing this bill brings the total we’ve sent to Ukraine to nearly $54 billion over the course of two months,” he continued.    “It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula.”
    Donald Trump Jr., the son of former President Donald Trump, backed Paul up on Twitter, saying Friday: “(Rand Paul) simply wanted an inspector general to oversee how $40 billion of your taxpayer dollars are being spent in Ukraine and the swamp went nuts.    They don’t want transparency because it’s one giant kickback to their friends and Big War.”
    Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter.    Contact her at mwatkins@courierjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

5/14/2022 Seeking moments of normalcy amid horrors of Ukraine war by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Maksym, 3, is photographed with his brother, Dmytro, 16, on top of a destroyed
Russian tank, on the outskirts of Kyiv on Sunday. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP
    A young girl hugs a beloved scraggly gray stuffed cat at a reception center for the hundreds of civilians evacuated from a Mariupol steel works plant after weeks of bombardment by Russian forces.    Nearby, a young man kisses his real gray cat, the eyes of both man and pet closed in relief at their escape.
    About 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers remained trapped this week in the tunnels of the Azovstal steel plant, including one service member of the Azov Special Forces Regiment who grimly posed for a photograph, the sleeve of his sweatshirt pulled back to reveal his missing left arm, blown off during the fighting against Russian forces.
    This week’s Associated Press images continued to reveal the horrors and occasional lighter moments of the war, now in its 11th week since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion.
    A father took a photo of his sons, 3-year-old Maksym and 16-yearold Dmytro atop a destroyed Russian tank Sunday on the outskirts of Kyiv, now again under Ukrainian control.
    Police and volunteers exhumed the bodies of civilians killed by Russian shelling in the village of Stepaky, near Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, where brutal fighting continues.    An elderly woman walked inside a metro station being used as a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, where sleeping bags and small tents lined the long underground platform alongside the train tracks.
    An inconsolable widow draped in the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag wept at the coffin of her husband, 36-year-old Oleksandr Makhov, a well-known Ukrainian journalist who was killed while fighting with his country’s volunteer forces, at his funeral at St. Michael cathedral in Kyiv.
    The war came dangerously close this week to a facility for the mentally and physically disabled in the village of Tavriiske, near the southeastern front line, where staff were trying to decide how to evacuate the 425 residents as the threatening boom of artillery fire punctuated the air.
    Still, there were moments of determined resiliency and escape from war, if only briefly, as a young couple embraced in the quiet of a Kyiv park.
A Ukrainian Su-25 jet flies and releases heat flares after an attack on
Russian positions in the Donetsk region on Tuesday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

People who fled from Mariupol, some of them from the Azovstal steel plant, are processed upon their arrival
by bus at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia late Sunday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

The widow of 36-year-old volunteer soldier Oleksandr Makhov, a well-known Ukrainian journalist,
cries on his coffin at St. Michael cathedral in Kyiv on Monday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Ivan Andreiev, who fled from Mariupol with his family, kisses his cat, Leonardo, upon his arrival
at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on Sunday.FRANCISCO SECO/AP

Ukrainian servicemen carry an injured comrade on a stretcher to a hospital after
an attack by Russian forces in the Donetsk region on Monday. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

5/14/2022 Ukraine asks G7 to step up arms supply - Pushes for more sanctions, pressure on Russia by Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WEISSENHAUS, Germany – Ukraine’s foreign minister said Friday that his country remains willing to engage in diplomatic talks with Russia to unblock grain supplies and to achieve a political solution to the war in Ukraine but won’t accept ultimatums from Moscow.
    Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Ukrainian government had received 'no positive feedback' from Russia, which he alleged 'prefers wars to talks.'
    'We are ready to talk, but we are ready for a meaningful conversation based on mutual respect, not on the Russian ultimatums thrown on the table,' Kuleba told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major economies.
    Kuleba said his talks with G-7 counterparts had been 'helpful, fruitful, very honest and result-oriented.' He praised them for the financial and military support they have so far provided to Ukraine.
    But he urged Ukraine’s supporters to supply more weapons, including multiple launch rocket systems and military planes, and to put further pressure on Russia’s economy by stepping up sanctions and following Canada’s lead in seizing Russian sovereign assets to pay for rebuilding Ukraine.
    The European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give Ukraine another $520 million to buy heavy weapons to fend off the Russian invasion.
    'We will provide a new tranche of 500 more millions to support the military of Ukraine,' Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, said at the G-7 meeting in Weissenhaus, on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast.
    The funds would be allocated for the purchase of heavy weapons and take the EU’s total financial support for Ukraine to $2.1billion, he added.    EU diplomats cautioned that any disbursement requires backing from all of the bloc’s 27 members.
    Some countries are expressing misgivings, and approval is unlikely before next week.
    EU Council president Charles Michel, who represents the governments of EU members in Brussels, threw his 'full support' behind the plan.    'Time is of the essence,' Michel wrote in a message posted on Twitter.
    Borrell also expressed hope of soon getting the bloc’s member states to agree an oil embargo against Russia, despite resistance from Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian imports.
    Kuleba said he plans to join a meeting of European Union diplomats in Brussels on Monday, where the issue will be discussed.
    'It’s a critical moment when we will see where EU unity will continue to exist or it will be broken,' he said, claiming Hungary’s concerns were 'more politics than economic arguments.'
    '(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has been trying for many years to achieve exactly his goal, to break the unity of the European Union on its policy towards Ukraine,' he added.
    'If ... Hungary opts out and does not support the package, I believe it will cause a lot of damage of the European Union itself and therefore they have to do their utmost to prevent it from happening,' said Kuleba.
    Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.
    'We need this agreement, and we will have it,' he said.
    Baerbock is hosting the three-day meeting in Weissenhaus also attended by top diplomats from Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Kuleba

5/15/2022 Putin warns Finland about joining NATO - Russian president says relations will be ‘negatively affected’ by Jari Tanner, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, right, says his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin
“was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions
was considered important.” ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    HELSINKI – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart Saturday that relations between the two neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Finland follows through with plans to apply for NATO membership.
    The Kremlin’s press service said in a statement that Putin told Sauli Niinisto that Finland’s abandonment “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error since there are no threats to Finland’s security.”
    “Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian- Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” the statement added.
    The response came after Niinisto told Putin in a phone conversation that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country, which has a complex history with its huge eastern neighbor, “will decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.”
    Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish head of state told Putin how starkly Finland’s security environment had changed after Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, and pointed to Russia’s demands for Finland to refrain from seeking membership of the 30-nation Western military alliance.
    “The discussion (with Putin) was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration.    Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of a handful of Western leaders who has been in regular dialogue with Putin over the past decade.
    Niinisto pointed out that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “each independent nation would maximize its own security.”
    “That is still the case. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities,” Niinisto said.
    Niinisto stressed that Finland, despite its likely future membership in NATO, wants to continue to deal with Russia bilaterally in “practical issues generated by the border neighborhood” and hopes to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner.”
    According to the Kremlin statement, the two leaders also discussed Russia’s “military operation” in Ukraine, and the possibility of achieving a political solution.    Putin said negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv had been suspended due to Ukraine’s “lack of interest in a serious and constructive dialogue.”
    The phone call was conducted on Finland’s initiative, Niinisto’s office said.
    Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, the longest of any European Union member.
    Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly endorsed their country’s NATO bid and recommended that Finland “must apply for NATO membership without delay” to guarantee its security.
    A formal announcement from Niinisto and Marin of Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership is expected on Sunday.    Marin’s governing Social Democratic Party approved the membership bid on Saturday, paving way for a parliamentary vote next week to endorse the move.    It’s expected to pass with overwhelming support.    A formal membership application would then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
    One possible hurdle to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance came from NATO member Turkey, whose president said Friday he was “not favorable” to the idea.    Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited support in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants – whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
    Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Saturday that he had already called his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, “to take the tensions down.”
    “I’m sure that we will find a solution to this item as well,” he told reporters.

5/15/2022 Russian forces retreat from Kharkiv - Ukraine enters new ‘long-term’ phase of war by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and David Keyton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A sculpture of Ukrainian national hero Taras Shevchenko sits near the ruins of the local Palace of Culture, which
had been used as an aid distribution center before being destroyed by a missile strike. JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian troops were withdrawing from around Ukraine’s second-largest city after bombarding it for weeks, the Ukrainian military said Saturday, as Kyiv and Moscow’s forces engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
    Ukraine’s military said the Russian forces were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern province of Donetsk in order to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.”
    Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new – long-term – phase of the war.”
    After failing to capture Kyiv following the Feb. 24 invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shifted his focus eastward to the Donbas, an industrial region where Ukraine has battled Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
    The offensive aims to encircle Ukraine’s most experienced and best equipped troops, who are deployed in the east, and to seize parts of the Donbas that remain in Ukraine’s control.
    Airstrikes and artillery barrages make it extremely dangerous for journalists to move around in the east, hindering efforts to get a full picture of the fighting.    But it appears to be a backand- forth slog without major breakthroughs on either side.
    Russia has captured some Donbas villages and towns, including Rubizhne, which had a prewar population of around 55,000.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s forces have also made progress in the east, retaking six towns or villages in the past day. In his nightly address Saturday, he said “the situation in Donbas remains very difficult” and Russian troops were “still trying to come out at least somewhat victorious.”
    “Step by step,” Zelenskyy the president said, “we are forcing the occupants to leave the Ukrainian land.”
    Kharkiv, which is near the Russian border and only 50 miles southwest of the Russian city of Belgorod, has undergone weeks of intense shelling.    The largely Russian-speaking city with a prewar population of 1.4 million was a key military objective earlier in the war, when Moscow hoped to capture and hold major cities.
    Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said.    “Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv.”
    Regional Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said via the Telegram messaging app that there had been no shelling attacks on Kharkiv in the past day.
    He added that Ukraine launched a counteroffensive near Izyum, a city 78 miles south of Kharkiv that has been held by Russia since at least the beginning of April.
    Fighting was fierce on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukraine has launched counterattacks but failed to halt Russia’s advance, said Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst.
    “The fate of a large portion of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.
    However, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross the same river in the town of Bilohorivka, Ukrainian and British officials said.
    Britain’s defense ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack.    A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 troops.    The ministry said the risky river crossing was a sign of “the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine.”
    Zelenskyy has warned of a global food crisis as Russia blockades Ukrainian grain from leaving port.
    In other developments:
  • Ukrainian fighters holed up in a steel plant in the ruined southern port of Mariupol faced continued attacks on the city’s last stronghold of resistance.    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said authorities were negotiating the evacuation of 60 severely wounded troops, but Russia had not agreed to the evacuation of all wounded fighters at the steelworks, who number in the hundreds.
  • Performing in the final of the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest, Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra made an impassioned plea for help for those inside the steel plant.    The band later emerged the event’s winner early Sunday.    Zelenskyy signaled that he was watching from Kyiv, saying in a statement, “This is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important.”
  • An adviser to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushenko said via Telegram that a convoy of between 500 and 1,000 cars carrying civilians from the city was allowed to enter Ukraine-controlled territory and was headed for Zaporizhzhia, the first major city beyond the front lines.
  • The deputy speaker of Russia’s parliament, Anna Kuznetsova, visited Kherson, a region bordering the Black Sea that has been held by Russia since early in the war. Russia has installed a pro-Moscow regional administration, and Britain’s defense ministry said Russia could stage a local referendum on joining Russia with results likely manipulated to show majority support.
  • Zelenskyy signed into law a measure allowing for the banning of political parties found to be supporting or defending Russia’s invasion, the head of the national parliament’s legal policy committee reported.
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols with a dog during a reconnaissance mission in
a recently retaken village on the outskirts of Kharkiv. MSTYSLAV CHERNOV/AP

Relatives and friends react during the funeral of Melnyk Andriy, Shufryn Andriy and Ankratov Oleksandra,
Ukrainian military servicemen who were killed in the eastern part of the country. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

5/16/2022 Small victories buoy Ukraine - West says Russians losing momentum in war effort by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Roman Pryhodchenko cries inside his house damaged by multiple shellings in Kharkiv. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Almost three months after Russia shocked the world by invading Ukraine, its military faces a bogged-down war, the prospect of a bigger NATO and an opponent buoyed Sunday by wins on and off the battlefield.
    Top diplomats from NATO met in Berlin with the alliance’s chief and declared that the war “is not going as Moscow had planned.”
    “Ukraine can win this war,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, adding that the alliance must continue to offer military support to Kyiv.    He spoke by video link to the meeting as he recovers from a COVID-19 infection.
    On the diplomatic front, both Finland and Sweden took steps bringing them closer to NATO membership despite Russian objections.    Finland announced Sunday that it was seeking to join NATO, citing how the invasion had changed Europe’s security landscape.    Several hours later, Sweden’s governing party endorsed the country’s own bid for membership, which could lead to an application in days.
    If the two nonaligned Nordic nations become part of the alliance, it would represent an affront to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has cited NATO’s post-Cold War expansion in Eastern Europe as a threat to Russia.    NATO says it is a purely defensive alliance.
    While Moscow lost ground on the diplomatic front, Russian forces also failed to make territorial gains in eastern Ukraine.
    Ukraine said it held off Russian offensives in the east, and Western military officials said the campaign Moscow launched there after its forces failed to seize the capital of Kyiv has slowed to a snail’s pace.
    Ukraine, meanwhile, celebrated a morale-boosting victory in the Eurovision Song Contest.    The folk-rap ensemble Kalush Orchestra won the glitzy pan-European competition with its song “Stefania,” which has become a popular anthem among Ukrainians during the war.
    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed that his nation would claim the customary winner’s honor of hosting the next annual competition.
    “Step by step, we are forcing the occupiers to leave the Ukrainian land,” Zelenskyy said.
    The band’s frontman, Oleh Psiuk, said at a news conference Sunday that the musicians were “ready to fight” when they return home.    Ukraine’s government prohibits men between 18 and 60 from leaving the country, but the all-male band’s six members received special permission to go to Italy to represent Ukraine in the contest.
    They will return to a country still fighting for survival.    Russian and Ukrainian fighters are engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas.    Ukraine’s most experienced and best-equipped soldiers have fought Moscow backed separatists in the east for eight years.
    Even with its setbacks, Russia continues to inflict death and destruction across Ukraine.    Over the weekend, its forces hit a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Siverodonetsk, in the Donbas, the regional governor said.    Gov. Serhii Haidaii said two people were killed in the shelling and warned residents still in the city to stay in underground shelters.
    Russian missiles destroyed “military infrastructure facilities” in the Yavoriv district of western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, the governor of the Lviv region said.
    Lviv is a major gateway for the Western-supplied weapons Ukraine has acquired during the war.
    The Ukrainian military said it held off a renewed Russian offensive in the Donetsk area of the Donbas.    Russian troops also tried to advance near the eastern city of Izyum, but Ukrainian forces stopped them, the governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Oleh Sinegubov, reported.
    The Ukrainian claims could not be independently verified, but Western officials also painted a somber picture for Russia.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that the Russian army had lost up to one-third of the combat strength it committed to Ukraine in late February and was failing to gain any substantial territory.
    “Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry said on Twitter.
    The assessments of Russia’s war performance came as Russian troops retreated from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which was a key military objective earlier in the war and was bombarded for weeks.    The regional governor said there had been no shelling in the city for several days, though Russia continued to strike the wider Kharkiv region.
    One Ukrainian battalion that had been fighting in the region reached the border with Russia on Sunday and made a victorious video there addressed to Zelenskyy.
    In the video posted on Facebook by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, a dozen fighters stood around a blue-and-yellow post, Ukraine’s colors.
    One explained that the unit went “to the dividing line with the Russian Federation, the occupying country.    Mr. President, we have reached it.    We are here.”
    While he spoke, other fighters made victory signs and raised their fists.
    After failing to capture Kyiv, Putin shifted the invasion’s focus to the Donbas, aiming to seize territory not already occupied by the Moscow-backed separatists.
    In the southern Donbas, the Azov Sea port of Mariupol is now largely under Russian control, except for a few hundred Ukrainian troops who have refused to surrender and remain holed up in the Azovstal steel factory.
    Many of their wives called on the global community to secure the release of “the entire garrison,” during an online news conference.        The women painted a grim picture of the troops’ situation, saying they suffered severe food, water and medicine shortages; untreated injuries were sometimes leading to sepsis.
    The Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office said regional prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Moscow’s alleged use of restricted incendiary bombs at the steelworks.    International law allows certain use of incendiary munitions but bars their use to directly target enemy personnel or civilians.
    Turkey’s presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said the country had offered to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers and civilians by ship from Azovstal, according to official state broadcaster TRT.
Chickens roam in front of a heavily damaged house in the village
of Mala Rogan, east of Kharkiv. SERGEY BOBOK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/16/2022 Finland, Sweden closer to seeking NATO inclusion by Frank Jordans and Jari Tanner, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Finland President Sauli Niinistö speak during a news conference Sunday in
Helsinki, Finland, to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership. ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    BERLIN – Finland’s government declared a “new era” is underway as it inches closer to seeking NATO membership, hours before Sweden’s governing party on Sunday backed a plan to join the trans-Atlantic alliance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    Russia has long bristled about NATO moving closer to its borders, so the developments will be sure to further anger Moscow.
    President Vladimir Putin has already warned his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that relations would be “negatively affected.”
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday the process for Finland and Sweden to join could be very quick. He also didn’t expect Turkey to hold up the process.
    Speaking after top diplomats from the alliance’s 30 member states met in Berlin, Stoltenberg also expressed his hope that Ukraine could win the war as Russian military advances appear to be faltering.
    In Finland, President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin confirmed earlier statements that their country would seek membership in NATO during a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.        The Nordic country, which was nonaligned before changing its stance on NATO, shares a long border with Russia.
    “This is a historic day.    A new era begins,” Niinisto said.
    The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in the coming days.    A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at some point next week.
    Sweden, also nonaligned, moved a step closer to applying for NATO membership after the governing Social Democratic party met Sunday and backed joining the trans-Atlantic alliance.
    The plan to join the alliance will be discussed in Sweden’s parliament on Monday, and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet will make an announcement later that day.
        The decision by the Social Democrats breaks with the party’s long-standing position that Sweden must remain nonaligned and means there’s a clear majority for NATO membership in Parliament.
    Sweden has not been a member of a military alliance since the Napoleonic Wars.    Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Red Army in World War II and losing about 10% of its territory.
    “Our 200-year-long standing policy of military nonalignment has served Sweden well,” Andersson said during a news conference in Stockholm late Sunday.    “But the issue at hand is whether military nonalignment will keep serving us well?
    “We’re now facing a fundamentally changed security environment in Europe.”
    Finland and Sweden abandoned traditional neutrality by joining the European Union in 1995.
    Public opinion in both countries was firmly against joining NATO until the Russian invasion on Ukraine on Feb. 24, when support for membership surged almost overnight, first in Finland and later in Sweden.
    NATO’s secretary-general, meanwhile, sought to highlight Russian military setbacks.
    “Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned,” Stoltenberg said by video link to the NATO meeting in Berlin as he recovers from a COVID-19 infection.”    “They failed to take Kyiv.    They are pulling back from around Kharkiv.    Their major offensive in Donbas has stalled.    Russia is not achieving its strategic objectives.”
    “Ukraine can win this war,” he said, adding that NATO must continue to step up its military support to the country.
    The ex-Soviet republic of Georgia’s bid to join NATO is again being discussed despite dire warnings from Moscow about the consequences.    Both countries fought a brief war in 2008 over Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia.
    Nordic NATO member Norway said it strongly welcomed Finland’s decision to seek membership.    Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt described Helsinki’s move as “a turning point” for the Nordic region’s defense and security policies.
    Stoltenberg said he was confident the accession process for Finland and Sweden could be expedited.    In the meantime, the alliance would increase its presence in the Baltic region to deter Russian threats, he said.
    “All allies realize the historic magnitude of the moment,” Stoltenberg added.
    That sentiment was echoed by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
    “Sweden and Finland, if you’re ready, we’re ready,” she said.
    But NATO member Turkey has raised concerns about the two countries joining, alleging they support Kurdish militants that Ankara considers terrorists.
    The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.    Turkey has also been infuriated by U.S. support for PKK-linked Syrian Kurdish militants to fight the Islamic State group.
    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavus¸og?lu told reporters in Berlin that Finland and Sweden had also imposed restrictions on defense sales to Turkey that he called “unacceptable.”
    “It’s not because we are against the expansion of NATO, but because we believe countries who support terror and follow such policies against us should not be NATO allies,” Çavusoglu said.
    Stoltenberg said his understanding is that Turkey wants to have its concerns over Finland and Sweden addressed first.
    “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership,” he said.
    Nonetheless, Turkey’s raising of its grievances has led to concerns in Washington and Brussels that other NATO members might also use the admission process as a way to wring concessions from allies, possibly complicating and delaying accession.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke with Çavus¸og?lu and will see him again on the margins of a special U.N. Security Council meeting later this week in New York, declined to comment on those concerns.    But he was optimistic that all NATO members would support bids from Finland and Sweden.
    “I’m very confident that we will reach consensus,” he said after the meeting in Berlin.

5/16/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE NEWS BRIEFING - Russian troops said to be ‘losing momentum’
    Russia’s military advance in Ukraine is “losing momentum,” a senior NATO official noted Sunday, adding that with the alliance’s help, Kyiv could come out of the war victorious.
    “The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters in Berlin.    “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
    An intelligence update from Britain’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday echoed Geoana’s words and also said the invading army has probably lost one-third of the ground combat forces it committed at the beginning of the war.
    Top NATO diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, met Sunday in Berlin to discuss added assistance to Ukraine.    Also on the agenda was expansion of the alliance to include Finland and possibly Sweden.
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with Blinken on Sunday.    He noted on Twitter that more American aid and weapons are on the way.
    Blinken and Kuleba “also discussed the impact of Russia’s brutal war, including on global food security, and committed to seeking a solution to export Ukraine’s grain to international markets,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Ukrainian official opines: Finland, Sweden, NATO
    Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna said on ABC News’ “This Week” that the likely acceptance of Finland and Sweden into NATO would show the alliance has learned from how it handled Ukraine’s 2008 membership application.
    One of the mistakes to learn from, Stefanishyna said, was “making promises without delivering on decisions in terms of membership, which has basically led to three wars, two of which are now happening on Ukrainian territory.”
    Finland formally announced Sunday it would seek entry into NATO, citing the Russian invasion as a major factor, and Sweden’s governing party endorsed a bid for membership, which could lead to an application in days.
    Both nations are hoping to avoid the brutal assault Ukraine is now trying to repel.    Stefanishyna noted Russian troops are now pulling away from major areas in western Ukraine, but her country is not “overly optimistic.”
Niinsto: Putin calls joining NATO ‘a mistake’
    Finnish President Sauli Niinsto said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “quite calm and cool” when Niinsto told him that Finland would be applying for NATO membership.
    Niinsto said Sunday on CNN that Putin did not repeat earlier threats about what would happen if the neutral Nordic country that borders Russia tried to join the alliance.
    Niinsto said he doesn’t think Russia will attack Finland for trying to join NATO, though Putin called the move “a mistake.”
    Niinsto noted the security situation has changed to the point Finland has no choice but to align itself with other Western countries in NATO.
McConnell: Finland, Sweden good for NATO
    A day after he and other Republican senators visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that Finland and Sweden would be “important additions” to NATO.
    “I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join,” McConnell, a longtime NATO supporter, told reporters from Stockholm.    He noted Finland and Sweden, unlike some members of the Western alliance, would likely be in a position to pay their NATO obligations and would offer significant military capabilities.
Will Putin use a nuclear weapon?
    From nearly the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has teased the use of a nuclear weapon.
    But most political scientists, nuclear arms experts, Western officials and seasoned Kremlin watchers say that it’s highly unlikely he would detonate a nuclear weapon to break an impasse over Russia’s stalled offensive in Ukraine, now in its third month.
    “If the conflict in Ukraine essentially remains an overt one between Russian and Ukrainian forces, with the West playing more of a proxy role, if we stay where we are today in terms of Western involvement in the conflict, I see no likelihood at all,” said Dmitri Trenin, until recently director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
Contributing: Katie Wadington, Jorge L. Ortiz and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

5/16/2022 Poll: Young Swedish Men Oppose Joining NATO by OAN NEWSROOM
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party’s leader Ulf Kristersson give a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden,
Monday, May 16, 2022. Sweden’s government has decided to apply for a NATO membership. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via AP)
    The Swedish society has appeared to become increasingly divided over the government’s proposed accession to NATO.    According to a poll by Swedish broadcaster SVT, 43 percent of Swedish men between the ages 18 and 29 are opposed to their country abandoning neutral status and joining NATO.
    Meanwhile, another 43 percent said they were in favor of joining NATO. The poll found people of older generations and women support joining NATO the most, while young Swedish men are the least supportive of the proposal.
    “I think that it put our security in jeopardy and then we’re also allying ourselves with less nice and trustworthy countries,” said Olof Bjork, a court employee in Stockholm.    “We could increase other cooperation, military cooperation, and increase our own ability to defend ourselves, invest in a national conscription defense.”
    This comes as the Swedish ruling party abandoned its 73-year long opposition to NATO and voted to join the alliance in recent days.    Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson recently announced that her government has decided to formally apply.
    Swedish politicians are citing the Ukraine crisis as the reason to join NATO, while Russia is saying such a move would make Sweden potential target for its military.

5/17/2022 Serbia’s capital paralyzed by numerous bomb threats
    BELGRADE, Serbia – Belgrade was targeted by a series of bomb threats on Monday, bringing rush hour traffic to a standstill in the Serbian capital.    Police said in a statement that no explosive devices were found after different searches.    It was not immediately clear who was behind the purported emailed threats.    Nearly 100 elementary schools were evacuated after the threats, as well as restaurants, shopping malls, bridges, a zoo, the airport, a railway station and the water supply company. Police had blocked traffic over the bridges.

5/17/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - ‘HEROES’ EVACUATED - Ukrainian regiment doggedly defended steel mill by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Above, the remains of a destroyed Russian helicopter lie in a field in
Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Monday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – The regiment that doggedly defended a steel mill as Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol declared its mission complete Monday after more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated and taken to areas under Russia’s control.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks.
    He said the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help.
    “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive.    It’s our principle,” he said.    An unknown number of fighters stayed behind to await other rescue efforts.
    The steel mill’s defenders got out as Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback in its war with Ukraine, with Sweden joining Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership. And Ukraine made a symbolic gain when its forces reportedly pushed Russian troops back to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.
    Still, Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.
    Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol.    An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor.    She said an exchange would be worked out for their return home.
    “Mariupol’s defenders have fully accomplished all missions assigned by the command,” she said.
    Officials also planned to keep trying to save the fighters who remained inside. Military experts generally put the number of fighters at the plant at anywhere from a few hundred to 1,000.
    “The work to bring the guy’s home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” Zelenskyy said.
    Before Monday’s evacuations from the steelworks began, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the mill for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists.    There was no immediate word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.
    After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles.    Maliar later confirmed that the evacuation had taken place.
    “Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, Ukraine gained critically important time to form reserves and regroup forces and receive help from partners,” she said.    “And they fulfilled all their tasks.    But it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”
    The commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the plant, said in a prerecorded video message released Monday that the regiment’s mission had concluded, with as many lives saved as possible.
    “Absolutely safe plans and operations don’t exist during war,” Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko said, adding that all risks were considered and part of the plan included saving “as many lives of personnel as possible.”
    Elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region.    In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed in shelling.
    The western Ukrainian city of Lviv was rocked by loud explosions early Tuesday.    Witnesses counted at least eight blasts accompanied by distant booms, and the smell of burning was apparent sometime later.    An Associated Press team in Lviv, which was under an overnight curfew, said the sky west of the city was lit up by an orange glow.
    But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days.    Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly pushed them all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.
    Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker.    Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen of the soldiers posed next to it, including one with belts of bullets draped over a shoulder.
    “I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.    “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”    The Ukrainian border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region,” but would not elaborate, citing security reasons.    It was not immediately possible to verify the exact location.
    Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.
    Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take the capital of Kyiv.    Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas but also has turned into a slog, with both sides fighting village-by-village.
    Howitzers from the U.S. and other countries have helped Kyiv hold off or gain ground against Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said.    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles of Russia’s border but could not confirm if it was all the way to the frontier.
    The official said Russian long-range strikes also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border.    There were no immediate reports of casualties.
    Away from the battlefield, Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for the counties, which were nonaligned for generations.
    Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves.
    “Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said.    “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”
    Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.
    Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy.    A proposed EU embargo faces opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.    Bulgaria also has reservations.
Left, a resident carries a shovel to clear the rubble from his house damaged during a shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday.

Ukrainian serviceman Anton pets a cat in a basement previously used by Russian soldiers
as a temporary base in the village of Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv region, east Ukraine, Monday.

5/17/2022 Sweden, Finland met by Turkey’s objections - Membership requires OK from all NATO countries by Karl Ritter, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sweden Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks to the press before the parliamentary debate about
her country’s membership bid to NATO Monday in Stockholm. The parliaments in Finland and Sweden
have prepared to submit applications this week. HENRIK MONTGOMERY/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    STOCKHOLM – Turkey´s president on Monday complicated Sweden and Finland´s historic bid to join NATO, saying he cannot allow them to become members of the alliance because of their perceived inaction against exiled Kurdish militants.
    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on comments last week indicating that the two Nordic countries ´ path to NATO would be anything but smooth.    All 30 current NATO countries must agree to open the door to new members.
    Erdogan spoke to reporters just hours after Sweden joined Finland in announcing it would seek NATO membership in the wake of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, ending more than 200 years of military nonalignment.    He accused the two countries of refusing to extradite “terrorists” wanted by his country.
    “Neither country has an open, clear stance against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said, an apparent reference to Kurdish militant groups like the banned Kurdistan Workers´ Party, or PKK.
    Swedish officials said they would dispatch a team of diplomats to Ankara to discuss the matter, but Erdogan suggested they were wasting their time.
    “Are they coming to try and convince us?    Sorry don´t wear yourselves out,” Erdogan said.    “During this process, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO, which is a security organization.”
    Sweden has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East in recent decades, including ethnic Kurds from Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
    Turkey´s objections took many Western officials by surprise and some had the impression Ankara would not let the issue spoil the NATO expansion.    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg over the weekend said “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership.”
    In Washington, Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter was among those who said they were taken aback by Turkey ´s objections.    “We have a very strong anti-terrorist agenda and a lot of, almost, accusations that are coming out … are simply not true,” she said.
    Sweden decided Monday to seek NATO membership a day after the country’s governing Social Democratic party endorsed a plan for the country to join the trans-Atlantic alliance and Finland’s government announced that it would seek to join NATO.
    Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson warned that the Nordic country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves for the Russian response.     “Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said.    “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”
    Moscow has repeatedly warned Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and Sweden of repercussions should they pursue NATO membership.    But Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday seemed to downplay the significance of their move.
    Speaking to a Russian-led military alliance of six ex-Soviet states, Putin said Moscow “does not have a problem” with Sweden or     Finland applying for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will, of course, give rise to our reaction in response.”
    Andersson, who leads the center-left Social Democrats, said Sweden would hand in its NATO application jointly with Finland.    Flanked by opposition leader Ulf Kristersson, Andersson said her government also was preparing a bill that would allow Sweden to receive military assistance from other nations in case of an attack.
    “The Russian leadership thought they could bully Ukraine and deny them and other countries self-determination,” Kristersson said.    “They thought they could scare Sweden and Finland and drive a wedge between us and our neighbors and allies.    They were wrong.”
    Once a regional military power, Sweden has avoided military alliances since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.    Like Finland it remained neutral throughout the Cold War, but formed closer relations with NATO after the 1991 Soviet collapse.    They no longer see themselves as neutral after joining the European Union in 1995, but have remained nonaligned militarily until now.
    After being firmly against NATO membership for decades, public opinion in both countries shifted following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, with record levels of support for joining the alliance.    The Swedish and Finnish governments swiftly initiated discussions across political parties about NATO membership and reached out to the U.S., Britain, Germany and other NATO countries for their support.
    On Sunday, Andersson’s party reversed their long-standing position that Sweden must remain nonaligned, giving NATO membership overwhelming support in Parliament.

5/18/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - NEWS BRIEFING ‘Heroes of our time’ exit plant in Mariupol
In this photo provided by Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office, a serviceman injured during fighting
against Russian forces sits inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 10. DMYTRO ‘OREST’ KOZATSKYI/AP
    A contingent of Ukrainian fighters who doggedly defended a steel mill in Mariupol for weeks “fulfilled its combat mission,” Ukrainian officials said, and efforts were underway Tuesday to evacuate the last of the group.
    “The Supreme Military Command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of their personnel,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.    “Mariupol defenders are heroes of our time.”
    More than 260 Ukrainian troops were evacuated to areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists.    The Kremlin called the exodus a mass surrender. Russian Defense Ministry video shows troops patting down and searching the fighters.    Some were on stretchers as they were loaded onto the buses.
    Ukraine Minister for the Reintegration Irina Vereshchuk said a prisoner exchange will take place for the more than 50 wounded soldiers when their condition stabilizes, along with more than 200 other fighters evacuated through a humanitarian corridor.    Hundreds of prisoners from both sides have been exchanged since the war began Feb. 24.
    An unknown number of troops remained at the Azovstal steel plant that sprawls across 4 square miles.    The plant has symbolized Ukraine’s final holdout in the besieged city.
Treasury secretary: War should hasten transition to clean energy
    The energy security emergency facing Europe and the world because of the war is a moment to rapidly accelerate the transition to clean energy, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday.    Yellen, in a prepared speech for the Brussels Economic Forum, called the war a “wake-up call” for energy security and said that “no country controls the wind and the sun.”    Europe’s dependence on Russian energy has complicated efforts to sting Moscow with harsh economic sanctions.
    “Let’s make sure that this is the last time that the global economy is held hostage to the hostile actions of those who produce fossil fuels,” Yellen said.    “This will happen again if we don’t change our approach.”
International court sends experts to Ukraine for war crimes probe
    The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said Tuesday he has deployed a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel to Ukraine.
    Prosecutor Karim Khan said the team, working with Ukrainian authorities, will connect crime scene investigations and strengthen “hard evidence.”
    To be classified as crimes against humanity, attacks have to be part of what the ICC’s founding treaty calls “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”
    Thousands of Ukrainian civilians are believed to have died since Russia’s invasion less than three months ago.
    “It is essential that we demonstrate to survivors and the families of victims that international law is relevant,” Khan said in a statement, pledging to “bring them some measure of solace through the process of justice.”
Biden to meet with leaders of Sweden and Finland
    President Joe Biden will meet at the White House with the leaders of Sweden and Finland on Thursday to discuss those nations’ application for membership in NATO, the White House announced Tuesday.    The meeting with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland comes days after both countries announced they would seek entry into the alliance.    Their applications must be approved by all current members, however, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised objections.
    Still, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday reiterated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments Sunday that there is strong support within NATO for Sweden and Finland to join and there are ongoing conversations with Turkey.
Retired colonel on Russian TV: War is going badly, will ‘get worse’
    A retired Russian colonel broke from the Kremlin narrative of the war in Ukraine this week, warning on Russian TV that as the West ramps up its arms deliveries, “a million-armed Ukrainian soldiers needs to be viewed as a reality of the very near future.”    Thus the Russian’s military struggles are likely to “frankly, get worse,” Mikhail Khodaryonok said.
    Khodaryonok said Russia faced “full geopolitical isolation.”    The Russian TV host, Olga Skabeyeva, known as the “Iron doll of Putin TV” for her fiercely pro-Kremlin takes, suggested that the isolation was only from the West.    But Khodaryonok said support from China and India was not as unconditional as the support Ukraine was receiving from the U.S. and its allies.
    “Virtually the entire world is against us,” he said, as translated by the BBC’s Francis Scarr.    “And it’s that situation that we need to get out of.”
    Khodaryonok also dismissed claims that the Ukraine military includes relatively few professional soldiers and was suffering from low morale.
    “A desire to protect one’s homeland, in the sense that it exists in Ukraine, it really does exist there,” he said.    “They intend to fight until the last man.”
Contributing: John Bacon, Maureen Groppe, Jorge L. Ortiz and Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

5/18/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - FALL OF MARIUPOL - CITY’S END APPEARS AT HAND AS UKRAINIAN FIGHTERS ABANDON DESTROYED REMAINS OF STEEL PLANT by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ABOVE: Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus Tuesday after they were evacuated from Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant,
near a prison in Olenivka, Ukraine, in territory under the control of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic government. AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Mariupol appeared on the verge of falling to the Russians on Tuesday as Ukraine moved to abandon the steel plant where hundreds of its fighters had held out for months under relentless bombardment in the last bastion of resistance in the devastated city.
    The capture of Mariupol would make it the biggest city to be taken by Moscow’s forces and would give the Kremlin a badly needed victory, though the landscape has largely been reduced to rubble.
    More than 260 Ukrainian fighters – some of them seriously wounded and taken out on stretchers – left the ruins of the Azovstal plant on Monday and turned themselves over to the Russian side in a deal negotiated by the warring parties.    An additional seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers from the plant were seen arriving at a former penal colony Tuesday in the town of Olenivka, approximately 55 miles north of Mariupol.
    While Russia called it a surrender, the Ukrainians avoided that word and instead said the plant’s garrison had successfully completed its mission to tie down Russian forces and was under new orders.
    “To save their lives.    Ukraine needs them.    This is the main thing,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.
    The Ukrainians expressed hope that the fighters would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war.    But Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, said without evidence that there were “war criminals” among the defenders and that they should not be exchanged but tried.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the country’s military and intelligence officers are still working to extract its remaining troops from the sprawling steel mill.    Officials have not said how many remain inside.
    “The most influential international mediators are involved,” he said.
    The operation to abandon the steel plant and its labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers signaled the beginning of the end of a nearly three-month siege that turned Mariupol into a worldwide symbol of both defiance and suffering.
    The Russian bombardment killed over 20,000 civilians, according to Ukraine, and left the remaining inhabitants – perhaps one-quarter of the southern port city’s prewar population of 430,000 – with little food, water, heat or medicine.
    During the siege, Russian forces launched lethal airstrikes on a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians had taken shelter.    Close to 600 people may have been killed at the theater.
    Gaining full control of Mariupol would give Russia an unbroken land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and deprive Ukraine of a vital port.    It could also free up Russian forces to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin is bent on capturing.
    And it would give Russia a victory after repeated setbacks on the battlefield and the diplomatic front, beginning with the abortive attempt to storm Kyiv, the capital.
    The Russian victory, though, is more a symbolic boost for Russian President Vladimir Putin than a military win, said retired French Vice Adm. Michel Olhagaray, a former head of France’s center for higher military studies.    He said: “factually, Mariupol had already fallen.”
    “Now Putin can claim a ‘victory’ in the Donbas,” Olhagaray said.
    But because the Azovstal defenders’ “incredible resistance” tied down Russian troops, Ukraine can also claim that it came out on top.
    “Both sides will be able to take pride or boast about a victory – victories of different kinds,” he said.
    Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak likened the Ukrainian defenders to the vastly outnumbered Spartans who held out against Persian forces in ancient Greece.    “83 days of Mariupol defense will go down in history as the Thermopylae of the XXI century,” he tweeted.
    The soldiers who left the plant were searched by Russian troops, loaded onto buses accompanied by Russian military vehicles, and taken to two towns controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.    More than 50 of the fighters were seriously wounded, according to both sides.
    It was impossible to confirm the total number of fighters brought to Olenivka or their legal status.    While both Mariupol and Olenivka are officially part of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, Olenivka has been controlled by Russia backed separatists since 2014 and forms part of the unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic.”    Prior to the rebel takeover, penal colony No. 120 had been a high-security facility designed to hold those sentenced for serious crimes.
    Footage shot by The Associated Press shows the convoy was escorted by military vehicles bearing the pro-Kremlin “Z” sign, as Soviet flags fluttered from poles along the road. About two dozen Ukrainian fighters were seen in one of the buses.
    Russia’s main federal investigative body said it intends to interrogate the troops to “identify the nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.    Also, Russia’s top prosecutor asked the country’s Supreme Court to designate Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, whose members have been holding out at Azovstal, a terrorist organization.    The regiment has links to the far right.
    Russian state news agencies said the Russian parliament would take up a resolution Wednesday to prevent the exchange of Azov Regiment fighters.
    A negotiated withdrawal could save lives on the Russian side, too, sparing its troops from what almost certainly would be a bloody battle to finish off the defenders inside the plant, which sprawls over 4 square miles.
    The withdrawal could also work to Moscow’s advantage by taking the world’s attention off the suffering in Mariupol.
    Russian and Ukrainian officials said peace talks were on hold.
    Elsewhere across the Donbas, eight civilians were killed Tuesday in Russian attacks on 45 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
    Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said a Russian airstrike ignited a fire at a building materials plant.    In the Luhansk region, Russian soldiers fired rockets on an evacuation bus carrying 36 civilians, but no one was hurt, Gov. Serhii Haidai said.
Wounded Ukrainian servicemen receive treatment after being evacuated from the
Azovstal plant Tuesday in Mariupol. RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP

5/19/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - UNCERTAINTY FOR MARIUPOL TROOPS - Russia plans to interrogate captured fighters, threatens to put some on trial for war crimes by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian servicemen fire mortars toward Russian positions in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on Tuesday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Nearly 1,000 last-ditch Ukrainian fighters who had held out inside Mariupol’s pulverized steel plant have surrendered, Russia said Wednesday, as the battle that turned the city into a worldwide symbol of defiance and suffering drew toward a close.
  • Meanwhile, the first captured Russian soldier to be put on trial by Ukraine on war-crimes charges pleaded guilty to killing a civilian and could get life in prison.    Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO, abandoning generations of neutrality for fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop with Ukraine.
    The Ukrainian fighters who emerged from the ruined Azovstal steelworks after being ordered by their military to abandon the last stronghold of resistance in the now-flattened port city face an uncertain fate.    Some were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
    While Ukraine said it hopes to get the soldiers back in a prisoner swap, Russia threatened to put some of them on trial for war crimes.
    Amnesty International said the Red Cross should be given immediate access to the fighters.    Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for the region, cited lawless executions allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine and said the Azovstal defenders “must not meet the same fate.”
    It was unclear how many fighters remained inside the plant’s labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers, where 2,000 were believed to be holed up at one point.    A separatist leader in the region said no top commanders had emerged from the steelworks.
    The plant was the only thing standing in the way of Russia declaring the full capture of Mariupol.    Its fall would make Mariupol the biggest Ukrainian city to be taken by Moscow’s forces, giving a boost to Putin in a war where many of his plans have gone awry.
    Military analysts, though, said the city’s capture at this point would hold more symbolic importance than anything else, since Mariupol is already effectively under Moscow’s control and most of the Russian forces that were tied down by the drawn-out fighting have already left.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 959 Ukrainian troops have abandoned the stronghold since they started coming out Monday.    Video showed the fighters carrying out their wounded on stretchers and undergoing pat-down searches before being taken away on buses escorted by military vehicles bearing the pro-Kremlin “Z” sign.
    The U.S. has gathered intelligence that shows some Russian officials have become concerned that Kremlin forces in Mariupol are carrying out abuses, including beating and electrocuting city officials and robbing homes, according to a U.S official familiar with the findings.
    The Russian officials are concerned that the abuses will further inspire residents to resist the occupation and that the treatment runs counter to Russia’s claims that its military has liberated Russian speakers, according to the official, who was not authorized to comment.
    Resistance fighting was reported in the occupied southern city of Melitopol, where the regional military administration said Ukrainians killed several high-ranking Russian officers and a Russian armored train carrying troops and ammunition overturned, causing the munitions to detonate.    The administration said on Telegram that the Russian military does not maintain the tracks and overloads the trains, and “with help” from resistance fighters the train derailed.    The reports could not be independently confirmed.
    In a sign of normalcy returning to Kyiv, the U.S. Embassy reopened on Wednesday, one month after Russian forces abandoned their bid to seize the capital and three months after the outpost was closed.    A dozen embassy employees watched solemnly as the American flag was raised.
    “The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,“ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.    Other Western countries have been reopening their embassies in Kyiv as well.
    In the war-crimes case in Kyiv, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-yearold member of a tank unit, pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed 62-yearold Ukrainian man in the head through a car window in the opening days of the war.    Ukraine’s top prosecutor has said some 40 more war-crimes cases are being readied.
    On the diplomatic front, Finland and Sweden could become members of NATO in a matter of months, though objections from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threaten to disrupt things.        Turkey accuses the two of harboring Kurdish militants and others it considers a threat to its security.
    Mariupol’s defenders grimly clung to the steel mill for months and against the odds, preventing Russia from completing its occupation of the city and its port.    Its full capture would give Russia an unbroken land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    Russia’s main federal investigative body said it intends to interrogate the surrendering troops to “identify the nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.
Residents stand at a bus stop Tuesday in Mariupol, in territory under the
control of the Donetsk People’s Republic. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP

A woman walks past a crater of an explosion Wednesday after Russian shelling
in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

5/20/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Surrendering Mariupol troops registered POWs - Commander at steel mill says other fighters are still inside by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Residents stay in the subway in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. Although the bombings in Kharkiv have
decreased and the subway is expected to run next week, some residents still use it as a bomb shelter.
President Vladimir Putin has now set his sights on capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered after holding out against punishing attacks on Mariupol’s steel factory hung in the balance Thursday, amid international fears that the Russians may take reprisals against the prisoners.
    The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered personal information from hundreds of the soldiers – name, date of birth, closest relative – and registered them as prisoners of war, as part of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.
    Amnesty International said in a tweet that the Ukrainian soldiers are now prisoners of war and as such “must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment.”
    More than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appeared to be the final stage in the nearly three-month siege of the now-pulverized port city.
    At least some of the fighters were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.    Others were hospitalized, according to a separatist official.
    But an undisclosed number remained in the warren of bunkers and tunnels in the sprawling plant.
    In a brief video message, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the steel mill, said he and other fighters were still inside.
    “An operation is underway, the details of which I will not announce,” Svyatoslav Palamar said.
    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was working to ensure “that the most influential international forces are informed and, as much as possible, involved in saving our troops.”
    While Ukraine expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, Russian authorities have threatened to investigate some of the Azovstal fighters for war crimes and put them on trial, branding them “Nazis” and criminals.
    The Azov Regiment’s far-right origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast Russia’s invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
    Meanwhile, in the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine, a captured Russian soldier testified that he shot an unarmed civilian in the head on an officer’s orders, and he asked the victim’s widow to forgive him.    The soldier pleaded guilty earlier in the week, but prosecutors presented the evidence against him in line with Ukrainian law.
    In the Poltava region, two other Russian soldiers appeared in court Thursday on war-crimes charges that they shelled civilians.     Prosecutors said both pleaded guilty. The next court session in their case was set for May 26.
    Also, more U.S. aid appeared to be on its way to Ukraine when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion package of military and economic aid for the country and its allies.    The House voted for it last week.    President Joe Biden’s quick signature was certain.
    “Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
    Taking the Azovstal steel plant would allow Russia to claim complete control of Mariupol and secure a long-sought victory.
    But it would be a mostly symbolic victory at this point, since the city is already effectively in Moscow’s hands and analysts say most of the Russian forces that were tied down by the battle there have already left.
    Kyiv’s troops, bolstered by Western weapons, thwarted Russia’s initial goal of storming the capital, Kyiv, and have put up stiff resistance against Moscow’s forces in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that President Vladimir Putin has set his sights on capturing.
    The surprising success of Ukraine’s troops has buoyed Kyiv’s confidence.
    Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy who was involved in several rounds of talks with Russia, said in a tweet addressed to Moscow: “Do not offer us a cease-fire – this is impossible without total Russian troops withdrawal.”
    “Until Russia is ready to fully liberate occupied territories, our negotiating team is weapons, sanctions and money,” he wrote.
    Russia, though, again signaled its intent to incorporate or at least maintain influence over areas its troops have seized.
    Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin this week visited the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, large parts of which have been under the control of Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began in February.    He was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the regions could become part of “our Russian family.”
    Also, Volodymyr Saldo, the Kremlin installed head of the Kherson region, appeared in a video on Telegram saying Kherson “will become a subject of the Russian Federation.”
    In other developments, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by phone on Thursday with his Russian counterpart for the first time since the war began, and they agreed to keep the lines of communications open, the Pentagon said.
    On the battlefield, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces pressed their offensive in various sections of the front in the Donbas but were being repelled.    The governor of the Luhansk region said Russian shelling killed four civilians, while separatist authorities in Donetsk said Ukrainian shelling killed two.
    Zelenskyy said 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded in the city of Severodonetsk, and attacks on the northeastern Chernihiv region included a strike on the village of Desna, where many more died and rescuers were still going through the rubble.
    On the Russian side of the border, the governor of Kursk province said a truck driver was killed by shelling from Ukraine.
    At the war crimes trial in Kyiv, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit, told the court that he shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian, in the head on orders from an officer.
    Shishimarin said he disobeyed a first order but felt he had no choice but to comply when it was repeated by another officer.    He said he was told the man could pinpoint the troops’ location to Ukrainian forces.
    A prosecutor has disputed that Shishimarin was acting under orders, saying the direction didn’t come from a direct commander.
    Shishimarin apologized to the victim’s widow, Kateryna Shelipova, who described seeing her husband being shot just outside their home in the early days of Russia’s invasion.
    She told the court that she believes Shishimarin deserves a life sentence, the maximum possible, but that she wouldn’t mind if he were exchanged as part of a swap for the Azovstal defenders.
    Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
Iryna Martsyniuk collects belongings Thursday from her house, damaged from a Russian bombing in Velyka Kostromka, Ukraine.
Martsyniuk and her three children were at home when the attack occurred, but they all survived unharmed. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

5/21/2022 Finland: Russia stops natural gas supplies by Jan M. Olsen, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand for payment in rubles is causing concern in Europe. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/POOL VIA AP, FILE
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland after the Nordic country that applied for NATO membership this week refused President Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay in rubles, the Finnish state-owned energy company said Friday, the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine.
    Finland is the latest country to lose the energy supply, used to generate electricity and power industry, after rejecting Russia’s decree.    Poland and Bulgaria were cut off last month but had prepared for the loss of gas or are getting supplies from other countries.
    Putin has declared that “unfriendly foreign buyers” open two accounts in state-owned Gazprombank, one to pay in euros and dollars as specified in contracts and another in rubles.    Italian energy company Eni said this week that it was “starting procedures” to open a euro and a ruble account.
    The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, has said the system does not violate EU sanctions if countries make a payment in the currency listed in their contracts and then formally signal that the payment process is concluded.    But it says opening a second account in rubles would breach sanctions.
    That’s left countries scrambling to decide what to do next.    Analysts say the EU stance is ambiguous enough to allow the Kremlin to keep trying to undermine unity among the 27 member countries – but losing major European customers like Italy and Germany would cost Russia heavily.
    Finland refused the new payment system, with energy company Gasum saying its supply from Russia would be halted Saturday.
    CEO Mika Wiljanen called the cutoff “highly regrettable.”
    But “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,” Wiljanen said.
    Natural gas accounted for just 6% of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2020, Finnish broadcaster YLE said. Almost all of that gas came from Russia.    Big importers like Italy and Germany get 40% and 35% of their gas from Russia, respectively.
    According to Finland’s Gasum, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said in April future payments in its supply contract must be made in rubles instead of euros.
    The cutoff was announced the same week that Finland, along with Sweden, applied to join the NATO military organization.
    The government in Helsinki said Friday that it had signed a 10-year lease for a floating liquefied natural gas terminal in the Gulf of Finland and that necessary port structures will be built along the coasts of the Nordic country and Estonia, Economy Minister Mika Lintila said in a statement.
    Finland and Estonia have been cooperating on renting the LNG terminal ship, which will provide enough storage and supply capacity to allow Russian gas to be abandoned in the neighboring countries, said Gasgrid Finland, the transmission network company.    A pipeline between the two will make it possible to import gas from the Baltic states instead of Russia.

5/21/2022 West rushes more war aid to Ukraine - Soldiers still holed up at Azovstal steel plant by Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
On Friday, a number of soldiers – just how many was unclear – were still holed up in the
Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, following the surrender of more than 1,900 soldiers in recent days, according
to the latest figure from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Olga MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images
    KYIV, Ukraine – The West moved to pour billions more in aid into Ukraine on Friday, as Russia shifted troops freed up by the imminent fall of the pulverized city of Mariupol and fighting raged in the country’s industrial heartland in the east.
    Russian forces shelled a vital highway and kept up attacks on a key city in the Luhansk region, hitting a school among other sites, Ukrainian authorities said.    Luhansk is part of the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking eastern expanse of coal mines and factories that Russian President Vladimir Putin is bent on capturing.
    'The liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic is nearing completion,' Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared, referring to the breakaway state proclaimed by pro-Moscow separatists in 2014 and recognized by the Kremlin.
    In Mariupol, the strategic port in the southern corner of the Donbas, Russian troops worn down by their nearly three-month siege of the city may not get the time they need to regroup, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.
    With the battle winding down for the Azovstal steel plant that represented the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, Russia is continuing to pull back forces there, and their commanders are under pressure to quickly send them elsewhere in the Donbas, according to the British.
    'That means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition,' the ministry said.
    An undisclosed number of Ukrainian soldiers remained at the Azovstal steel plant.    Russia said more than 1,900 had surrendered in recent days.    Also remaining at the plant were the bodies of soldiers who defended it while tying down Russian forces.
    Denis Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the plant, called them 'fallen heroes.'
    'I hope soon relatives and the whole of Ukraine will be able to bury the fighters with honors,' he said. Wives of fighters who held out at the steelworks spoke emotionally about what may have been their last contact with their husbands.
    Olga Boiko, wife of a marine, wiped away tears as she said that her husband had written her on Thursday:
    'Hello.    We surrender, I don’t know when I will get in touch with you and if I will at all.    Love you.    Kiss you.    Bye.'
    Natalia Zaritskaya, wife of another fighter at Azovstal, said that based on the messages she had seen over the past two days, 'Now they are on the path from hell to hell.    Every inch of this path is deadly.'
    She said that two days ago, her husband reported that of the 32 soldiers with whom he had served, only eight survived, most of them seriously wounded.
    Meanwhile, fighting intensified deeper in the Donbas.
    Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said Russian forces were especially focused on the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway, the only road for evacuating people and delivering humanitarian supplies.
    'The road is extremely important because it’s the only connection to other regions of the country,' he said via email.    'The Russians are trying to cut us off from it, to encircle the Luhansk region.'
    Russian forces shelled the road constantly from multiple directions, but Ukrainian armored transports were still able to get through, Haidai added.
    Moscow’s troops have been trying for weeks to seize Severodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas.    One of Friday’s attacks was on a school in Severodonetsk that was sheltering more than 200 people, many of them children, Haidai said.    Three adults were killed, he said on Telegram.
    Twelve people were killed in Severodonetsk, Haidai said.    It was not immediately clear if that included the three at the school.    In addition, more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region, he added.
    Russian forces now control 90% of Luhansk, but the attack on Severodonetsk failed – 'the Russians suffered personnel losses and retreated,' Haidai said.    His account could not be independently verified.
    Another city, Rubizhne, has been 'completely destroyed,' Haidai said.    'Its fate can be compared to that of Mariupol.'
    Pro-Moscow separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for the past eight years and held a considerable swath of it before Russia’s Feb.24 invasion.    But the effort by Putin’s troops to take more territory there has been slow-going.
    In a sign of Russia’s frustration with the war, some senior commanders have been fired in recent weeks, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.
    Russian forces elsewhere in Ukraine continued to blast away at targets, some of them civilian.
    In the village of Velyka Kostromka, west of the Donbas, explosions in the middle of the night Thursday shook Iryna Martsyniuk’s house to its foundations.    Roof timbers splintered and windows shattered, sending shards of glass into a wall near three sleeping children.
    'There were flashes everywhere,' she said.    'There was smoke everywhere.'    She grabbed the children and ran toward the home’s entrance, 'but the corridor wasn’t there anymore.    Instead, we saw the starry night.'
    They ran down the road to a neighbor’s home, where they hid in the basement.
    Around 20 other houses were damaged and two people were lightly wounded, said Olha Shaytanova, head of the village.
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after leaving Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant Friday. AP

5/21/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE The last holdouts of Azovstal steel plant surrender- RUSSIA CLAIMS FULL CONTROL OF MARIUPOL by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Main photo: Self-propelled artillery vehicles of the Donetsk People’s Republic militia fire toward Ukrainian
army positions near the town of Yasynuvataya outside Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP
    POKROVSK, Ukraine – Russia claimed to have captured Mariupol on Friday in what would be its biggest victory yet in its war with Ukraine, after a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the strategic port city to a smoking ruin, with more than 20,000 civilians feared dead.
    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin the “complete liberation” of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance – and the city as a whole, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
    There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.    Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the ministry as saying a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at the steelworks had surrendered since Monday, including more than 500 on Friday.
    As they surrendered, the troops were taken prisoner by the Russians, and at least some were taken to a former penal colony.    Others were said to be hospitalized.
    The defense of the steel mill had been led by Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, whose origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast its invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.    Russia said the Azov commander was taken away from the plant in an armored vehicle.
    Russian authorities have threatened to investigate some of the steel mill’s defenders for war crimes and put them on trial, branding them “Nazis” and criminals.    That has stirred international fears about their fate.
    The steelworks, which sprawled across 4 square miles, had been the site of fierce fighting for weeks.    The dwindling group of outgunned fighters had held out, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire, before their government ordered them to abandon the plant’s defense and save themselves.
    The complete takeover of Mariupol gives Putin a badly needed victory in the war he began on Feb. 24 – a conflict that was supposed to have been a lightning conquest for the Kremlin but instead has seen the failure to take the capital of Kyiv, a pullback of forces to refocus on eastern Ukraine, and the sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
    Military analysts said Mariupol’s capture at this point is of mostly symbolic importance because the city was effectively under Moscow’s control and most of the Russian forces that were tied down by the fighting there had left.
    In other developments Friday, the West moved to pour billions more in aid into Ukraine and fighting raged in the Donbas, the industrial heartland in eastern Ukraine that Putin is bent on capturing.
    Russian forces shelled a vital highway and kept up attacks on a key city in the Luhansk region, hitting a school among other sites, Ukrainian authorities said.    Luhansk is part of the Donbas.
    The Kremlin had sought control of Mariupol to complete a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to join the larger battle for the Donbas.    The city’s loss also deprives Ukraine of a vital seaport.
    Mariupol endured some of the worst suffering of the war and became a worldwide symbol of defiance.    An estimated 100,000 people remained out of a prewar population of 450,000, many trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.    Relentless bombardment left rows upon rows of shattered or hollowed- out buildings.
    A maternity hospital was hit with a lethal Russian airstrike on March 9, producing searing images of pregnant women being evacuated.    A week later, about 300 people were reported killed in a bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter, although the real death toll could be closer to 600.
    Satellite images in April showed what appeared to be mass graves just outside Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of concealing the slaughter by burying up to 9,000 civilians.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday the evacuation of his forces from the miles of tunnels and bunkers beneath Azovstal was done to save the lives of the fighters.
    Earlier this month, hundreds of civilians were evacuated from the plant during humanitarian cease-fires and spoke of the terror of ceaseless bombardment, the dank conditions underground and the fear that they wouldn’t make it out alive.
    As the end drew near at Azovstal, wives of fighters who held out at the steelworks told of what they feared would be their last contact with their husbands.
    Olga Boiko, wife of a marine, wiped away tears as she said her husband had written her Thursday: “Hello.    We surrender, I don’t know when I will get in touch with you and if I will at all.    Love you.    Kiss you.    Bye.”
    Natalia Zaritskaya, wife of another fighter at Azovstal, said that based on the messages she had seen over the past two days, “Now they are on the path from hell to hell. Every inch of this path is deadly.”
    She said that two days ago, her husband reported that of the 32 soldiers with whom he had served, only eight survived, most of them seriously wounded.
    Although Russia described the troops leaving the steel plant as a mass surrender, the Ukrainians called it a mission fulfilled.    They said the fighters had tied down Moscow’s forces and hindered their bid to seize the east.
    Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, described the defense of Mariupol as “the Thermopylae of the 21st century” – a reference to one of history’s most glorious defeats, in which 300 Spartans held off a much larger Persian force in 480 B.C. before finally succumbing.
    In other developments Friday:
  • Zelenskyy said Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys.    He called on Ukraine’s partners to seize Russian funds and property under their jurisdiction and use them to create a fund to compensate those who suffered. Russia “would feel the true weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell that it has fired at us,” he said in his nightly video address.
  • The Group of Seven major economies and global financial institutions agreed to provide more money to bolster Ukraine’s finances, bringing the total to $19.8 billion.    In the U.S., President Joe Biden was expected to sign a $40 billion package of military and economic aid to Ukraine and its allies.
  • Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland on Saturday, the Finnish state energy company said, just days after Finland applied to join NATO.    Finland had refused Moscow’s demand that it pay for gas in rubles.    The cutoff is not expected to have any major immediate effect.    Natural gas accounted for just 6% of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2020, Finnish broadcaster YLE said.
  • A captured Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian awaited his fate in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial.    Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, could get life in prison.
  • Russian lawmakers proposed a bill to lift the age limit of 40 for Russians volunteering for military service.
    Currently, all Russian men 18 to 27 must undergo a year of service, though many get college deferments and other exemptions.
    Heavy fighting was reported Friday in the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking expanse of coal mines and factories.
    Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said Russian forces shelled the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway from multiple directions, taking aim at the only road for evacuating people and delivering humanitarian supplies.
    “The Russians are trying to cut us off from it, to encircle the Luhansk region,” he said via email.
    Moscow’s troops have also been trying for weeks to seize Severodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas, and at least 12 people were killed there Friday, Haidai said.    A school that was sheltering more than 200 people, many of them children, was hit, and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region, he added.
    But he said the Russians took losses in the attack on Severodonetsk and were forced to retreat.    His account could not be independently verified.
    Another city, Rubizhne, has been “completely destroyed,” Haidai said.    “Its fate can be compared to that of Mariupol.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, right, and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop
Paul Richard Gallagher lay flowers at the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine in in Kyiv. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Dmytro Mosur, 32, who lost his wife during shelling in nearby Severodonetsk on May 17, holds his 2-year-old twin daughters
as they wait to be evacuated from the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a school damaged during a battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces
in the village of Vilkhivka on the outskirts of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP

5/21/2022 SHATTERED LIVES AND RECOVERY IN WAR by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian serviceman Anton pets a cat in a basement previously used by Russian soldiers
as a temporary base in the village of Malaya Rohan on Monday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    An 11-year-old boy pushed his sister in a swing outside a hospital in Lviv, her dangling legs wrapped in bandages where they end.    Their mother, too, has lost a leg and comforted the girl in her hospital bed.    Yarik Stepanenko, twin sister Yana and their mother, Natasha, were trying to catch a train heading west – to safety – from the eastern city of Kramatorsk when a missile hit the station on April 8.    Yana lost her legs: one just above the ankle, the other higher up her shin.    Natasha lost her left leg below the knee.
    Yarik, left at the station in the chaos of the attack, was uninjured and has been reunited with his mother and sister as they recovered at a hospital.    The Stepanenko family is one of many feeling the relentless toll of the war in Ukraine.
    Iryna Martsyniuk, 50, wore a bright pink tracksuit as she stood outside her house, its roof reduced to timbers and rubble piled by the door.    Martsyniuk and her three young children were there when Russian bombing destroyed their home in Velyka Kostromka, but all survived unharmed.
    In Kharkiv, Roman Pryhodchenko wiped tears from his face as he stood near a mangled window inside his home that was damaged by multiple strikes.    Elsewhere, anguished mourners weeped over the coffins of slain Ukrainian service members.
    In a recently retaken area near Kharkiv, Ukrainian troops inspected basements and abandoned buildings, while in Kyiv, servicemen loaded bodies of Russian soldiers into a refrigerated rail car.
    Ukrainian servicemen evacuated from besieged Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant sat on a bus near a prison in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
    The steelworks had been the site of fierce fighting for weeks.    The dwindling group of outgunned fighters had held out in the plant, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire before their government ordered them to abandon its defense and save their lives.
    Yarik Stepanenko, left at the train station in the chaos of the attack, has been reunited with his mother and sister as they recovered at a hospital.
Iryna Martsyniuk, 50, stands next to her damaged house in Velyka Kostromka
on Thursday. Martsyniuk and her three children were at home but were unharmed. AP

Soldiers carry the coffin of Volodymyr Losev, 38, during his funeral on Monday. Losev was killed May 7
when the military vehicle he was driving ran over a mine in eastern Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

Natasha Stepanenko, 43, sits with her daughter Yana, 11, in Lviv on May 15. Yana lost her legs
and Natasha her left leg on April 8 after a missile strike. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from
the besieged Azovstal steel plant on Tuesday. AP

Oleksiy Polyakov, right, and Roman Voitko check the remains of a
destroyed Russian helicopter on Monday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP

People gather to fill cans with water from a firetruck in Lysychansk
in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on May 13. LEO CORREA/AP

5/22/2022 Claim of capturing Mariupol fuels concern for POWs- Captured soldiers likely to face Russian tribunal by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian soldier stands amid the ruined Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Monday, prior to surrender to the
Russian forces. Dmytro Kozatski/Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office via AP
    POKROVSK, Ukraine – Concern mounted Saturday over the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who became Moscow’s prisoners as Russia claimed seizure of the steel plant-turned-fortress in Mariupol, capping a nearly three-month siege that left the strategic port city in ruins and more than 20,000 city residents feared dead.
    The Russian Defense Ministry released video of Ukrainian soldiers being taken into custody after announcing that its forces had removed the last holdouts from the plant’s miles of underground tunnels.    The Azovstal steel plant became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity, and its seizure delivers Russian President Vladimir Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began in February.
    Family members of the steel mill fighters, who authorities say came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.    They are considered heroes by their fellow citizens.
    But Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, said the Ukrainians were sure to face a tribunal for their wartime actions.
    'I believe that justice must be restored. There is a request for this from ordinary people, society, and, probably, the sane part of the world community,' Russian state news agency Tass quoted Pushilin as saying.
    Russian officials and state media have sought to characterize the fighters as neo-Nazis and criminals.    Among the plant’s more than 2,400 defenders were members of the Azov Regiment, whose far-right origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast its invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
    The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim of capturing Azovstal, which for weeks remained Mariupol’s last holdout of Ukrainian resistance.
    Ukraine’s military this past week told the fighters holed up in the plant, hundreds of them wounded, that their mission was complete and they could come out. It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.
    The end of the battle for Mariupol would help Putin offset some stinging setbacks, including the failure of Russian troops to take over Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, the sinking of the Russian Navy’s flagship in the Black Sea and the continued resistance that has stalled an offensive in eastern Ukraine.
    It also furthers Russia’s quest to essentially create a land bridge from Russia stretching through the Donbas region to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
    The impact on the broader war remained unclear.    Many Russian troops already had been redeployed from Mariupol to elsewhere in the conflict, which began when Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb.24.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported Saturday that Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base in the Black Sea region of Odesa as well as a significant cache of Western-supplied weapons in northern Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region.    There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.
    In its morning operational report, the Ukrainian military general staff reported heavy fighting in much of eastern Ukraine, including the areas of Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
    After failing to capture Kyiv, Russia focused its offensive on the country’s eastern industrial heartland.     The Russia-backed separatists have controlled parts of the Donbas region since 2014, and Moscow wants to expand the territory under its control.
    Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he would not launch a counterattack into Russian territory but emphasized that the Donbas region remains sovereign to Ukraine.
    Speaking at a joint media conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Zelenskyy said his forces were fighting to 'liberate our territory' and the price of 'tens or hundreds of thousands of lives' was too high to surrender it.
    He pressed Western countries for multiple launch rocket systems, which he said 'just stand still' in other countries yet are 'key' to Ukraine’s success.
    U.S. President Joe Biden signed off Saturday on a fresh, $40 billion infusion of aid for Ukraine, with half for military assistance.    Portugal pledged up to 250million euros, as well as continued shipments of military equipment.
    Mariupol, which is part of the Donbas, was blockaded early in the war and became a frightening example to people elsewhere in the country of the hunger, terror and death they might face if the Russians surrounded their communities.
    The seaside steelworks, occupying some 11 square kilometers, was a battleground for weeks. Drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire, the dwindling group of outgunned Ukrainian fighters held out with the help of airdrops.
    Zelenskyy revealed in an interview published Friday that Ukrainian helicopter pilots braved Russian anti-aircraft fire to ferry in medicine, food and water to the steel mill as well as to retrieve bodies and rescue wounded fighters.

5/22/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Concern over POWs grows in Mariupol - Polish president arrives to address parliament Sunday by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian soldier stands under a sunlight ray inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on May 7.
DMYTRO KOZATSKI/AZOV SPECIAL FORCES REGIMENT OF THE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL GUARD PRESS OFFICE VIA AP
    POKROVSK, Ukraine – Concern mounted Saturday over Ukrainian fighters who became prisoners at the end of Russia’s brutal three-month siege in Mariupol, as a Moscow-backed separatist leader vowed tribunals.    Russia claimed full control of the Azovstal steel plant, which for weeks was the last holdout in Mariupol and a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity in the strategic port city, now in ruins with more than 20,000 residents feared dead.    Its seizure delivers Russian President Vladimir Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began in February.
    As the West rallies behind Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda arrived in Ukraine on an unannounced visit and will address the country’s parliament on Sunday, his office said.
    Poland, which has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war, is a strong supporter of Ukraine’s desire to join the European Union.    With Russia blocking Ukraine’s sea ports, Poland has become a major gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons going into Ukraine and has been helping Ukraine get its grain and other agricultural products to world markets.
    The Russian Defense Ministry released video of Ukrainian soldiers being detained after announcing that its forces had removed the last holdouts from the Mariupol plant’s extensive underground tunnels.    Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, claimed that 2,439 people were in custody.    He said on Russian state TV that the figure includes some foreign nationals, though he did not provide details.
    Family members of the steel mill fighters, who came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that Ukraine “will fight for the return” of every one of them.
    Convoys of buses, guarded by Russian armored vehicles, left the plant Friday.    At least some Ukrainians were taken to a former penal colony.    Russian officials said others were hospitalized.
    Pushilin said the Ukrainians were sure to face a tribunal.    Russian officials and state media have sought to characterize the fighters as neo-Nazis and criminals.
    “I believe that justice must be restored.    There is a request for this from ordinary people, society, and, probably, the sane part of the world community,” Russian state news agency Tass quoted Pushilin as saying.
    Among the defenders were members of the Azov Regiment, whose far-right origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of its effort to cast the invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
    The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim of capturing Azovstal.    Ukraine’s military had told the fighters their mission was complete and they could come out.    It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.
    The capture of Mariupol furthers Russia’s quest to create a land bridge from Russia stretching through the Donbas region to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
    The impact on the broader war remained unclear. Many Russian troops already had been redeployed from Mariupol to elsewhere in the conflict.
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported Saturday that Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base near Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, as well as a significant cache of Western-supplied weapons in northern Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region.    There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.
    The Ukrainian military reported heavy fighting in much of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.
    “The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.    “As in previous days, the Russian army is trying to attack Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk.”    He said Ukrainian forces are holding off the offensive “every day.”
    Sievierodonetsk is the main city under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region, which together with the Donetsk region makes up the Donbas.    Gov. Serhii Haidai said the only functioning hospital in the city has just three doctors and supplies for 10 days.
    Sloviansk, in the Donetsk region, is critical to Russia’s objective of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed off from Kyiv. Russian shelling on Saturday killed seven civilians and injured 10 more elsewhere in the region, the governor said.
    A monastery in the Donetsk region village of Bohorodichne was evacuated after being hit by a Russian airstrike, the regional police said Saturday.    About 100 monks, nuns and children had been seeking safe shelter in the basement of the church and no one was hurt, the police said in a Facebook post, which included a video showing extensive damage to the monastery as well as nuns, monks and children boarding vans on Friday for the evacuation.
    Zelenskyy on Saturday emphasized that the Donbas remains part of Ukraine and his forces were fighting to liberate it.
    Speaking at a joint news conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, he pressed Western countries for multiple-launch rocket systems, which he said “just stand still” in other countries yet are key to Ukraine’s success.
    U.S. President Joe Biden signed off Saturday on a fresh, $40 billion infusion of aid for Ukraine, with half for military assistance.
    Portugal pledged up to 250 million euros, as well as continued shipments of military equipment.
    Mariupol, which is part of the Donbas, was blockaded early in the war and became a frightening example to people elsewhere in the country of the hunger, terror and death they might face if the Russians surrounded their communities.
    The seaside steelworks, occupying some 4 square miles, were a battleground for weeks.    Drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire, the dwindling group of outgunned Ukrainian fighters held out with the help of airdrops.
    Milley tells West Point cadets technology will transform war; Russia: It’s time to stop aid from Turkey to Syrian rebels.
A Ukrainian soldier inside the ruined Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, takes a rest in his shelter on
May 7. DMYTRO KOZATSKY/AZOV SPECIAL FORCES REGIMENT OF THE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL GUARD PRESS OFFICE VIA AP

5/22/2022 Russia: It’s time to stop aid from Turkey to Syrian rebels by Edith M. Lederer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    UNITED NATIONS – Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador says he sees no reason to continue humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to rebel-held northwest Syria, accusing the West and the United Nations of insufficient efforts to deliver aid from Damascus and failing to finance “early recovery projects” to improve life for millions of Syrians.
    Dmitry Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “we are not okay” with preserving the status quo at any cost, and cannot “turn a blind eye to the fact that terrorists from HTS,” the strongest militant group in northwest Idlib, “usurp the authority and manipulate humanitarian assistance.”
    He said supporters of cross-border aid deliveries “show no wish” to enable aid deliveries across conflict lines from Damascus which could be easily arranged, “which leaves us no reason to preserve the cross-border mechanism.”
    Polyansky said that fighters for Al Nusra, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, “openly state that they are not going to let through humanitarian cargo from Damascus to the detriment” of cross border aid deliveries.
    In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Idlib.    Days later, the council authorized the delivery of aid through just one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa.    That one-year mandate was extended for a year on July 9, 2021 and expires in about six weeks.
    U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the council Friday that the U.N. is doing its “utmost” to expand crossline aid deliveries, and is working toward a fifth convoy this year.    But he stressed that “cross-line operations cannot under current conditions replace the size or the scope of the massive U.N. cross-border operation.”
    “Failure to renew the authorization will disrupt life-saving aid for the people living in the northwest, including more than one million children,” he said.
    Last month, his deputy Joyce Msuya, told the council “a staggering 4.1 million people” in the northwest need humanitarian aid, with almost a million people, mainly women and children, living in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.”    She said last year the U.N. sent some 800 trucks of cross-border aid to the northwest each month, “consistently reaching 2.4 million people.”
    U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said she will be making a return visit to the Bab al-Hawa crossing in the coming weeks, stressed that it is in the interest of everyone, including Russia and Syria, “to prevent a dire humanitarian situation in Syria from growing worse and more desperate.”
    That’s why the Security Council voted unanimously last year to extend cross-border deliveries through Bab al-Hawa “and why we must do so again this year in the interest of all Syrians,” she said.

5/23/2022 Russia pushes Donbas offensive - Poland’s president visits Ukraine, shows support for admission to EU by Elena Becatoros, Ricardo Mazalan and Oleksandr Stashevskyi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman walks by a destroyed apartment building in Bakhmut in the eastern
Ukrainian region of Donbas on Sunday. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia pressed its offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region Sunday as Poland’s president traveled to Kyiv to support the country’s Western aspirations, becoming the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of the war.
    Ukrainian lawmakers stood to applaud Polish President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honor of speaking where 'the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats.'    Duda received more applause when he said that to end the conflict, Ukraine did not need to submit to conditions given by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    'Unfortunately, in Europe there have also been disturbing voices in recent times demanding that Ukraine yield to Putin’s demands,' he said.    'I want to say clearly: Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future. Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.'
    Duda’s visit, his second to Ukraine’s capital since April, came as Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in battles scattered along a 342-mile wedge of the country’s eastern industrial heartland, and as Ukraine pursues European Union membership.
    After declaring full control this week of a sprawling seaside steel plant that was the last defense holdout in the port city of Mariupol, the Russian military launched artillery and missile attacks in the Donbas, seeking to expand the territory Moscow-backed separatists have held since 2014.
    To bolster its defense against the invasion, Ukraine’s parliament voted Sunday to extend martial law and the mobilization of armed forces for a third time, until Aug.23.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stressed that the 27-member EU should expedite Ukraine’s request to join the bloc as soon as possible due to Russia’s invasion.    Ukraine’s potential candidacy is set to be discussed at a Brussels summit in late June.
    Poland’s government is ramping up efforts to persuade other EU members that are more hesitant about accepting the war-ravaged country as a member.    Zelenskyy said Duda’s visit represented a 'historic union' between Ukraine, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Poland, which ended communist rule two years earlier.
    'This is really a historic opportunity not to lose such strong relations, built through blood, through Russian aggression,' Zelenskyy said.    'All this not to lose our state, not to lose our people.'
    Poland has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees and has become a gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons going into Ukraine.    It is also a transit point into Ukraine for some foreign fighters, including from Belarus, who have volunteered to fight against the Russian forces.
    'Despite the great destruction, despite the terrible crime and great suffering that the Ukrainian people suffered every day, the Russian invaders did not break you.    They failed at it.    And I believe deeply that they will never succeed,' he told the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature.
    Duda also credited 'the United States and the leadership of President Joe Biden' for the unity Western nations have shown in supporting Ukraine and imposing sanctions against Russia.
    'Kyiv is the place from which one clearly sees that we need more America in Europe, both in the military and in this economic dimension,' said Duda, a right-wing populist leader who clearly preferred former President Donald Trump over Biden during the 2020 election.
    On the battlefield, Russia appeared to have made slow grinding moves forward in the Donbas in recent days.    It intensified efforts to capture Sievierodonetsk, the main city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which together with Donetsk province makes up the Donbas.
    Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai said the sole functioning hospital in the city has just three doctors and enough supplies for 10 days.
    In a general staff morning report, Russia also said that it was preparing to resume its offensive toward Slovyansk, a city in Donetsk province that is critical to Russia’s objective of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed off from Kyiv.
    In Enerhodar, a Russian-held city 174 miles northwest of Mariupol, an explosion injured the Moscow-appointed mayor at his residence Sunday, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported.
    Ukraine’s Unian news agency said a bomb planted by 'local partisans' exploded, injuring 48-year-old Andrei Shevchuk.
    Many of Enerhodar’s residents work at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
    With Russia claiming to have taken prisoner nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters from the besieged Mariupol steel plant, concerns grew about their fate and the future facing the remaining residents of the city, now in ruins with more than 20,000 residents feared dead.
    Family members of the fighters, who came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that Ukraine 'will fight for the return' of every one of them.
    The Azovstal steelworks for weeks was the last defense holdout in Mariupol and became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity.
    Its seizure gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began nearly three months ago.
    Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, vowed the Ukrainian fighters from the plant would face tribunals.    He said the fighters included some foreign nationals, though he did not provide details.
    The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim of capturing Azovstal.    Ukraine’s military had told the fighters their mission was complete and they could come out.    It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.

5/23/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russia presses Donbas offensive by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two national guard soldiers drink a shot to honor the memory of two late soldiers in Kharkiv cemetery, eastern Ukraine,
Sunday. The war continued along a 342-mile wedge of the country’s eastern industrial heartland. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russia pressed its offensive in eastern Ukraine on Sunday as Poland’s president traveled to Kyiv to support the country’s European Union aspirations, becoming the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of the war.    Lawmakers gave a standing ovation to President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honor of speaking where “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats.”
    Duda said that to end the conflict, Ukraine did not need to submit to conditions given by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    “Unfortunately, in Europe there have also been disturbing voices in recent times demanding that Ukraine yield to Putin’s demands,” he said.    “I want to say clearly: Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future.    Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.”
    Duda’s visit, his second to Kyiv since April, came as Russian and Ukrainian forces battled along a 342-mile wedge of the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
    After declaring full control of a sprawling seaside steel plant that was the last defensive holdout in the port city of Mariupol, Russia launched artillery and missile attacks to expand the territory that Moscow-backed separatists have held since 2014 in the region known as the Donbas.
    To bolster its defenses, Ukraine’s parliament voted Sunday to extend martial law and the mobilization of armed forces for a third time, until Aug. 23.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr
    Zelenskyy has stressed that the 27-member EU should expedite his country’s request to join the bloc.    Ukraine’s potential candidacy is set to be discussed at a Brussels summit in late June.
    France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune on Sunday told Radio J it would be a “long time” before Ukraine gains EU membership, perhaps up to two decades.
    “We have to be honest,” he said.    “If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying.”
    But Poland is ramping up efforts to win over EU members who are more hesitant about accepting Ukraine into the bloc.    Zelenskyy said Duda’s visit represented a “historic union” between Ukraine, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Poland, which ended communist rule two years earlier.
    “This is really a historic opportunity not to lose such strong relations, built through blood, through Russian aggression,” Zelenskyy said.    “All this not to lose our state, not to lose our people.”
    Poland has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees and become a gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons into Ukraine.    It is also a transit point for some foreign fighters who have volunteered to fight the Russian forces.
    Duda credited the U.S. and President Joe Biden for unifying the West in supporting Ukraine and imposing sanctions against Moscow.
    “Kyiv is the place from which one clearly sees that we need more America in Europe, both in the military and in this economic dimension,” said Duda, a right-wing populist leader who clearly preferred former President Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election.
    On the battlefield, Russia appeared to have made slow, grinding moves forward in the Donbas in recent days.    It intensified efforts to capture Sievierodonetsk, the main city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which together with Donetsk province makes up the Donbas.    The Ukrainian military said Sunday that Russian forces had mounted an unsuccessful attack on Oleksandrivka, a village outside of Sievierodonetsk.
    Sievierodonetsk came under heavy shelling, and Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai said the Russians were “simply intentionally trying to destroy the city… engaging in a scorched-earth approach.”
    Haidai said Moscow was concentrating forces and weaponry there to try to win control of Luhansk, bringing in forces from Kharkiv to the northwest, Mariupol to the south, and from inside Russia.
    The sole working hospital in the city has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days, he said.
    Ukrainian officials have said little since the war began about the extent of their country’s casualties, but Zelenskyy said at a news conference Sunday that 50 to 100 Ukrainian fighters were being killed, apparently each day, in the east.
    In a general staff morning report, Russia said it was also preparing to resume its offensive on Slovyansk, a city in Donetsk province that saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed away from Kyiv.
    In Enerhodar, a Russian-held city 281 kilometers (174 miles) northwest of Mariupol, an explosion Sunday injured the Moscow-appointed mayor at his residence, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported.    Ukraine’s Unian news agency said a bomb planted by “local partisans” wounded 48-year-old Andrei Shevchuk, whose lives near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest.
    With Russia claiming to have taken prisoner nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters from the Mariupol steel plant, concerns grew about their fate and that of the remaining residents of the city, now in ruins with more than 20,000 feared dead.
    Relatives of the fighters have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine “will fight for the return” of every one of them.
    Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, vowed that the Ukrainian fighters from the plant would face tribunals.
    Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko warned that the city faces a health and sanitation “catastrophe” from mass burials in shallow pits and the breakdown of sewage systems. An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who lived in Mariupol before the war remain.
    Ukrainian authorities have alleged Russian atrocities there, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater where hundreds of civilians had taken cover.
    Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court was expected to reach a verdict Monday for a Russian soldier who was the first to go on trial for an alleged war crime.    The 21-year-old sergeant, who has admitted to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28, could get life in prison if convicted.
    Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said her office was prosecuting war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
    In other developments, Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, gave a rare interview to national broadcaster ICTV alongside her husband and said she has hardly seen him since the war began.
    “Unfortunately, we cannot sit together, have dinner with the whole family, talk about everything,” she said.
    Zelenskyy called the interview itself “a date on air,” and the couple, who have two children, joked in front of the journalists.
    “We are joking, but we are really waiting, like everyone else, to be reunited, like all families in Ukraine who are separated now, waiting for their relatives and friends who want to be together again,” he said.
Poland ramps up effort for Ukraine’s EU acceptance
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands
during a news conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday. EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

Patients rest at Pokrovsk hospital in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

5/24/2022 Russian diplomat to UN Geneva resigns by Jamey Keaten, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev wrote in his resignation: “Never have I
been so ashamed of my country.” MARKUS SCHREIBER/AP FILE
    DAVOS, Switzerland – A veteran Russian diplomat to the U.N. Office at Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues inveighing against the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
    Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered Monday morning after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to the Associated Press.
    “For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year,” he wrote, referring to the date of Russia’s invasion.
    The resignation amounts to a rare – if not unprecedented – public admission of disgruntlement about Russia’s war in Ukraine among the Russian diplomatic corps.    It comes at a time when Putin’s government has sought to crack down on dissent over the invasion and quell narratives that conflict with the Russian government’s line about how the “special military operation” – as it’s officially known in Russia – is proceeding.
    “The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous and free society in our country,” Bondarev wrote, referring to the widespread use of the letter “Z” as a symbol of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    Reached by phone, Bondarev – a diplomatic counselor who has focused on Russia’s role in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva after postings in places like Cambodia and Mongolia – confirmed he handed in his resignation in a letter addressed to Ambassador Gennady Gatilov.
    A spokesman for the mission didn’t immediately respond to AP requests seeking comment.
    “It is intolerable what my government is doing now,” Bondarev told the AP.    “As a civil servant, I have to carry a share of responsibility for that.    And I don’t want to do that.”
    Bondarev said he had not received any reaction yet from Russian officials, but added: “Am I concerned about the possible reaction from Moscow?    I have to be concerned about it.”
    He told the AP that he had no plans to leave Geneva.    Previously, he said he had expressed disapproval of the war to Russian colleagues.
    “Some said, ‘Everybody disagrees, but we have to keep working,’ while others replied ‘Shut up and stop spreading this bad influence – especially among younger diplomats,’” he recalled.
    “Not all Russian diplomats are warmongering,” he said.    “They are reasonable, but they have to keep their mouths shut.”
    He suggested his case could become an example.
    In his email, Bondarev wrote that he should have resigned earlier but didn’t because of “some unfinished family business” and because he needed to “gather my resolve.”
    “It’s been already three months since my government launched a bloody assault on Ukraine and it’s been very hard to keep my mind more or less sane when all about were losing theirs,” he wrote.

5/24/2022 WAR IN UKRAINE - Women and children refugees are vulnerable as they flee the fighting to foreign countries where traffickers can exploit them - ‘They are lost’ amid prowling predators by Josh Meyer, USA TODAY
People head toward a train to relocate refugees to Berlin on March 15 in Krakow, Poland. OMAR MARQUES/GETTY IMAGES
    Marielle Combs, a North Carolina nursing instructor, watched busloads of women and children cross the border from the Ukrainian port city of Odesa into neighboring Moldova.
    Emerging into the snow, many expressed relief and gratitude that they had made it out of the war zone.    Combs, a humanitarian volunteer trained in spotting the threat of sex trafficking, knew that for many of them, their perilous journey was just beginning.
    “The risk of getting shot is over, but they are lost.    They don’t know where they are, who is helping them or what their next steps are,” said Combs, who spent a week in March helping refugees fleeing Ukraine.    “They have no money.    They don’t speak the language.”
    After a quick meal and medical check, “they’re just put into vans, and off they go,” she said.
    Human trafficking, often in the form of commercially exploiting women and children for sex, is one of the largely hidden tragedies of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
    There has been a skyrocketing increase in all forms of illegal trafficking of women and girls in the region – and also boys – including forced sex and labor, prostitution, pornography and other forms of exploitation, authorities and experts told USA TODAY.
    “Collectively, the international community is starting to see indications that traffickers are preying on or attempting to prey on Ukrainians and others that are fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine,” Kari Johnstone, the State Department’s top anti-human-trafficking official, said in an exclusive interview.
    Russia’s unprovoked war against its much smaller neighbor has created the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
    More than 6.7 million people have fled the war in Ukraine.    An estimated 90% of them are women and children, Johnstone said, because the Kyiv government ordered most males ages 18 to 60 to stay to defend their country.
    Within Ukraine, Johnstone said, one-quarter of the population was internally displaced in the first month of the war.    That includes half of all Ukrainian children, she said, many of whom were sent to live with friends and relatives outside combat areas.
    “That is putting millions of refugees and displaced persons at high risk of human trafficking,” she said.    “We are deeply concerned.”
    In Moldova, a small cadre of international volunteers helped the refugees at the border crossing at Palanca.    Combs, her husband, Adam, and others from the nonprofit group Exitus traveled there – and on to Romania – at the request of local nonprofit organizations.
    After pit stops at a series of small intake tents, the Ukrainians were shuttled to temporary housing – usually in the homes of Moldovans who wanted to help – before being routed 10 days later throughout the region and Europe in search of more long-term accommodations.    “There are a lot of good volunteers to help guide them, but you can never tell,” Combs said.
    “What if they are taken in by a pedophile or a trafficker?    The state of vulnerability of these women crossing over is horrific,” Combs said.    “I can’t even put it into words how worried we are for them and their children.”
An ‘exploding’ crisis
    Ukraine has long been a hub for transnational organized crime syndicates involved in black market activity, but sex trafficking “has exploded since Russia invaded” in February, according to Mariya Dmytriyeva, a Kyiv-based women’s rights advocate for the Democracy Development Center, a nongovernmental organization.    Dmytriyeva said the many mafias in and around Ukraine flock to sex trafficking because of the lax attitude among authorities.    Pimps, hustlers and crime syndicates are rarely arrested and almost never prosecuted, and the penalties are far more lenient than for drug trafficking and other serious crimes.
There is this famous saying here,” according to Dmytriyeva, “that you can sell a kilo of cocaine only one time, but you can sell a 12-year-old girl until she dies.”
    In an interview with CBS Evening News, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said trafficking is “sadly exploding in Ukraine” and neighboring countries after Russia’s invasion.    Women and girls face the “worst kind of fear and violence … not just murder and rape but kidnapping,” Clinton said.
    Kidnappings are exceedingly rare.    Most trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation are much harder to detect because the perpetrator is usually someone who offers to help the victim, with a ride, a job, a meal or shelter from the cold.
    “The biggest misconception is that we expect a scary-looking bad person to do this,” Combs said.    “But it can be anyone, from any socioeconomic status, from any profession, that exploits or trafficks people.”
    In the nearly three months since Russia’s invasion, hundreds of women and girls have reported experiencing sexual violence, including rape, to Ukraine’s official ombudswoman for human rights.
    Russian soldiers – and even some opportunistic taxi drivers – are suspected of facilitating the trafficking of women and girls or forcing them to flee into Russia where they fall prey to organized crime syndicates, according to Dmytriyeva In neighboring countries Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, where most Ukrainians initially landed, reports of suspected trafficking have spiked.
Exploiting the turmoil
    La Strada International, a consortium of dozens of advocacy groups, warned in a report May 10 that amidst the historic movement of people in Europe, “organized criminal groups and individual profiteers are taking advantage of the turmoil to target vulnerable Ukrainians for sexual and labor exploitation.”
    La Strada International joined the Freedom Fund, which works to end modern slavery, to undertake a rapid assessment of what it said were gaps in the countertrafficking response.
    La Strada’s research, conducted over the past two months, found that unaccompanied children, undocumented people and those who might not have access to the temporary protection offered in European Union countries face the greatest danger.
    “And the dangers will grow as the war continues, with more people becoming displaced within Ukraine, making access to services and livelihoods increasingly precarious, while millions of refugees will need to settle for longer periods in other European countries and start accessing the labour market,” the La Strada report said.
    “While governments, international organizations, civil society, and community leaders have taken steps to protect people from trafficking, gaps remain, due to limited capacity to deliver,” it said.
    Throughout Europe, women and child refugees by the tens of thousands have shown up at train stations and processing centers.     Often, they have been met by men who attempted to traffick them, often under the guise of helping, said German anti-trafficking specialist and trauma psychologist Ingeborg Kraus.
    Because most haven’t registered their whereabouts with a government or volunteer agency, “they can disappear, and nobody will even know that they were trafficked and perhaps killed,” said Kraus, who estimated that as many as 600,000 displaced Ukrainian women and girls have arrived in Germany.
    Many of them, she said, jumped at offers from recruiters to work in legal brothels as part of that country’s booming legalized sex trade.
    Speaking the local language is not required.    Women are assured that the sex trade is well-regulated and that they can make far more profit than at other jobs available to most immigrants – so much so that they can send money home.
    “But it’s a trap.    The brothels are part of the same criminal milieu of the sex traffickers,” Klaus said, and the women end up in a cycle of exploitation, crime and violence they cannot escape.
    Donna Hughes, a longtime U.S. researcher of sex trafficking, exploitation and violence, said women and young girls face similar problems in other countries where the sex trade is legal, or semi-officially condoned, including the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and throughout Asia.    “We don’t have numbers” because so few of the cases are identified, Hughes said.
    “It doesn’t have to be a huge mafia network” enticing or forcing the women into sexually exploitative activities, Hughes said.     “In fact, it often fits the literal definition of organized crime, which is basically two people working together, maybe three.”
    One common perpetrator throughout Europe, Hughes said, is the “loverboy” – an innocent-appearing man who befriends a newly arrived refugee and tells her he wants to have a relationship and live or travel together.    “And then he says, well, we need some money and takes her to a brothel."
    “I know someone who was trapped in that kind of situation for 10 years,” said Hughes, a University of Rhode Island professor and editor-in-chief of “Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence.”
    Other refugees, especially young girls, fall into a trap laid by men experienced in using the internet and social media to ensnare them in sexually exploitative relationships.    “They’re basically groomers,” Hughes said.    “They know how to lure in young women and control them.”
    In recent weeks, online searches for Ukrainian women and keywords such as escorts, porn or sex have shot up in European countries, according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE.
An enduring tragedy
    Ukrainian women have been vulnerable since the breakup of the Soviet Union, which led to the rise of black-market mafias controlling much of the crime in the region.
    More women from Ukraine have been trafficked into the European Union than from any other country, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said April 7 at a hearing on protecting refugees from human trafficking.
    After Russian troops invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea and establishing Russian-controlled areas in the Donbas region, reports of sex trafficking of women in Ukraine, and from Ukraine into Russia, soared, according to U.S. and European government estimates.    So did the amount of pornography apparently produced in Donbas, including of young girls engaging in sex acts, Dmytriyeva told USA TODAY.
    At the hearing April 7, Cardin – the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission – provided details of the suspected wartime sex trafficking in and around Ukraine.
    Children, nearly half of the Ukrainian refugees, are particularly vulnerable, according to the commission, an independent agency that has advanced comprehensive security cooperation between the United States and the other 56 participating nations for the past 45 years.
    “Thousands are unaccompanied, either because they have been evacuated from state care in Ukraine or because they have lost their parents or caretakers in the war,” Cardin said.    “During the enormous influx of refugees into Europe in 2015, there were estimates that as many as 10,000 children went missing.    We cannot let that happen again.”
    By early April, more than 378,000 unaccompanied Ukrainian children needed protection assistance, including almost 100,000 from orphanages and other state institutions, Tatiana Kotlyarenko, OSCE’s anti-trafficking adviser for its Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights, said at the hearing.
    “There have been reports of children and women disappearing after crossing the border, sometimes accepting a ride or a job offer from a person they think is there to help,” Kotlyarenko testified.
    After the war, resources to assist women refugees could dry up if the welcoming attitude of host countries dwindles.
    “The longer the refugees have to remain outside of Ukraine, the more vulnerable they will become as they try to find longer-term housing and employment,” Cardin said.
    That is also the case for many refugees from Ukraine who were initially from other countries, including migrant workers and students from Pakistan, India and other South Asian nations, officials and advocates said.
An unprecedented response
    Johnstone said the U.S. government and its allies in Europe launched the largest coordinated effort to combat sex trafficking in history.    That collaboration began late last year, she told USA TODAY, when Russian President Vladimir Putin began indicating that he might send his tanks and troops across the border.
    The State Department took steps to make sure that governments in the region – first and foremost, the Ukrainian government – built anti-trafficking measures into their contingency planning in the event of overt Russian aggression, Johnstone said.
    Working with the European Union, the United States sent money, staff and other resources to front-line states and nongovernmental organizations to help them deal with the expected flood of refugees.    Information campaigns warned refugees of what to look for in terms of people who might try to exploit them.    There has been a flurry of activity, Johnstone said, to make sure local law enforcement agencies were on the lookout for potential sex traffickers and trafficking victims.
    The Biden administration and Congress are trying to send more resources and funding to Europe to help Ukrainian refugees and to combat trafficking, she said.
    “As someone who has lived in Ukraine and in the region for a while, it is indeed heart-wrenching to watch,” said Johnstone, a former diplomat in Ukraine and White House director for Russian and Central Asian Affairs.
    “I am motivated and hopeful by all of the good responses put in place that we will be able to at least reduce what could be a very large trafficking crisis amidst an otherwise horrible situation,” she said.
    The OSCE, the United Nations and other government and private anti-trafficking organizations acknowledge that much more needs to be done.    Many push urgently to create a child registration system to keep tabs on them within Ukraine and as they cross borders.
    “We do not want to sit by and watch unaccompanied minors disappearing without a trace,” Kotlyarenko said.
    Whatever happens in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the demand for more anti-trafficking protections will grow.     “OSCE participating states need to be prepared for what may be an overwhelming number of cases and victims in the upcoming months and years,” Kotlyarenko said.
    Traffickers are already punching holes in the burgeoning safety net.
    Organized trafficking groups use internet technologies to advertise their victims “anywhere in the world, and then transport them to the locations where they have the most demand, therefore maximizing their profit margins,” said Nic McKinley, a former CIA and U.S. special operations officer and founding executive director of Deliver-Fund, which leverages technology to fight human trafficking.
    McKinley’s team in Poland – where the highest number of refugees have gone – has tracked Ukraine trafficking victims in Eastern and Western Europe, he said.
    “The problem is ... the traffickers are getting smarter,” Kotlyarenko said.
    In Poland, after volunteers were told to look out for men offering young women rides at refugee centers, the traffickers switched tactics, Kotlyarenko told the Helsinki Commission: “So now they have couples who might come and offer or even female recruiters whom women will trust.”
Veteran Russian diplomat quits post
    In resignation letter, he blasts war and calls out Russian oligarchs who have grown rich under Putin regime.     “What if they are taken in by a pedophile or a trafficker?    The state of vulnerability of these women crossing over is horrific.    I can’t even put it into words how worried we are for them and their children.”
Marielle Combs, Exitus, an anti-trafficking group
A driver waits for refugees in Moldova at the border with Ukraine. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

People rush to an evacuation train where children and women are admitted
first at a station in Odesa, Ukraine, on March 7. BULENT KILIC/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/24/2022 Zelenskyy beats Putin on military calculus - He demonstrates a better grasp of risk and reward
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been locked in
a battle of wills since late February. USA TODAY; RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE VIA AP, FILE
    As Russia’s war against Ukraine grinds on into its third brutal month, it is clearly a battle not only of blood and treasure in the fields, cities and skies of Ukraine, but also a very personal contest between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
    They are locked into a battle of wills, and each has made a calculation about the level of risk they and their nations are willing to absorb.
    After a lifetime of thinking about risk in the context of military operations, I believe that Zelenskyy has demonstrated a far better grasp on the crucial calculus of risk and reward.    What can we learn from the Ukrainian leader’s performance about the decisions we need to make in our own lives?
    To understand risk and decision, you must accomplish something relatively straightforward: knowing what you value.    The time to figure out what you value is not when the storm is blowing at full strength, like mad King Lear finally did.    The time to understand what you value is when the sun is still shining before the crisis descends.
    And most of all, you need to answer to the question, “For what are you willing, quite literally, to risk it all?
    Don’t answer too quickly.    If I’ve learned anything along the long voyage of my life, it is that you really don’t know what you value until you are faced with a very stark choice about losing it.
    That applies to a job, a friend, a spouse, a nation, an idea or anything else that really matters to you.     Zelenskyy went into this war clearly knowing exactly what he valued.
    Today, we watch a brave and free people in Ukraine make those brutally stark choices every day.    Faced with a ruthless, implacable and immoral foe in the Russian dictator, the Ukrainian people have made the hardest of choices to stand and defend their nation.    Zelenskyy is the personification of their will and spirit, the true center of gravity of this war.
    When Ukrainian citizens go to fight on what literally have become the front lines of freedom, they must pause and look over their shoulder.
    Behind them they see their children, spouses, parents and elders.    Their cities, many shattered by indiscriminate and illegal bombing. Their civilization and their language.
    They know what they value. A year or so ago, most of them would not have contemplated standing on those front lines, quite literally risking it all.    But in life, everything can change forever in an instant.    It can happen to you and with little or no warning, in a medical emergency, a mass shooting, a crisis at work, or for those who have chosen a military career in a combat deployment.    When it happens, the choices are narrow.
    Time seems to slow down and speed up simultaneously, and the moment is full of risk.
    Be ready.    Think of those ordinary Ukrainians, not unlike their heroic president, suddenly thrust into making choices about risk and doubling down on what truly matters to each of them.    Know what you value before the moment of crisis.
    The second point is also deceptively simple: Know yourself.
    The ancient Greeks carved those words, which they believed lay at the heart of a life well lived, on the high walls of the great temple of Apollo at Delphi.    We all think we know who we are, but until a moment of real risk comes, we really don’t know what lies in the deepest part of our hearts.
    Understanding yourself truly is the work of a lifetime, and Zelenskyy has shown us that kind of vital inner knowledge and confidence.    Every life and career is a string of both successes and failures, but the common thread is the resilience to continue the voyage.    Zelenskyy seems to have fully inculcated this level of self-knowledge, from the moment he shed his suits and ties and donned military-green garb for the duration for the war.
    Often, the greatest rewards of our lives stem from those moments of the greatest risk.    Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
    Zelenskyy is very much that kind of leader. Like him, we should all strive to be the kind of person who knows what we value and who understands who we are, long before the crisis comes.
    Retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO.    This essay is adapted from his graduation address to the class of 2022 at The Citadel. His 12th book is “To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision.”
James Stavridis Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO

5/24/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russian sentenced to life in Ukraine’s 1st war crimes trial - Donetsk’s regional governor says attacks in east decimating cities by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Flags honor soldiers killed fighting Russian troops in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday.
Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of potential war crimes. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – A captured Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to killing a civilian was sentenced by a Ukrainian court Monday to life in prison – the maximum – amid signs the Kremlin may, in turn, put on trial some of the fighters who surrendered at Mariupol’s steelworks.
  • Meanwhile, in a rare public expression of opposition to the war from the ranks of the Russian elite, a veteran Kremlin diplomat resigned and sent a scathing letter to foreign colleagues in which he said of the invasion, “Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24.”
    Also, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia in a video address to world leaders and executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.    He also revealed one of the deadliest single strikes of the war, a missile attack on a village near Kyiv that killed almost 90 people.
    And on the battlefield, heavy fighting raged in the Donbas in the east, where Moscow’s forces have stepped up their bombardment.    Cities not under Russian control were constantly shelled, and one Ukrainian official said Russian forces targeted civilians trying to flee.
    In the first of what could be a multitude of war crimes trials held by Ukraine, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was sentenced for the killing of a 62-year-old man who was shot in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the opening days of the war.
    Shishimarin, a member of a tank unit, had claimed he was following orders, and he apologized to the man’s widow in court.
    His Ukraine-appointed defense attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, argued his client had been unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they invaded.    He said he would appeal.
    Ukrainian civil liberties advocate Volodymyr Yavorskyy said it was “an extremely harsh sentence for one murder during the war.”    But Aarif Abraham, a British-based human rights lawyer, said the trial was conducted “with what appears to be full and fair due process,” including access to an attorney.
    Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of potential war crimes.    Russian forces in Mariupol bombed a theater where civilians were sheltering and struck a maternity hospital.    In the wake of Moscow’s withdrawal from around Kyiv weeks ago, mass graves were discovered and streets were strewn with bodies in towns like Bucha.
    Before Shishimarin’s sentencing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow was unable to defend the soldier but will consider trying to do so “through other channels.”     Mary Ellen O’Connell, an expert on international law at the University of Notre Dame, said that putting Shishimarin on trial could prove “extremely detrimental to Ukrainian soldiers in the hands of Russia.”    She said Russia may decide to hold “show trials” of Ukrainians to boost the morale of its own soldiers and spread disinformation.
    “Maybe it would have happened without the Ukrainians beginning trials,” O’Connell said.    “But the timing suggests that the Ukrainians should have held back and perhaps still should, so that the Russians can’t say, ‘We’re just doing to their soldiers what they did to ours.’” Russian authorities have threatened to hold trials of captured Ukrainians – namely, fighters who held out at Mariupol’s shattered steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the strategic southern port city.    They surrendered and were taken prisoner last week, at which point Moscow claimed the capture of Mariupol was complete.
    Russia’s main investigative body said it intends to interrogate the Mariupol defenders to “identify the nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.
    Russian authorities have seized upon the far-right origins of one of the regiments there, calling the Azov Regiment’s fighters “Nazis” and accusing their commander without evidence of “numerous atrocities.”    Russia’s top prosecutor has asked the country’s Supreme Court to designate the Azov Regiment a terrorist organization.
    Family members of the fighters have pleaded for their eventual return to Ukraine as part of a prisoner swap.
    Elsewhere, Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat at the U.N. office at Geneva, quit and sent a letter denouncing the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.    Bondarev told The AP: “It is intolerable what my government is doing now.”
    In his letter, Bondarev said those who conceived the war “want only one thing – to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity.”
    He also said Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is all about “warmongering, lies and hatred.”
    At the Davos forum, Zelenskyy said sanctions against the Kremlin must go further.    He urged an embargo on Russian oil, a complete cutoff of trade and a withdrawal of foreign companies from the country.
    “This is what sanctions should be: They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions,” said Zelenskyy, who received a standing ovation.
    In other developments, nearly 50 defense leaders from around the world met Monday and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including missiles to protect its coast, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters in Washington.
    On the battlefield, Russian forces increased their bombardment of the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories that Russia is bent on capturing.
    Donetsk’s regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said three civilians died in Russian attacks there Monday and heavy fighting continued near the Luhansk region.    The Donbas consists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
    He said the Russians were decimating cities in their attempt to take them over.    Only about 320,000 people out of the region’s prewar population of 1.6 million remain, and Russian forces are targeting evacuation efforts, he said.
    “They are killing us. They are killing the locals during evacuation,” Kyrylenko said.
    On the eve of the three-month anniversary of the start of the war, Zelensky said that four missiles killed 87 people last week in the town of Desna, 34 miles north of Kyiv.    The deaths were tallied after debris was cleared, he said.
    The Russians have now concentrated their forces on Donbas cities and “are trying to destroy all life,” Zelenskyy said in his evening address to the nation.
    In the Luhansk region, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, local authorities reported that a bridge leading to the administrative center of Sievierodonetsk was destroyed, leaving the partially encircled city reachable by just one road.
    Russia’s main investigative body said it intends to interrogate the Mariupol defenders to “identify the nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.
    50 leaders from around the world have met and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the audience from Kyiv
during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Monday. MARKUS SCHREIBER/AP

A woman walks past the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday.
On the battlefield, Russian forces increased their bombardment of the Donbas. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP

5/25/2022 After 3 months, Russia still bogged down - Ukraine continues to resist behind arms from the west by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cars pass by destroyed Russian tanks Monday in a battle against Ukrainians
in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv. Efrem Lukatsky/AP
    When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, it had hoped to overtake the country in a blitz lasting only days or weeks. Many Western analysts agreed.
    But as the conflict marked its third month Tuesday, Moscow appears to be bogged down in what increasingly looks like a war of attrition, with no end in sight and few successes on the battlefield.
    There was no quick victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces, no rout that would allow the Kremlin to control most of Ukraine and establish a puppet government.
    Instead, Russian troops got bogged down on the outskirts of Kyiv and other big cities amid stiff Ukrainian defenses.    Convoys of Russian armor stalled on long stretches of highway.    Troops ran out of supplies and gasoline, becoming easy targets.
    A little over a month into the invasion, Russia effectively acknowledged the failure of its blitz and pulled troops back from areas near Kyiv, declaring a shift of focus to the eastern industrial region of the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
    Russia has seized significant chunks of territory around the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago.    It also has managed to cut Ukraine off completely from the Sea of Azov, finally securing full control over the key port of Mariupol after a siege that prevented some of its troops from fighting elsewhere while they battled diehard Ukrainian forces.
    But the offensive in the east has bogged down as well, as Western arms flow into Ukraine to bolster its outgunned army.
    Russian artillery and warplanes relentlessly pound Ukrainian positions, trying to break through defenses built up during the separatist conflict.    They have made only incremental gains, clearly reflecting both Russia’s insufficient troop numbers and the Ukrainian resistance.    Russia recently lost hundreds of personnel and dozens of combat vehicles while trying to cross a river to build a bridgehead.
    'The Russians are still well behind where we believe they wanted to be when they started this revitalized effort in the eastern part of the country,' Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday, adding that small towns and villages were changing hands every day in the Donbas.
    Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian forces have methodically targeted Western weapons shipments, ammunition and fuel depots, and critical infrastructure in hopes of weakening Kyiv’s military and economy.
    But in trying to gain ground, Russian forces have also relentlessly shelled cities and laid siege to some of them.    In the latest example of the war’s toll, 200 bodies were found in a collapsed building in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday.
    The Kremlin appears to still harbor a more ambitious goal of cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border, a move that would also give Moscow a land corridor to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, where Russian troops are stationed.
    But Russia seems to know that this objective is not currently achievable with the limited forces it has.
    'I think they’re just increasingly realizing that they can’t necessarily do all of it, certainly not at one go,' said Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who heads Sibylline, a strategic advisory firm.
    Moscow’s losses have forced it to rely increasingly on hastily patched-together units in the Donbas that could make only small gains, he said.
    'It’s a constant downshifting of gear toward smaller objectives that Russia can actually achieve,' Crump said.
    'And I think on the biggest scale, they’ve actually downsized their strategy better to match their ability on the ground.'

5/25/2022 Ukraine finds 200 bodies in Mariupol basement - Meanwhile, fighting continues in Donbas by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Undertakers lower the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Oleksander Matyukhin, 32, in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on Monday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol found 200 bodies in the basement, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, as more horrors come to light in the ruined city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the 3-month-old war.
    The bodies were decomposing, and the stench hung over the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor.    He did not say when they were discovered, but the sheer number of victims makes it one of the deadliest known attacks of the war.
    Heavy fighting, meanwhile, continued in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that Moscow’s forces are intent on seizing.    Russian troops intensified their efforts to encircle and capture Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities.
    Mariupol was relentlessly pounded during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel plant where they had made their stand.    Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where an estimated 100,000 people remain out of a prewar population of 450,000, many of them trapped during the siege with little food, water, heat or electricity.
    At least 21,000 people were killed in the siege, according to Ukrainian authorities, who have accused Russia of trying to cover up the horrors by bringing in mobile cremation equipment and by burying the dead in mass graves.
    During the assault on Mariupol, Russian airstrikes hit a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians were taking shelter.    An Associated Press investigation found that close to 600 people died in the theater attack, double the figure estimated by Ukrainian officials.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russians of waging “total war” and seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.
    “Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelensky said, referring to end of World War II.
    Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory.    Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.
    As Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, recovers from weeks of weeks of relentless bombardment, residents formed long lines to receive rations of flour, pasta, sugar and others staples this week.    Moscow’s forces withdrew from around Kharkiv earlier this month, pulling back toward the Russian border.
    Galina Kolembed, the aid distribution center coordinator, said that more and more people are returning to the city.    Kolembed said the center is providing food to over 1,000 people every day, a number that keeps growing.
    “Many of them have small kids, and they spend their money on the kids, so they need some support with food,” she said.

5/25/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - 200 bodies found in Mariupol basement by Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two men carry a wooded panel next to heavily damaged buildings and destroyed cars in a Russian bombing in Bakhmut, Ukraine,
Tuesday. The town of Bakhmut has been coming under increasing artillery strikes, particularly over the last week, as Russian
forces try to press forward to encircle the city of Sieverodonetsk to the northeast. PHOTOS BY FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol found 200 bodies in the basement, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, as more horrors come to light in the ruined city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the 3-month-old war.
    The bodies were decomposing and the stench hung over the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor.    He did not say when they were discovered, but the sheer number of victims makes it one of the deadliest known attacks of the war.
    Heavy fighting, meanwhile, was reported in the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland that Moscow’s forces are intent on seizing.    Russian troops took over an industrial town that hosts a thermal power station, and intensified efforts to encircle and capture Sievierodonetsk and other cities.
    Twelve people were killed by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region of the Donbas, according to the regional governor. And the governor of the Luhansk region of the Donbas said the area is facing its “most difficult time” in the eight years since separatist fighting erupted there.
    “The Russians are advancing in all directions at the same time.    They brought over an insane number of fighters and equipment,” the governor, Serhii Haidai, wrote on Telegram.    “The invaders are killing our cities, destroying everything around.”    He added that Luhansk is becoming “like Mariupol.”
    Mariupol was relentlessly pounded during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel plant where they had made their stand.    Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where an estimated 100,000 people remain out a prewar population of 450,000, many of them trapped during the encirclement with little food, water, heat or electricity.
    At least 21,000 people were killed in the siege, according to Ukrainian authorities, who have accused Russia of trying to cover up the horrors by bringing in mobile cremation equipment and by burying the dead in mass graves.
    During the assault on Mariupol, Russian airstrikes hit a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians were taking shelter.    An Associated Press investigation found that close to 600 people died in the theater attack, double the figure estimated by Ukrainian authorities.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russians of waging “total war” and seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.
    “Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” Zelenskyy said, referring to end of World War II.
    Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory.    Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.
    Russian forces have achieved “some localized successes” despite strong Ukrainian resistance along dug-in positions, British military authorities said.
    Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces in the region are facing a difficult situation.
    “Practically the full might of the Russian army, whatever they have left, is being thrown at the offensive there,” Zelenskyy said late Tuesday in his nightly address to the nation.    “Liman, Popasna, Sievierodonetsk, Slaviansk – the occupiers want to destroy everything there.”
    In the Donetsk region, Moscow’s troops took over the industrial town of Svitlodarsk, which hosts a thermal power station and had a prewar population of about 11,000, and raised the Russian flag there.
    “They have now hung their rag on the local administration building,” Serhii Goshko, the head of the local Ukrainian military administration, told Ukraine’s Vilny Radio, in a reference to the Russian flag.    Goshko said armed units were patrolling Svitlodarsk’s streets, checking residents’ documents.
    Russian troops also shelled the eastern city of Slovyansk with cluster munitions, hitting a private building, according to Mayor Vadym Lyakh. He said casualties were avoided because many people had already left their homes, and he urged the remaining residents to evacuate west.    Heavy fighting was also underway in the city of Lyman.
    Amid the fighting, two top Russian officials appeared to acknowledge that Moscow’s advance has been slower than expected, though they vowed the offensive would achieve its goals.
    Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said the Russian government “is not chasing deadlines.”    And Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of a Russia-led security alliance of former Soviet states that Moscow is deliberately slowing down its offensive to allow residents of encircled cities to evacuate – though forces have repeatedly hit civilian targets.
    Hours later, Zelenskyy mocked Shoigu’s assertion.
    “Well, after three months of searching for an explanation for why they were unable to break Ukraine in three days, they couldn’t think of anything better than to say that’s what they planned,” he said in his video address.
    Russian officials also announced that Moscow’s forces had finished clearing mines from the waters off Mariupol and that a safe corridor will open Wednesday for the exit of as many as 70 foreign ships from Ukraine’s southern coast.
    In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, there were signs of recovery after weeks of bombardment.    Residents formed long lines to receive rations of flour, pasta, sugar and others staples this week.    Moscow’s forces withdrew from around Kharkiv earlier this month, pulling back toward the Russian border in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks, though Russia continues to shell the area from afar, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.
    Meanwhile, the wife of the top commander who held out inside the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol said Tuesday that she had a brief telephone conversation with her husband, who surrendered to the Russians and was taken prisoner last week.
    Kateryna Prokopenko, who is married to Azov Regiment leader Denys Prokopenko, said the call broke off before he could say anything about himself.
    She said the call was made possible under an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, mediated by the Red Cross.
    Prokopenko and Yuliia Fedosiuk, the wife of another soldier, said several families received calls in the past two days.    The women said they are hopeful the soldiers will not be tortured and will eventually “come back home.”
    “Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Two women sit inside a van as they are evacuated in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut on Tuesday.
Russian forces have achieved “some localized successes” in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland,
despite strong Ukrainian resistance along dug-in positions, British military authorities said.

5/26/2022 Russia takes steps to bolster army, tighten grip on Ukraine by Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A local resident gathers up belongings from his heavily damaged house after a Russian strike in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine. Two rockets struck
the eastern Ukrainian town in the Donetsk region early Wednesday morning, causing at least four injuries. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order Wednesday to fast-track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army.
    Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to strengthen its hold on territory that lies between eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists occupy some areas, and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.
    The Russian army is engaged in an intense battle for Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.    In a sign that the Kremlin is trying to bolster its stretched military machine, Russian lawmakers agreed to scrap the age limit of 40 for those signing their first voluntary military contracts.
    A description of the bill on the parliament website indicated older recruits would be allowed to operate precision weapons or serve in engineering or medical positions.    The chair of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, said the measure would make it easier to hire people with “in-demand” skills.
    Russian officials say only volunteer contract soldiers are sent to fight in Ukraine, although they acknowledge that some conscripts were put into the fighting by mistake in the early stages of the war.
    Three months into Russia’s invasion, Putin visited a military hospital in Moscow on Wednesday and met with some soldiers wounded in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.
    It was his first known visit with soldiers fighting in Ukraine since he launched the war on Feb. 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited wounded soldiers, civilians and children – including at times when Russian troops were fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv.
    A reporter for the state-run Russia1 TV channel posted a video clip on Telegram showing Putin in a white medical coat talking to a man in hospital attire, presumably a soldier.
    The man, filmed from behind standing up and with no visible wounds, tells Putin that he has a son.    The president, accompanied by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, responds: “He will be proud of his father,” before shaking the man’s hand.
    Zelenskyy reiterated Wednesday that he would be willing to negotiate with Putin directly but said Moscow needs to retreat to the positions it held before the invasion and must show it’s ready to “shift from the bloody war to diplomacy.”
    “I believe it would be a correct step for Russia to make,” Zelenskyy told leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by video link.
    He also said Ukraine wants to drive Russian troops out of all captured areas.    “Ukraine will fight until it reclaims all its territories,” Zelenskyy said.    “It’s about our independence and our sovereignty.”
    In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy strongly rebuffed those in the West who suggest Ukraine cede control of areas occupied by Russian troops for the sake of reaching a peace agreement.
    Those “great geopoliticians” who suggest this are disregarding the interests of ordinary Ukrainians – “the millions of those who actually live on the territory that they propose exchanging for an illusion of peace,” he said.    “We always have to think of the people and remember that values are not just words.”
    Zelenskyy compared those who argue for giving Russia a piece of Ukraine to those who in 1938 agreed to cede territory to Hitler in hopes of preventing World War II.
    Russia already had a program to expedite the naturalization of people living in Luhansk and Donetsk, the two eastern Ukraine provinces that make up the Donbas and where the Moscow backed separatists hold large areas as self-declared independent republics.
    During a visit to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin indicated they could become part of “our Russian family.”
    A Russia-installed official in the Kherson region has predicted the region would become part of Russia.    An official in Zaporizhzhia said Wednesday that the region’s pro-Kremlin administration would seek that as well.
    Melitopol, the Zaporizhzhia region’s second-largest city, plans to start issuing Russian passports in the near future, said the Russia-installed acting mayor, Galina Danilchenko.
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who attended the Davos forum in person, called for friendly countries – particularly the United States – to provide Ukraine with multiple launch rocket systems so it could try to recapture lost territory.

5/26/2022 Scars of war everywhere in Ukraine - Residents struggle to ‘return to regular life’ by Elena Becatoros and Yuras Karmanau, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A boy sits in front of a damaged building Wednesday after a rocket struck
Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – Piano music wafted from an apartment block on a recent spring evening in Kramatorsk, blending with distant artillery fire for a surreal soundtrack to a bomb-scarred neighborhood in the eastern Ukrainian city.
    Everywhere in Ukraine, the 3-month-old war never seems to be far away.
    Those in towns and villages near the front lines hide in basements from constant shelling, struggling to survive with no electricity or gas – and often no running water.
    But even in regions out of the range of the heavy guns, frequent air raid sirens wail as a constant reminder that a Russian missile can strike at any time – even for those walking their dogs, riding their bicycles and taking their children to parks in cities like Kyiv, Odesa and Lviv.
    Curfews, checkpoints and fortifications are commonplace.    So are fresh cemeteries, uprooted villagers and war-scarred landscapes, as Moscow intensifies its attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine.
    “City residents are trying to return to regular life, but with every step, they stumble upon either a crater or a ruined house or a grave in the yard,” said Andriy Pustovoi, speaking by phone to The Associated Press from the northern city of Chernihiv.    “No one is cooking food over a bonfire or drinking water from a river anymore, but there’s a long way to go to a normal life.”
    Chernihiv was in the way of Russian forces as they advanced toward Kyiv early in the war.    It was heavily bombarded, and Mayor     Vladyslav Atroshenko said about half of its buildings were damaged or destroyed.    At least 700 residents were killed, and part of a city park now holds a cemetery, where some of them are buried.
    Its streets are mostly empty now, half of the shops have not reopened and public transportation is not working properly, said Pustovoi, a 37-year-old engineer.
    Rail service to Kyiv was only restored this month, but people who fled are in no rush to return.
    “The scariest thing is that neighboring Russia and Belarus are not going away from Chernihiv, which means that some of the residents that left when the war started may not come back,” Atroshenko said sadly.
    Few people are seen on the streets of Kramatorsk, where storefront windows are boarded up or protected by sandbags, and it’s no wonder.
    The eastern city has been hit several times, with the deadliest attack on April 8, when a missile struck near its train station where about 4,000 people had gathered to be evacuated before fighting intensified.    In an instant, the plaza was turned into a scene of horror, with bodies lying on bloodstained pavement amid discarded luggage.    A total of 57 people were killed, and over 100 wounded.
    Kramatorsk is one of the largest in the industrial Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that has not been taken over by Russian forces.    The region has been the site of battles between Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces since 2014.
    Elsewhere in the Donbas, the picture is even bleaker.
    Ryisa Rybalko fled the village of Novomykhailivka, where she had been living first in a basement and then a bomb shelter at a school because of frequent shelling.
    “We haven’t been able to see the sun for three months.    We are almost blind because we were in darkness for three months,” Rybalko said.    She arrived with her family in the town of Kiurakhove, driven by a fellow villager, and waited on Monday for a westbound bus.
    In neighboring Luhansk province, 83-year-old Lida Chuhay left the hard-hit town of Lyman, near the front line.
    “Ashes, ruins. The northern parts, the southern parts, all are ruined,” she said Sunday as she sat on a train heading west from the town of Pokrovsk.    “Literally everything is on fire: houses, buildings, everything.”
    Chuhay and others from Lyman said much of the town was reduced to rubble by the bombardment.    Anyone still there is hiding in shelters because it is too dangerous to venture out.
    “They ruined everything,” said Olha Medvedeva, sitting opposite Chuhay on the train.    “The five-story building where we were living, everything flew away – the windows, the doors.”     In cities farther from the front lines, air raid sirens sound so often that few pay attention and continue about their daily business.
    After Russian forces failed to capture Kyiv in the invasion’s first weeks and withdrew to the east, residents started to flow back into the capital.    The nightly curfew has been cut by an hour, and public transportation started running longer to accommodate passengers.
    Residents face long lines at gas stations, and the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnya, has weakened from 27 to the dollar at the start of the war to 37.
    “Ukraine is being destroyed – not just by Russian bombs and missiles,” said Volodymyr Sidenko, an analyst at the Kyiv-based     Razumkov Center think tank.    “The fall in GDP (gross domestic product) and the sharp reduction in the revenue side of the budget have already been felt by every Ukrainian today. And this is just the beginning.”
    But the National Opera resumed performances last week in Kyiv, with the audience advised how to reach the air raid shelter.    No Russian operas are on the program.
    And some restaurants, cafes and shops in cities such as Odesa and Zaporizhzhia have reopened.
    Lviv, the city in western Ukraine about 45 miles from the Polish border, has been inundated with more than 300,000 people fleeing the war. About 1,000 arrive at its railway station daily.
    “We judge the intensity of the fighting in the east not by (what) the news says but by waves of refugees, which have been growing in recent weeks again,” said Alina Gushcha, a 35-yearold chemistry teacher who volunteers at the rail station to help arrivals.
    Hotels, campgrounds, universities and schools ran out of space long ago, and the city has built temporary housing that resembles shipping containers in city parks.
    “In the months of the war, I’ve learned to be happy about every day without shelling and bombardment,” said Halyna Shcherbin, 59, outside her container-like home in Stryiskyi Park, where she lives with her daughter and two granddaughters.
    Lviv also comes under regular Russian bombardment because it’s the gateway for Western military aid.    Its Old Town architectural treasures, including the Boim Chapel and the Latin Cathedral, are protected by either metal shielding or sandbags.
Residents remove debris from a destroyed house after Russian shelling in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Wednesday. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

5/26/2022 Moldovan ex-leader detained by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BUDAPEST, Hungary – A former Moldovan president was ordered detained following a series of police raids Tuesday as part of a judicial investigation into suspected treason, corruption, illicit enrichment and illegal party financing, prosecutors said.
    Photographs showed members of Moldova’s Information and Security Service escorting former President Igor Dodon to a van after he was detained at his house in the capital, Chisinau. Dodon leads the eastern European country’s pro-Russian main opposition bloc.    Senior anti-corruption prosecutor Elena Cazacov did not identify the detainee. She told a press conference that he and a second person were ordered held in custody for 72 hours after authorities deemed that otherwise there was a “risk of destruction of evidence.”
    Earlier Tuesday, Moldovan media reported Dodon’s detention, but authorities didn’t officially confirm it.
    Moldovan website Protv.md broadcast a live feed of several police officers standing guard at the gate of a house described as belonging to Dodon, who was president from 2016 to 2020.
    Cazacov said the investigation focused on suspected acts of “illicit enrichment, passive corruption, illegal party financing and (treason), which have taken place since 2014.”    She did not provide details.
    “The subjects of the investigation are mainly one of the former presidents of the Republic of Moldova and those close to him, but also other persons who have a connection to the commission of the alleged acts,” she said.

5/27/2022 Russia seeks to blame West for food crisis - UK: Sanctions relief bid is attempt at ‘ransom’ by Ricardo Mazalan and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An elderly woman is carried from her home in an evacuation by volunteers in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Thursday.
Residents near the front line continue to flee as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack.
    Britain immediately accused Russia of “trying to hold the world to ransom,” insisting there would be no sanctions relief, and a top U.S. diplomat blasted the “sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty and lawlessness” of the invasion.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow “is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call.
    Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow, endangering world food supplies.    Many of those ports are now also heavily mined.
    Russia also is a significant grain exporter, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the West “must cancel the unlawful decisions that hamper chartering ships and exporting grain.”    His comments appeared to be an effort to lump the blockade of Ukrainian exports with what Russia says are its difficulties in moving its own goods.
    Western officials have dismissed those claims. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted last week that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from sanctions imposed by the U.S. and many others – and that Washington is working to ensure countries know the flow of those goods should not be affected.
    With the war grinding into its fourth month, world leaders have ramped up calls for solutions.    World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said about 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain is in storage and another 25 million tons could be harvested next month.
    European countries have tried to ease the crisis by moving grain out of the country by rail – but trains can carry only a small fraction of what Ukraine produces, and ships are needed for the bulk of the exports.
    At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry proposed corridors to allow foreign ships to leave ports along the Black Sea, as well as Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
    Mikhail Mizintsev, who heads Russia’s National Defense Control Center, said 70 foreign vessels from 16 countries were in six ports on the Black Sea, including Odesa, Kherson and Mykolaiv.    He did not specify how many might be ready to carry food.
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country was ready to agree on safe corridors in principle, but it was not sure it could trust Russia to allow safe passage and not send its military vessels “sneaking” into the harbor to attack Odesa.
    British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Putin was “trying to hold the world to ransom” by demanding some sanctions be lifted before allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to resume.
    “He’s essentially weaponized hunger and lack of food among the poorest people around the world,” Truss said on a visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for imposing even tougher sanctions on Russia, including for the European Union to ban Russian oil and gas.
    “Pressuring Russia is literally a matter of saving lives,” he said in his nightly video address.    “And every day of delay, weakness, various disputes or proposals to appease the aggressor at the expense of the victim is new Ukrainians killed. And these are new threats to everyone on our continent.”
    Putin said “it’s impossible, utterly unrealistic in the modern world” to isolate Russia.    Speaking via video to members of the Eurasian Economic Forum, which is comprised of several ex-Soviet nations, he said those who try would “primarily hurt themselves,” citing broken food supply chains.
    Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, urged its members to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself against Putin’s “revanchist delusions.”     If Russia achieved “success” in Ukraine, “there would be more horrific reports from filtration camps, more forcibly displaced people, more summary executions, more torture, more rape, and more looting,” Carpenter said in Vienna.
    On the battlefield, Russian forces pressed their offensive in several parts of the eastern Donbas region, Ukraine’s military said.    That industrial heartland of coal mines and factories is now the focus of fighting after Russia suffered a series of setbacks and shifted to more limited goals.
    “The enemy is storming the position of our troops simultaneously in several directions,” said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.    “We have an extremely difficult and long stage of fighting ahead of us.”
    Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under renewed shelling on Thursday.    Zelenskyy said at least nine people were killed and 19 wounded. Among those killed were a five-month-old baby and its father, and the mother was in serious condition.
    Military officials said Russian forces continued to try to gain a foothold in the area of Sievierodonetsk, the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbas under Ukrainian government control.
    A senior U.S. defense official said Russia is making incremental progress in the Donbas, with fighting centered on towns and villages as Russian and Ukrainian forces trade control over scraps of land.    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said those smaller artillery duels could be prolonged.
    Zelenskyy pleaded with the West to send multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine as soon as possible to give it a fighting chance against the Russian offensive in the Donbas.
    In other developments:
  • In the northwestern town of Kotelva, two Russian soldiers accused of war crimes pleaded guilty to shelling civilian infrastructure with a multiple rocket launcher.    Alexander Ivanov and Alexander Bobykin could face up to 12 years in prison; the defense asked for eight, saying they were following orders.    Bobykin said, “I regret the actions our troops committed.”
  • In the ravaged port city of Mariupol, Russia began broadcasting state television news, about a week after the Russian military declared it had “completely liberated” the city.
  • A leader of Russia-backed separatists suggested there might be more Ukrainian fighters hiding in Mariupol’s sprawling Azovstal steelworks, which for weeks stood as the city’s last bastion of resistance.    The Russian military says 2,439 fighters surrendered from the plant last week.    The separatist leader, Denis Pushilin, said more may have been hiding or lost or lagged behind.
A man walks in front of a building that was damaged by attacks in
Hostomel, Ukraine, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Thursday. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP

Soldiers salute for Russian Army Sgt. Daniil Dumenko, 35, who was killed during the
fighting in Ukraine, at a ceremony in Volzhsky, Russia, outside Volgograd, on Thursday. AP

5/28/2022 Ukraine: Heavier weapons needed - Fears are raised in Donbas of repeat of Mariupol horrors by Yuras Karmanau and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – Moscow-backed separatists pounded eastern Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region Friday, claiming to capture a railway hub as concerns grew that besieged cities in the region would undergo the same horrors experienced by the people of the port city Mariupol in the weeks before it fell.
    Ukrainian officials warned their forces wouldn’t be able to stop the Russian offensive without more sophisticated Western-supplied weaponry.
    The fighting Friday focused on two key cities: Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk.    They are the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas and where Russia-backed separatists have controlled some territory for eight years.    Authorities said 1,500 people in Sievierodonetsk have died since the war’s start, scarcely more than three months ago. Russia-backed rebels also said they had taken the railway hub of Lyman.
Fears - Local resident Nikolai Kononenko, 67, opens the door of a bomb shelter
in the village of Mayaky, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Friday. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP
    The governor of Luhansk warned that Ukrainian soldiers might have to retreat from Sievierodonetsk to avoid being surrounded.    But he predicted an ultimate Ukrainian victory. “The Russians will not be able to capture Luhansk region in the coming days, as analysts predict,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram on Friday. “We will have enough forces and means to defend ourselves.”
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnskyy echoed those sentiments in a video message to students at Stanford University.
    “Ukraine is a country that has destroyed the myth about the extraordinary power of the Russian army – an army that supposedly, in a few days, could conquer anyone it wants.    Now Russia is trying to occupy the entire state but we feel strong enough to think about the future of Ukraine, which will be open to the world.”
    In his nightly video address Friday, Zelenskyy maintained his defiant tone, saying: “If the occupiers think that Lyman or Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong.    Donbas will be Ukrainian.”
    For now, Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk told the Associated Press “the city is being systematically destroyed – 90% of the buildings in the city are damaged.”
    Striuk described conditions in Sievierodonetsk reminiscent of the battle for Mariupol, located in the Donbas’ other province, Donetsk.    Now in ruins, the port city was constantly barraged by Russian forces in a nearly three-month siege that ended last week when Russia claimed its capture.    More than 20,000 of its civilians are feared dead.
    Before the war, Sievierodonetsk was home to about 100,000 people.    About 12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city, Striuk said, huddled in shelters and largely cut off from the rest of Ukraine.    At least 1,500 people have died there because of the war, now in its 93rd day.    The figure includes people killed by shelling or in fires caused by Russian missile strikes, as well as those who died from shrapnel wounds, untreated diseases, a lack of medicine or being trapped under rubble, the mayor said.
    In the city’s northeastern quarter, Russian reconnaissance and sabotage groups tried to capture the Mir Hotel and the area around it, Striuk said.
    Hints of Russia’s strategy for the Donbas can be found in Mariupol, where Moscow is consolidating its control through measures including state-controlled broadcast programming and overhauled school curricula, according to an analysis from the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.    Gen. Phillip Breedlove, former head of U.S. European Command for NATO, said     Friday during a panel mounted by the Washington-based Middle East Institute that Russia appears to have “once again adjusted its objectives, and fearfully now it seems that they are trying to consolidate and enforce the land that they have rather than focus on expanding it.”
    Ukrainian analysts said Russian forces have taken advantage of delays in Western arms shipments to step up their offensive there.    That aggressive push could backfire, however, by seriously depleting Russia’s arsenal.
    Echoing an assessment from the British Defense Ministry, military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russia was deploying 50-year-old T-62 tanks, “which means that the (second-largest) army of the world has run out of modernized equipment.”
    Russia-backed rebels said Friday they had taken over Lyman, Donetsk’s large railway hub north of two more key cities still under Ukrainian control.
    Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych acknowledged the loss Thursday night, though a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson reported Friday that its soldiers countered Russian attempts to completely push them out.
    As Ukraine’s hopes of stopping the Russian advance faded, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded with Western nations for heavy weapons, saying it was the one area in which Russia had a clear advantage.
    “Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems we won’t be able to push them back,” he said.
    The U.S. Defense Department would not confirm a CNN report the Biden administration was preparing to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, perhaps as early as next week.
    “Certainly, we’re mindful and aware of Ukrainian asks, privately and publicly, for what is known as a multiple launch rocket system.    And I won’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
    Just south of Sievierodonetsk, volunteers hoped to evacuate 100 people from a smaller town.    It was a painstaking process: Many of the evacuees from Bakhmut were elderly or infirm and needed to be carried out of apartment buildings in soft stretchers and wheelchairs.    Minibuses and vans zipped through the city, picking up dozens for the first leg of a long journey west.
    “Bakhmut is a high-risk area right now,” said Mark Poppert, an American volunteer working with British charity RefugEase.    “We’re trying to get as many people out as we can.”
    To the north, neighboring Belarus – used by Russia as a staging ground before the invasion – announced Friday that it was sending troops toward the Ukrainian border.
    Some European leaders sought dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin about easing the global food crisis, exacerbated by Ukraine’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products.    Moscow has sought to shift the blame for the food crisis to the West, calling upon its leaders to lift existing sanctions.
    Putin told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Friday that Ukraine should remove Black Sea mines to allow safe shipping, according to a Kremlin readout of their conversation; Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the mines near Ukraine’s ports.
    Nehammer’s office said the two leaders also discussed a prisoner exchange and said Putin indicated efforts to arrange one would be “intensified.”
A man walks outside a gypsum manufacturing plant after shelling in the city of Bakhmut
in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Two couples hug and kiss during a reunion after three months of separation
at the Kharkiv train station in eastern Ukraine. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP

5/28/2022 Homes, buildings across Ukraine in ruins as Russia continues airstrikes, shelling - A FEAR OF DEATH FROM ABOVE by ASSOCIATED PRESS
A boy plays in front of destroyed buildings in Borodyanka on Tuesday. Homes and
buildings are in ruins in cities and towns across Ukraine. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP
    A black-and-white wedding photo lay among wood scraps and other debris in the aftermath of an airstrike in Kramatorsk, testament to happier times.
  • A woman in Kharkiv knelt next to her husband’s body, surrounded by a pool of blood after he was killed by shelling.
  • Another in Soledar washed dishes by the light of a single lamp in a basement used as a bomb shelter.
    Scenes from Ukraine captured by AP photographers this week showed that more than three months into the conflict, especially in the war-torn east, residents live in a world where death comes from above.
    Homes and buildings are in ruins in cities and towns, from Borodyanka, where a boy pedaled a toy vehicle in the shadow of shattered apartment blocks, to Mariupol, where children walked amid the rubble on a street.
    In Vilkhivka, near Kharkiv, a bomb lay unexploded in the grass next to a road.
    In Povrovsk, a man wearing a bloody head bandage cupped his hands to his face in a hospital after he was wounded in a rocket attack.
    And in Kramatorsk, a dog padded through a deserted central square, save for a gaggle of pigeons as air raid sirens blared.
Above: Dina walks out of her home ruined by shelling in Horenka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Wednesday.

With sandbags covering the window, patients rest at Pokrovsk Hospital in eastern Ukraine on Sunday. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

A dog walks among pigeons in a mostly deserted square in Kramatorsk as an air raid siren wails Monday in eastern Ukraine.

A woman holds a child outside her family’s heavily damaged house after a Russian strike in Pokrovsk on Wednesday.

The tomb of a Ukrainian soldier who died during Russia’s invasion is decorated
Tuesday at a cemetery in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP

A resident injured in a Russian strike sits at a hospital in Pokrovsk Wednesday, the day two
rockets struck the eastern Ukrainian town in the Donetsk region. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

5/29/2022 Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle by Yuras Karmanau and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
People wait to receive humanitarian aid in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Saturday. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP
    KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – As Russia asserted progress in its goal of seizing the entirety of contested eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin tried Saturday to shake European resolve to punish his country with sanctions and to keep supplying weapons that have supported Ukraine’s defense.
    The Russian Defense Ministry said Lyman, the second small city to fall this week, had been “completely liberated” by a joint force of Russian soldiers and Kremlin-backed separatists, who have waged war for eight years in the industrial Donbas region bordering Russia.
    Ukraine’s train system has ferried arms and evacuated citizens through Lyman, a key railway hub in the east.    Control of it also would give Russia’s military another foothold in the region; it has bridges for troops and equipment to cross the Siverskiy Donets river, which has so far impeded the Russian advance into the Donbas.
    Ukrainian officials have sent mixed signals on Lyman.    On Friday, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian troops controlled most of it and were trying to press their offensive toward Bakhmut, another city in the region.    On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar disputed Moscow’s claim that Lyman had fallen, saying fighting there was still ongoing.
    In his Saturday video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation in the east as “very complicated" and said that the “Russian army is trying to squeeze at least some result" by focusing its efforts there.
    The Kremlin said Putin held an 80-minute phone call Saturday with French and German leaders in which he warned against the continued transfers of Western weapons to Ukraine and blamed the conflict’s disruption to global food supplies on Western sanctions.
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron urged an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of Russian troops, according to the chancellor’s spokesperson, and called on Putin to engage in serious, direct negotiations with Zelenskyy on ending the fighting.
    A Kremlin readout of the call said Putin affirmed “the openness of the Russian side to the resumption of dialogue.”    The three leaders, who had gone weeks without speaking during the spring, agreed to stay in contact, it added.
    But Russia’s recent progress in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbas, could further embolden Putin.     Since failing to occupy Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Russia has set out to seize the last parts of the region not controlled by the separatists.
    “If Russia did succeed in taking over these areas, it would highly likely be seen by the Kremlin as a substantive political achievement and be portrayed to the Russian people as justifying the invasion,” the British Ministry of Defense said in a Saturday assessment.
    Russia has intensified efforts to capture the cities of Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk, which are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk.
    Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai reported that Ukrainian fighters repelled an assault on Sievierodonetsk but Russian troops still pushed to encircle them. He later said Russian forces had seized a hotel on the city’s outskirts, damaged 14 high-rise buildings and were fighting in the streets with Ukrainian forces.
    Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said there was fighting at the city’s bus station.    A humanitarian center couldn’t operate due to the danger, Striuk said, and cellphone service and electricity were knocked out.    And residents risked exposure to shelling to get water from a half-dozen wells, he said.
    Some supply routes are functioning, and evacuations of the wounded are still possible, Striuk said.    He estimated that 1,500 civilians in the city, which had a prewar population of around 100,000, have died from the fighting as well as from a lack of medicine and diseases that couldn’t be treated.
    Just south of Sievierodonetsk, Associated Press reporters saw older and ill civilians bundled into soft stretchers and slowly carried down apartment building stairs Friday in Bakhmut.
    Svetlana Lvova, the manager of two buildings in Bakhmut, tried to persuade reluctant residents to leave but said she and her husband would not evacuate until their son, who was in Sievierodonetsk, returned home.
    “I have to know he is alive.    That’s why I’m staying here,” said Lvova, 66.
    On Saturday, people who managed to flee Lysychansk described intensified shelling, especially over the past week, that left them unable to leave basement bomb shelters.
    Yanna Skakova left the city Friday with her 18-month-old and 4-year-old sons and cried as she sat in a train bound for western Ukraine.    Her husband stayed behind to take care of their house and animals.
    “It’s too dangerous to stay there now,” she said, wiping away tears.
    Russia’s advance raised fears that residents could experience the same horrors seen in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which endured a three-month siege before it fell last week.    Residents who had not yet fled faced the choice of trying to do so now or staying.    Mariupol became a symbol of massive destruction and human suffering, as well as of Ukrainian determination to defend the country.
    Mariupol’s port has reportedly resumed operations after Russian forces finished clearing mines in the Azov Sea. Russian state news agency Tass reported that a vessel bound for Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia entered the port early Saturday.
    In the call with Macron and Scholz, the Kremlin said, Putin emphasized that Russia was working to “establish a peaceful life in Mariupol and other liberated cities in the Donbas.”
    Germany and France brokered a 2015 peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia that would have given a large degree of autonomy to Moscow-backed rebel regions in eastern Ukraine.    However, the agreement stalled long before Russia’s invasion in February.    Any hope that Paris and Berlin would anchor a renewed peace agreement now appears unlikely with both Kyiv and Moscow taking uncompromising stands.
    Ukrainian authorities have reported that Kremlin-installed officials in seized cities have started airing Russian news broadcasts, introduced Russian area codes, imported Russian school curriculum and taken other steps to annex the areas.
    Russian-held areas of the southern Kherson region have shifted to Moscow time and “will no longer switch to daylight saving time, as is customary in Ukraine,” Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Krill Stremousov, a Russian- installed local official, as saying Saturday.
    In his address Saturday, Zelenskyy also accused Russian forces of preventing Kherson residents from leaving, saying they effectively “try to take people hostage" in a “sign of weakness."
    The war has caused global food shortages because Ukraine is a major exporter of grain and other commodities.    Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations over which side bears responsibility for keeping shipments tied up, with Russia saying Ukrainian sea mines prevented safe passage and Ukraine citing a Russian naval blockade.
    The press service of the Ukrainian Naval Forces said two Russian vessels “capable of carrying up to 16 missiles” were ready for action in the Black Sea, adding that only shipping routes established through multilateral treaties may be considered safe.
    Ukrainian officials have pressed Western nations for more sophisticated and powerful weapons.    The U.S. Defense Department would not confirm a Friday CNN report saying the Biden administration was preparing to send long-range rocket systems.
    Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoliy Antonov, said Saturday that such a move would be “unacceptable” and admonished the White House to “abandon statements about the military victory of Ukraine.”
    Moscow is also trying to rattle Sweden and Finland’s determination to join NATO. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its navy launched a new hypersonic missile from the Barents Sea that struck its target about 600 miles away.
    Last week Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that Russia would form new military units in the country’s west in response to Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO.

5/29/2022 Russia test-fires its latest hypersonic Zircon missile - Putin claims it is capable of a range of 620 miles by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MOSCOW – The Russian navy on Saturday conducted another test of a prospective hypersonic missile, a demonstration of the military’s long-range strike capability amid the fighting in Ukraine.
    The Defense Ministry said the Admiral Gorshkov frigate of the Northern Fleet in the White Sea launched the Zircon cruise missile in the Barents Sea, successfully hitting a practice target about 540 nautical miles away.
    The launch was the latest in a series of tests of Zircon, which is set to enter service later this year.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Zircon is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and has a range of 620 miles.    Putin has emphasized that its deployment will boost the capability of Russia’s military.
    Zircon is intended to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines and could be used against both enemy ships and ground targets.    It is one of several hypersonic missiles under development in Russia.
    Russian officials have boasted about Zircon’s capability, saying that it’s impossible to intercept with existing antimissile systems.    Putin, who has sternly warned Western allies against interfering in Ukraine, has warned in the past that Russian warships armed with Zircon would give Russia a capability to strike “decision-making centers” within minutes if deployed in neutral waters.

5/29/2022 Norway urged to help as oil, gas profits soar by Mark Lewis, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    STAVANGER, Norway – Europe’s frantic search for alternatives to Russian energy has dramatically increased the demand – and price – for Norway’s oil and gas.
    As the money pours in, Europe’s second- biggest natural gas supplier is fending off accusations that it’s profiting from the war in Ukraine.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who is looking to the Scandinavian country to replace some of the gas Poland used to get from Russia, said Norway’s “gigantic” oil and gas profits are “indirectly preying on the war.” He urged Norway to use that windfall to support the hardest-hit countries, mainly Ukraine.
    The comments last week touched a nerve, even as some Norwegians wonder whether they’re doing enough to combat Russia’s war by increasing economic aid to Ukraine and helping neighboring countries end their dependence on Russian energy to power industry, generate electricity and fuel vehicles.
    Taxes on the windfall profits of oil and gas companies have been common in Europe to help people cope with soaring energy bills, now exacerbated by the war.    Spain and Italy both approved them, while the United Kingdom’s government plans to introduce one. Morawiecki is asking Norway to go further by sending oil and profits to other nations.
    Norway, one of Europe’s richest countries, committed 1.09% of its national income to overseas development – one of the highest percentages worldwide – including more than $200 million in aid to Ukraine.    With oil and gas coffers bulging, some would like to see even more money earmarked to ease the effects of the war – and not skimmed from the funding for agencies that support people elsewhere.
    “Norway has made dramatic cuts into most of the U.N. institutions and support for human rights projects in order to finance the cost of receiving Ukrainian refugees,” said Berit Lindeman, policy director of human rights group the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
    She helped organize a protest Wednesday outside Parliament in Oslo, criticizing government priorities and saying the Polish remarks had “some merits.”
    “It looks really ugly when we know the incomes have skyrocketed this year,” Lindeman said.
    Oil and gas prices were already high amid an energy crunch and have spiked because of the war.    Natural gas is trading at three to four times what it was at the same time last year.    International benchmark Brent crude oil burst through $100 a barrel after the invasion three months ago and has rarely dipped below since.
    Norwegian energy giant Equinor, which is majority owned by the state, earned four times more in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.
    The bounty led the government to revise its forecast of income from petroleum activities to $97 billion this year – more than three times what it earned in 2021.    The vast bulk will be funneled into Norway’s massive sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest – to support the nation when oil runs dry. The government isn’t considering diverting it elsewhere.
    Norway has “contributed substantial support to Ukraine since the first week of the war, and we are preparing to do more,” State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson said by email.    He said the country has sent financial support, weapons and over $212 million in humanitarian aid “independently of oil and gas prices.”
    European countries, meanwhile, have helped inflate Norwegian energy prices by scrambling to diversify their supply from Russia.    They have been accused of helping fund the war by continuing to pay for Russian fossil fuels.
    That energy reliance “provides Russia with a tool to intimidate and to use against us, and that has been clearly demonstrated now,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, told the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
    Russia has halted natural gas to Finland, Poland and Bulgaria for refusing a demand to pay in rubles.
    The 27-nation European Union is aiming to reduce reliance on Russian natural gas by two-thirds by year’s end through conservation, renewable development and alternative supplies.
    Europe is pleading with Norway, along with countries like Qatar and Algeria, for help with the shortfall.    Norway delivers 20% to 25% of Europe’s natural gas, vs. Russia’s 40% before the war.

5/30/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russians storm strategic city in east - Zelenskyy visits soldiers in Kharkiv by Elena Becatoros and Ricardo Mazalan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A couple embrace during Kyiv Day celebrations in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday. Ukraine’s capital
celebrates the anniversary of its foundation every last Sunday of May. NATACHA PISARENKO/AP
    POKROVSK, Ukraine – Russian and Ukrainian troops traded blows in fierce close-quarter combat Sunday in an eastern Ukrainian city as Moscow’s soldiers, supported by intense shelling, attempted to gain a strategic foothold to conquer the region.    Ukraine’s leader also made a rare frontline visit to Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, to assess the strength of the national defense.
    In the east, Russian forces stormed Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to encircle the strategic city, Ukrainian officials said.    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation there as “indescribably difficult,” with a relentless Russian artillery barrage destroying critical infrastructure and damaging 90% of the buildings.
    “Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a principal task for the occupation force,” Zelensky said, adding that the Russians don’t care about casualties.
    The city’s mayor said the fighting had knocked out power and cellphone service and forced a humanitarian relief center to shut down because of the dangers.
    The deteriorating conditions raised fears that Sieverodonetsk could become the next Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov that spent nearly three months under Russian siege before the last Ukrainian fighters surrendered.
    Sievierodonetsk, located 89 miles south of the Russian border, has emerged in recent days as the epicenter of Moscow’s quest to capture all of Ukraine’s eastern industrial Donbas region.    Russia also stepped up its efforts to capture the nearby city of Lysychansk, where civilians rushed to escape persistent shelling.
    The two eastern cities span the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River.    They are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which makes up the Donbas together with the adjacent Donetsk region.
    Zelenskyy, meanwhile, visited soldiers in Kharkiv, where Ukrainian fighters pushed Russian forces back from nearby positions several weeks ago.
    “I feel boundless pride in our defenders.    Every day, risking their lives, they fight for Ukraine’s freedom,” Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app after the visit.
    Russia has kept up its bombardment of the northeastern city from afar, and explosions could be heard shortly after Zelenskyy’s visit.    Shelling and airstrikes have destroyed more than 2,000 apartment buildings in the city since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov.
    In a video address later Sunday, Zelenskyy praised Kharkiv regional officials but said he had fired the regional head of the country’s top security agency, the SBU, for his poor performance.    In the wider Kharkiv region, Russian troops still held about one-third of the territory, Zelenskyy said.
    After failing to seize Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, Russia is focused on occupying parts of Donbas not already controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told French TF1 television Sunday that Moscow’s “unconditional priority is the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” adding that Russia sees them as “independent states.”
    In Luhansk, constant Russian shelling has created what provincial governor Serhii Haidai called a “severe situation.”
    “There are fatalities and wounded people,” he wrote on Telegram.    On Saturday, he said, one civilian died and four were injured after a Russian shell hit a high-rise apartment building.
    But some Luhansk supply and evacuation routes functioned Sunday, he said.    He claimed the Russians had retreated “with losses” around a village near Sievierodonetsk but conducted airstrikes on another nearby river village.
    Civilians who reached the eastern city of Pokrovsk, 80 miles south of Lysychansk, said they held out as long as they could before fleeing the Russian advance.
    Yana Skakova choked back tears as she described leaving with her 18-month and 4-year-old sons while her husband stayed behind to take care of their house and animals.    The family was among 18 people who lived in a basement for the past 2 1/2 months until police told them Friday it was time to evacuate.
    “None of us wanted to leave our native city,” she said.    “But for the sake of these small children, we decided to leave.”    Oksana, 74, who was afraid to give her surname, was evacuated from Lysychansk by a team of foreign volunteers along with her 86-year-old husband.
    “I’m going somewhere, not knowing where,” she wept.    “Now I am a beggar without happiness.    Now I have to ask for charity.    It would be better to kill me.”
    Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said there was fighting at the city’s bus station on Saturday.    Residents remaining in the city, which had a prewar population of around 100,000, risked exposure to shelling just to get water from a half-dozen wells, and there was no electricity or cellphone service.    Striuk estimates that 1,500 civilians in the city have died since the war began, from Russian attacks as well as from a lack of medicine or treatment.
    The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, questioned the Kremlin’s strategy of assembling a huge military effort to take Sieverodonetsk, saying it was proving costly and would bring few returns.
    “When the battle of Sieverodonetsk ends, regardless of which side holds the city, the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will likely have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back,” the institute said Saturday.
    In Mariupol on Sunday, an aide to its Ukrainian mayor alleged that after Russia’s forces gained complete control of the city, they piled the bodies of dead people inside a supermarket.    The aide, Petro Andryushchenko, posted a photo on the Telegram messaging app of what he described as a “corpse dump” in the occupied city.    It showed bodies stacked alongside closed supermarket counters.
    “Here, the Russians bring the bodies of the dead, which were washed out of their graves during attempts to restore the water supply, and partially exhumed.    They just dump them like garbage,” he wrote.
    It was not immediately possible to verify his claim.
    Regions across Ukraine were pummeled overnight by renewed Russian airstrikes.    On the ground in the eastern Donetsk region, fighters battled for control of villages and cities.
    The Ukrainian army reported heavy fighting around Donetsk, the provincial capital, as well as Lyman to the north, a small city that serves as a key rail hub in the Donetsk region.    Moscow claimed Saturday to have taken Lyman, but Ukrainian authorities said their fighters remained engaged in combat in parts of the city.
Ukrainian servicemen park a Russian BMP-2, an infantry combat vehicle, in the Kharkiv area of eastern Ukraine on Sunday.
The Ukrainian military has been recovering abandoned Russian combat vehicles on the frontline to repair them and use
them to their advantage. Russia has kept up its bombardment of the northeastern city from afar. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP

5/30/2022 Serbia secures Putin gas deal amid sanction by Dusan Stojanovic, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BELGRADE, Serbia – As the war in Ukraine rages, Serbia’s president announced that he has secured an “extremely favorable” natural gas deal with Russia during a telephone conversation Sunday with President Vladimir Putin.
    Aleksandar Vucic has refused to explicitly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Serbia has not joined Western sanctions.    Vucic, a former pro-Russian ultranationalist, claims that he wants to take Serbia into the European Union but has spent recent years cementing ties with Russia.
    Serbia is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas and its main energy companies are under Russian majority ownership.
    “What I can tell you is that we have agreed on the main elements that are very favorable for Serbia,” Vucic told reporters.    “We agreed to sign a three-year contract, which is the first element of the contract that suits the Serbian side very well.”
    It is not clear how Serbia would receive the Russian gas if the EU decides to shut off the Russian supply that goes over its member countries.

5/30/2022 Pro-Russia Ukrainian Orthodox Church splits from Moscow patriarch in 'huge blow to Putin' by Tyler O'Neil, Fox News
© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, PoolRussian President Vladimir Putin attends the Orthodox Easter
service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, April 24, 2022.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool - Russian military struggling in eastern Ukraine as fighting continues

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has formally separated itself from Moscow Patriarch Kirill, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid Putin's invasion of Ukraine in what one analyst calls a "huge blow to Putin."
    More than 100 churches in Ukraine had rejected the UOC in favor of the Kyiv-based Othodox Church Ukraine (OCU), which had split from Moscow in 2019.    Yet the UOC itself declared "full independence" from Moscow Friday.
    Kirill appeared to downplay the move in comments Sunday.
    "We fully understand how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is suffering today," the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in central Moscow. He warned that "spirits of malice" wanted to divide the Orthodox people of Russia and Ukraine but declared that they would not succeed.
RUSSIAN VICTORY IN UKRAINE WOULD BE ‘COMPLETE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CATASTROPHE,' HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER WARNS
    Yet Rebekah Koffler, former DIA intelligence officer and author of "Putin’s Playbook," described the move as a "huge blow" to Putin.
    "This is a huge blow to Putin," Koffler told Fox News Digital Sunday.
    "Kirill and Putin are buddies," she explained, noting that the Russian president "has weaponized the Russian Orthodox religion as a geopolitical tool."
    "The idea of Putin unifying the Russian world, including Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, hinges on the idea that Russia is the center of Christianity and the center of the unique Eurasian civilization that the Russians believe is exceptional just like Americans think America is exceptional," Koffler added.    "Once the church splits, it takes the whole divinity idea out of it."
    The analyst suggested that it was unlikely that the newly independent UOC would join the OCU.    She did predict, however, that some UOC churches would elect to remain with Moscow, against the council of the denomination.
UKRAINIAN BISHOP: PUTIN IS THE ‘ANTI-CHRIST’ OF OUR CURRENT TIME'
    "With Russian forces gradually but steadily establishing control over Eastern and Southern Ukraine - Putin’s primary goal at this phase of the war – they have to balance their parishioners' interests," Koffler explained.
    "Some of the priests may decide to stick with Moscow, in order to survive a possible new regime if Putin succeeds in securing full control of Donbas and establish the so-called ‘Novorossiya’ (new Russia)."
    Koffler attributed the split to Putin's military strategy, which she said involves directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to end the suffering.
    "Regardless of whose side you’re on, even if you buy into Putin’s explanation for why he’s doing it, you can’t, as a spiritual person, condone civilian deaths," she said.
    "Bottom line, the split punches a hole in Putin’s narrative that the Russians and Ukrainians are spiritually and ethnically one people and therefore Ukraine should not exist as a separate country," she concluded.
    A 2018 survey found that about 67.3% of Ukraine's population identifies as one or another strand of Orthodox Christianity, with 28.7% part of the Kyiv-based OCU, 23.4% simply "Orthodox," and 12.8% UOC.    Another 7.7% of the population identifies as broadly Christian, while Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholics make up 9.4%, Protestants make up 2.2%, Latin Rite Catholics make up 0.8%, Muslims make up 2.5%, and Judaism makes up 0.4%. Another 11% declared themselves non-religious or unaffiliated.

5/31/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russians, Ukrainians fight block by block - Moscow’s push in east increases in intensity by Yuras Karmanau and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish a fire in a house that was hit Monday during a
Russian attack with a cluster-type munition in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – Russian troops pushed deeper into a key eastern Ukrainian city Monday, fighting street by street with Kyiv’s forces in a battle that has left Sievierodonetsk in ruins.    In a bid to pressure Moscow to end the war, the European Union agreed to embargo most Russian oil imports by the end of the year.
    As Moscow’s advance on Sievierodonetsk increased in intensity, Russian forces also shelled parts of Ukraine’s northeast, and a struggle continued for control of a southern region.    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, said Russia has prevented the export of 22 million tons of Ukrainian grain, contributing to a growing global food crisis.
    Military analysts described the fight for Sievierodonetsk as part of a race against time for the Kremlin.    The city is important to Russian efforts to quickly complete the capture of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense.    Moscow-backed separatists already held territory in the region and have been fighting Ukrainian troops for eight years.
    “The Kremlin has reckoned that it can’t afford to waste time and should use the last chance to extend the separatist- controlled territory because the arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine could make it impossible,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.
    In a potential setback for Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to dismiss reports that the U.S. was considering sending long-range rocket systems to the country.
    But the European Union approved additional sanctions on Russia.    As part of a long-delayed financial support package to help Ukraine, EU leaders agreed Monday to embargo most Russian oil imports into the 27-nation bloc by year-end.    The deal came after Zelenskyy asked the EU to target Russian oil exports so Moscow “feels the price for what it is doing against Ukraine.”
    The embargo covers Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline.    EU Council President Charles Michel said the agreement covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia.    Ursula Von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive branch, said the move will “effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.”
    In an effort to punish and divide the West over its support for Ukraine, Russia has cut off natural gas to a handful of European countries.    In its latest move, Russian state gas giant Gazrpom said it will halt gas supplies to Dutch gas trader GasTerra starting Tuesday.
    Russia also ramped up its actions on the battlefield. In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said the situation in the Donbas remains “extremely difficult” as Russia has put its army’s “maximum combat power” there.
    The Ukrainian military said Russian forces reinforced their positions outside Sievierodonetsk, a city 90 miles south of the Russian border in an area that is the last pocket of Ukrainian government control in Luhansk.
    Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said the city has been “completely ruined.”    Artillery fire has destroyed critical infrastructure and damaged 90% of the buildings, and power and communications have been largely cut to a city that was once home to 100,000 people, he said.
    “The number of victims is rising every hour, but we are unable to count the dead and the wounded amid the street fighting,” Striuk told The Associated Press in a phone interview, adding that Moscow’s troops advanced a few more blocks toward the city center.
    He said that only about 12,000 to 13,000 residents remain, sheltering in basements and bunkers to escape the Russian bombardment.    The situation recalls the siege of Mariupol, which trapped residents and led to some of the worst suffering of the war.    More than 20,000 are feared dead in Mariupol.
    Striuk estimated that 1,500 civilians have died in Sievierodonetsk since the war began from Russian attacks and from dire conditions that include a lack of medicine and medical treatment.
    A 32-year-old French journalist, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, died Monday near Sievierodonetsk when he was hit by shrapnel from shelling while covering Ukrainian evacuations, according to his employer, French broadcaster BFM TV.
    Zelenskyy said Leclerc-Imhoff was the 32nd media worker to die in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
    Governors of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – which make up the Donbas – said six civilians, including the journalist, were killed in shelling.    Authorities in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, also reported one person died in shelling there.
    Zelenskyy said Russian troops also shelled the Sumy region near the Russian border, and the struggle continued for the southern Kherson region, which has been largely controlled by Russian troops since early in the war.    Russia-installed officials there said they would ask the Kremlin to annex it, while Kyiv, in turn, vowed to liberate the region.
    The Russian advance in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on either side of the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River is part of an all-out push, said Zhdanov, the Ukrainian military analyst.    He said the intensity of the latest fighting and the influx of Russian troops have surprised Ukrainians, who are trying to hold out until more weapons arrive.
    On Monday, Biden told reporters that there are no plans for the United States to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, amid reports that the move is being considered.
    Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, called it a “reasonable” decision.    He said that “otherwise, if our cities come under attack, the Russian armed forces would fulfill their threat and strike the centers where such criminal decisions are made.”
    Medvedev added that “some of them aren’t in Kyiv.”
    In the Kherson region, the Russia-installed deputy head of the regional administration, Kirill Stremousov, told Russia’s Tass state news agency that grain from last year’s harvest is being delivered to Russian buyers, adding that “obviously there is a lot of grain here.”
    Russia has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it as it seeks to shift blame for the growing food crisis, which has led to skyrocketing prices in Africa.
    Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “deliberately creating this problem” and said Russia’s claim that sanctions are to blame is a lie.    He said sanctions haven’t blocked Russian food, and he accused Russia of stealing at least a half million tons of Ukrainian grain.
    In his nightly address Monday, Zelenskyy said the result is the threat of famine in countries dependent on the grain and that it could create a new migration crisis. He charged that “this is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks.”
    “The Kremlin has reckoned that it can’t afford to waste time and should use the last chance to extend the separatist-controlled territory because the arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine could make it impossible.” Oleh Zhdanov, Ukrainian military analyst

6/1/2022 Sievierodonetsk mayor says Russian forces seize half of city by Yuras Karmanau and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian servicemen walk past a building heavily damaged in a Russian bombing in Bakhmut, eastern
Ukraine, Saturday. Fighting has raged around Lysychansk and neighbouring Sievierodonetsk. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    SLOVIANSK, Ukraine – Russian forces in a “frenzied push” have seized half of Sievierodonetsk, the eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete the capture of the industrial Donbas region, the mayor said Tuesday.
    “The city is essentially being destroyed ruthlessly block by block,” Oleksandr Striuk said.    He said heavy street fighting continued and artillery barrages threatened the lives of the estimated 13,000 civilians still sheltering in the ruined city that once was home to more than 100,000.
    A Russian airstrike on Sievierodonetsk hit a tank of nitric acid at a chemical factory, causing a huge leak of fumes, according to Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region.    He posted a picture of a big cloud hanging over the city and urged residents to stay inside and wear gas masks or improvised ones.
    Haidai said later Tuesday that “most of Sievierodonetsk” was under Russian control, though he added that fierce fighting continued and the city wasn’t surrounded.
    Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense.    Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops in the region for eight years and held swaths of territory even before the invasion.
    U.S. officials said Washington will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems.    The rockets could be used both to intercept Russian artillery and to take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.    Sievierodonetsk, which is 90 miles south of the Russian border, is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region.    The Donbas is made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
    Striuk said more than 1,500 residents have died of various causes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Evacuation efforts from Sievierodonetsk have been halted because of shelling.
    “Civilians are dying from direct strikes, from fragmentation wounds and under the rubble of destroyed buildings, since most of the inhabitants are hiding in basements and shelters,” Striuk said.
    Electricity has been cut off, and people need water, food and medicine, the mayor said: “There are food supplies for several more days, but the issue is how to distribute them.”
    In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in the Donbas remains “extremely difficult” as Russia has put its army’s “maximum combat power” there.
    At least three people were killed and six wounded overnight in a Russian missile strike on the city of Sloviansk, west of Sievierodonetsk, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Facebook post Tuesday.    A school was among several buildings damaged.
        A crater was blasted in the road between two apartment buildings heavily pockmarked by shrapnel.
    The floor and stairwell of one building were smeared with blood.
    One resident, Mikhaylo Samoluk, said the strike occurred in the middle of the night.    “I was on my sofa and suddenly my sofa just jumped in the air,” he said.

6/1/2022 US expected to send weapons to Ukraine - Part of new $700M tranche of assistance by Lolita C. Baldor, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region.
    The rocket systems are part of a new $700 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine from the U.S. that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more, according to two senior administration officials.    The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the weapons package that will be formally unveiled on Wednesday.
    The U.S. decision to provide the advance rocket systems tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.
    In a guest essay published Tuesday evening in The New York Times, Biden confirmed that he’s decided to “provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”
    Biden had said Monday that the U.S. would not send Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”    Any weapons system can shoot into Russia if it’s close enough to the border.    The aid package expected to be unveiled Wednesday would send what the U.S. considers medium-range rockets – they generally can travel about 45 miles, the officials said.
    The Ukrainians have assured U.S. officials that they will not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to the senior administration officials. One official noted that the advanced rocket systems will give Ukrainian forces greater precision in targeting Russian assets inside Ukraine.
    The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.
    Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense.    The city, which is 90 miles south of the Russian border, is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas.
    It’s the 11th package approved so far, and will be the first to tap the $40 billion in security and economic assistance recently passed by Congress. The rocket systems would be part of Pentagon drawdown authority, so would involve taking weapons from U.S. inventory and getting them into Ukraine quickly.    Ukrainian troops would also need training on the new systems.
    Officials said the plan is to send Ukraine the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets.    The system can launch a medium-range rocket which is the current plan, but is also capable of firing a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of about 190 miles and is not part of the plan.
    Since the war began in February, the U.S. and its allies have tried to walk a narrow line: send Ukraine weapons needed to fight off Russia, but stop short of providing aid that will inflame Russian President Vladimir Putin and trigger a broader conflict that could spill over into other parts of Europe.
    Over time, however, the U.S. and allies have amped up the weaponry going into Ukraine, as the fight has shifted from Russia’s broader campaign to take the capital, Kyiv, and other areas, to more close-contact skirmishes for small pieces of land in the east and south.
    To that end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading with the West to send multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine as soon as possible to help stop Russia’s destruction of towns in the Donbas.    The rockets have a longer range than the howitzer artillery systems that the U.S. has provided Ukraine.    They would allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian troops from a distance outside the range of Russia’s artillery systems.
    “We are fighting for Ukraine to be provided with all the weapons needed to change the nature of the fighting and start moving faster and more confidently toward the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a recent address.
    Ukraine needs multiple launch rocket systems, said Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016.
    “These are very important capabilities that we have not gotten them yet.    And they not only need them, but they have been very vociferous in explaining they want them,” said Breedlove.    “We need to get serious about supplying this army so that it can do what the world is asking it to do: fight a world superpower alone on the battlefield.”
    The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense.
The Biden administration is expected to announce it will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech,
medium range rocket systems, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been begging for. EVAN VUCCI/AP FILE

A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during
combat training in Washington state in 2011. TONY OVERMAN/THE OLYMPIAN VIA AP FILE

6/2/2022 INVASION IN UKRAINE - Ukraine to get advanced weapons from US, Germany - Decision comes as Russia nears taking key east city by John Leicester and Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman collects belongings in the rubble of her house in Slovyansk. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    KYIV, Ukraine – The U.S. and Germany pledged Wednesday to equip Ukraine with some of the advanced weapons it has long desired for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery, as Russian forces closed in on capturing a key city in the east.
    Germany said it will supply Ukraine with up-to-date anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, while the U.S. announced it will provide four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition.
    The U.S. is trying to help Ukraine fend off the Russians without triggering a wider war in Europe.    The Pentagon said it received assurances that Ukraine will not fire the new rockets into Russian territory.
    The Kremlin accused the U.S. of “pouring fuel on the fire.”
    Western arms have been crucial to Ukraine’s success in stymieing Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military, thwarting its effort to storm the capital and forcing Moscow to shift its focus to the industrial Donbas region in the east.
    But as Russia bombards towns in its advance in the east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly pleaded for more and better weapons and accused the West of moving too slowly.
    Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, hailed the new Western weapons.
    “I’m sure that if we receive all the necessary weapons and strengthen the efficient sanctions regime we will win,” he said.
    The new arms could help Ukraine set up and hold new lines of defense in the east by hitting back at Russian artillery pieces that have been battering towns and cities and by limiting Russian airstrikes, said retired French Gen. Dominique Trinquand, a former head of France’s military mission at the United Nations.
    “The NATO countries – the European nations and the Americans – have progressively escalated the means that they are putting at Ukraine’s disposal, and this escalation, in my opinion, has had the aim of testing Russian limits,” he said.    “Each time, they measure the Russian reaction, and since there is no reaction, they keep supplying increasingly effective and sophisticated weaponry.”
    Military analysts said Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive.    It will take at least three weeks to get the precision U.S. weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.    But Defense Undersecretary Colin Kahl said he believes they will arrive in time to make a difference in the fight.
    The rocket systems are part of a new $700 million package of security assistance for Ukraine from the U.S. that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more.
    The rockets have a range of about 50 miles and are highly mobile.    Ukraine had pushed unsuccessfully for rockets with a range of up to 186 miles.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow does not trust assurances that Ukraine will not fire on Russian territory.    “We believe that the U.S. is deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire,” he said.
    Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintzev went further, directly accusing Ukraine of planning to fire U.S.-provided missiles from the northeastern Sumy region at border areas in Russia.    The claim, which he said was based on radio intercepts, couldn’t be independently confirmed.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine’s push for more weapons is a “direct provocation intended to draw the West into the fighting.”    He warned the multiple rocket launchers would raise the risk of an expanded conflict.
    “Sane Western politicians understand those risks well,” he said.
    As the new weapons shipments were announced, a Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for supplies of Western weapons and other supplies, officials said.    Regional Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy said five people were wounded in Wednesday’s strike, and the head of Ukrainian railways said the damage was still being assessed.
    Germany’s promise of IRIS-T air defense systems would mark the first delivery of long-range air defense weapons to Ukraine since the start of the war.    Earlier deliveries of portable, shoulder-fired air defense missiles have bolstered the Ukrainian military’s ability to take down helicopters and other low-flying aircraft but didn’t give it enough range to challenge Russia’s air superiority.
    Germany has come under particular criticism, at home and from allies abroad, that it isn’t doing enough. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers the IRIS-T’s surface-to-air missiles are the most modern air defense system the country has.
    “With this, we will enable Ukraine to defend an entire city from Russian air attacks,” he said.    The radar systems will also help Ukraine locate enemy artillery.
    A regional governor said Russian forces now control 80% of Sievierodonetsk, a city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete its capture of the Donbas, where Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have fought for years and where the separatists’ held swaths of territory even before the invasion.
    Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Russian troops were advancing in the city during fierce street battles with Ukrainian forces, though he noted that in some districts, the Ukrainian troops managed to push them back.
    The only other city in Luhansk the Russians have not yet captured, Lysychansk, is still fully under Ukrainian control, he said, but is likely to be the next target.    The two cities are separated by a river.
    “If the Russians manage to take full control over Sievierodonetsk within two to three days, they will start installing artillery and mortars and will shell Lysychansk more intensively,” Haidai said.
    Russian forces now control 80% of Sievierodonetsk, a city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete its capture of the Donbas.
    Russia won’t be hurt in short-term by sanctions. Denmark OKs joining EU defense policy.
SENDING WEAPONS TO UKRAINE
  • From Germany: Anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems.
  • From the U.S.: Four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition.    This is in addition to a new $700 million package of security assistance that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, and spare parts.
GLOBAL REACTION
I’m sure that if we receive all the necessary weapons and strengthen the efficient sanctions regime we will win.”
— Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian president’s office
With (surface-to-air missiles), we will enable Ukraine to defend an entire city from Russian air attacks.”
— German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Ukraine’s push for more weapons is a “direct provocation intended to draw the West into the fighting.”
— Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
The United States is “pouring fuel on the fire.”
— The Kremlin
The Russian military’s Uragan multiple rocket launchers fire at
Ukrainian troops at an undisclosed location. RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP

An elderly woman walks next to a building damaged by an overnight
missile strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine. ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO/AP

A woman walks with a loaf of bread and bottles of water along a street in Mariupol, Ukraine. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

A man repairs a car in a residential area of Mariupol, Ukraine. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Two children in Kyiv lean against a fragment of a Tochka-U rocket at
an exposition of destroyed Russian equipment. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

6/2/2022 Russia cuts off gas to Denmark by Jan M. Olsen, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark’s largest energy company said Russia cut off its gas supply Wednesday because it refused to pay in rubles, the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine.
    Russia previously halted natural gas supplies to Finland, Poland and Bulgaria for refusing a demand to pay in rubles. And on Tuesday, the tap was turned off to the Netherlands.
    Danish energy company Ørsted said it still expected to be able to serve its customers.
    “We stand firm in our refusal to pay in rubles, and we’ve been preparing for this scenario,” Ørsted CEO Mads Nipper said.    “The situation underpins the need of the EU becoming independent of Russian gas by accelerating the build-out of renewable energy.”
    In response to Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree saying foreign buyers needed to pay in rubles for Russian gas as of April 1.
    “This is a kind of blackmailing from Putin,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
    Russian state gas company Gazprom confirmed Wednesday that it stopped gas supplies to Shell Energy Europe and Denmark’s Ørsted after the two companies refused to abide by the ruble-payment mechanism.    Gazprom said it hadn’t received payments from either company for gas supplied in April and was halting deliveries.

6/2/2022 Danish voters give OK to joining EU defense policy by Jan M. Olsen, ASSOCIATED PRESS
“An overwhelming majority of Danes have chosen to abolish the defense opt-out. I’m very, very happy
about that,” says Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. MARTIN SYLVEST/RITZAU SCANPIX/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark – With nearly all votes counted from a referendum Wednesday, Denmark is headed toward joining the European Union’s common defense policy that it long eschewed, a new example of a country in Europe seeking closer defense links with allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    The electoral commission said that with ballots fully counted in 84 of Denmark’s 92 electoral districts, 66.9% voted in favor of abandoning the country’s 30-year opt-out from the common EU policy and 33.1% against.
    “An overwhelming majority of Danes have chosen to abolish the defense optout.    I’m very, very happy about that,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
    “We have sent a clear signal to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” she added.    “With the decision we have made, we show that when Putin invades a free and independent country and threatens peace and stability, we will move closer together.”
    On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock applauded the outcome of the Danish vote.    “Every step each of us takes, makes us stronger in the face of these tectonic shifts.”
    Ending Denmark’s opt-out would have limited practical effect for either Denmark or the EU.    The referendum follows the historic bids by fellow Nordic countries Sweden and Finland to join NATO – something to be taken up at a summit next month.
    For Denmark, a founding member of the 30-member defense alliance, joining the EU’s defense policy would have a relatively modest impact on Europe’s security architecture, particularly compared to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.    But Christine Nissen, a researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies, said both moves were “part of the same story,” and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.     The main effect of abandoning the opt-out will be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defense topics, and Danish forces can take part in EU military operations, such as those in Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    It would be the first time that one of the four Danish opt-outs from the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundation for political and economic union, is scrapped by voters in Denmark.
    “I believe people have voted yes because of the war in Ukraine.    The ‘yes’ side has tried to misuse the war in Ukraine to make the Danes feel that it is important that we stand together,” said Morten Messerschmidt, the leader of the opposition Danish People’s Party and a leading opponent of removing the defense opt-out.
    One of the founding members of NATO, Denmark has stayed on the sidelines of the EU’s efforts to build a common security and defense policy in parallel with the trans-Atlantic military alliance.    For decades, Europe’s been a source of contention in Denmark.    In 1992, voters set back plans to turn the European construction into a union by rejecting the Maastricht treaty amid widespread opposition to a federal European government that could limit the sovereignty of individual nations.
    At an EU summit in Edinburgh, Scotland, later that year, European leaders agreed on a text with tailor-made provisions allowing Danes to ratify a revised treaty with four provisions.
    Frederiksen, who Wednesday became the first Danish prime minister to win a referendum on removing an optout, said she was not tempted to test other opt-outs in plebiscites.

6/2/2022 European Union chief: Croatia ready to adopt the euro in 2023
    The European Union’s chief executive said Wednesday that Croatia is ready to join the group of countries using the euro single currency at the start of next year.
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet that the EU executive branch she heads believes “that Croatia is ready to adopt the euro on 1 January 2023.”
    The move, should it go ahead, would bring to 20 the number of countries using the euro. But the commission’s recommendation must first be approved by member countries, probably in the first half of July.
    Joining the single currency, Von der Leyen said, “will make Croatia’s economy stronger, bringing benefits to its citizens, businesses and society at large.    Croatia’s adoption of the euro will also make the euro stronger.”
From wire reports

6/2/2022 Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Street battles in Severodonetsk; Zelensky says Russia holds 20% of Ukraine by Rachel Pannett, Amy Cheng, Victoria Bisset, Ellen Francis, Brittany Shammas – The Washington Post
© Baykar Defence/AFP/Getty Images
    Ukraine is suffering significant setbacks in parts of the east, amid grueling street-by-street battles in the key city of Severodonetsk, with the British Defense Ministry saying that most of the city is in Russian hands.    After nearly 100 days of fighting, Russian forces control 20 percent of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech to the Luxembourg parliament.
Blinken: Ukraine says it will not launch U.S. weapons into Russia
    A spokesman for Ukraine’s national guard said Kyiv is “making every effort to hold back the enemy,” even as up to 100 of its fighters are killed daily in the country’s east.    The Russian-backed self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic says it controls all of the Luhansk region except Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
    Ukrainian counteroffensives continue to frustrate Russia near Kherson, a southern city captured by the Kremlin in the early days of the war. Kherson is the only part of Ukraine where Russia controls ground on the west bank of the Dnieper River, according to the Institute for the Study of War.    If Russia holds on to that territory, it will be well placed to push forward with future attacks, the ISW said.
    Germany said it will deliver its most modern air defense system to Ukraine, while Denmark voted to deepen defense relations with the European Union, in the latest sign of strengthening security ties on the continent after Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
    Here’s what else to know
  • Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has urged the United States not to “get used to our pain” in an interview with ABC News, as the war approaches its 100th day.
  • Russia accused the United States of “pouring fuel on the fire” by providing advanced multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine — although NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia was unlikely to retaliate over the move.    Washington rejected Moscow’s allegation and said Russia was solely responsible for the war.
  • A new report has found that rising fuel prices spurred by the war in Ukraine have helped speed up the move toward renewable energy in some E.U. nations.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine.    Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.
11:05 AM: Turkey donates drone after Lithuanians fundraise for Ukraine.    A Turkish drone manufacturer has agreed to donate a Bayraktar TB2 to Ukraine after a fundraiser in Lithuania raised millions of dollars.
    Lithuanians donated more than $5.4 million within the first three days of online broadcaster Laisves TV launching an appeal to purchase the drone for Ukraine’s armed forces last week.
    On Thursday, the company behind the Bayraktar TB2, Baykar, said in a tweet that it had decided to give the drone “free of charge” and requested that the money raised be used for humanitarian aid.
    Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas described the decision as “unbelievable” and pledged to use the money to buy ammunition and to support the people of Ukraine.    “Thank you Türkiye!” he wrote.
    According to Reuters news agency, Ukraine has bought more than 20 Bayraktar TB2 drones in recent years and ordered a further 16 in late January.
    The Turkish drone has been singled out for its battlefield success against enemy armor in several conflicts, including in Libya and against Armenia but especially in Ukraine, where it has been credited with destroying Russian tank columns.
By: Victoria Bisset
10:38 AM: Hungary gets head of Russian Orthodox Church off E.U. sanctions list
    European Union ambassadors on Thursday approved the bloc’s sixth sanctions package but removed the head of the Russian Orthodox Church from the list to placate Hungary, according to two E.U. diplomats.
    The removal of Patriarch Kirill comes after Hungary spent weeks holding up the sanctions deal over the plan to phase out imports of oil from Russia.    Early Tuesday, E.U. leaders agreed to phase out seaborne oil but keep pipeline oil flowing — a key Hungarian demand — to move things along.
    When E.U. ambassadors met Wednesday to hash out the final details, however, Hungary wanted more, according to the two diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.    The country was newly determined to get Kirill off the sanctions list, they said, leaving the sixth package hanging in the balance again.
    “With this unnecessary stunt, Hungary has lost the bit of goodwill that was left among its peers in Central and Eastern Europe.    It might have been a Pyrric victory for Budapest.    The country has never before been so isolated on the E.U. level,” one of the diplomats said.
    Kirill is a close Putin ally and a defender of Russia’s war in Ukraine.    Orban, Putin’s closest ally in Europe, cast the patriarch’s inclusion in the sanctions package as a violation of religious freedom.
    After tense talks Wednesday, E.U. ambassadors met Thursday to try to push things forward.    In the end, the ambassadors decided to save the sixth sanctions package and leave Kirill out.
By: Emily Rauhala and Quentin Ariès
10:28 AM: Merkel breaks silence to condemn Russia’s ‘barbaric war’
© Michael Sohn/APGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a news conference in Berlin in May 2020.
    Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has used her first public speech in around six months to condemn the war in Ukraine.
    “My solidarity goes to Ukraine, which was attacked and invaded by Russia, and to its right to self-defense,” she said at an event Wednesday, adding that she supported all efforts by Germany and international actors to “stop this barbaric war of aggression by Russia.”
    “Bucha is representative of this horror,” she said, in reference to the Kyiv suburb that was the scene of suspected war crimes.
    Merkel, who learned Russian growing up in East Germany, was a key actor on the world stage in her 16 years as chancellor.    She previously condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine in a statement to German news agency dpa in February, but has otherwise refrained from speaking publicly on the situation.
    However, the former leader has also been criticized for her support of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would have delivered Russian gas directly to Germany, even after the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.    The project was stopped by her successor, Olaf Scholz, two days before the Russian invasion began.
    Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, was a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and until recently served as chairman of Russian state energy giant Rosneft.    He was instrumental in deepening Germany’s reliance on Russian energy.
    After Merkel took power in 2005, Berlin’s dependency increased further still, with Russian supplies until recently representing an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Germany’s gas imports.
[In showdown with Russia, Germany struggles over economy, unity and history.]
    The war in Ukraine led to a dramatic reversal of Germany’s decades-long refusal to send weapons to war zones, with Scholz also announcing an extra 100 billion euros ($108 billion) of funding for the country’s military over the coming years.
By: Victoria Bisset 9:58 AM: Volunteers in Russian-occupied Mariupol held in prison, Ukrainian official says
© Stringer/AFP/Getty Images Graves are seen in a residential area of Mariupol on May 31.
    Russian forces have imprisoned human aid volunteers and have executed at least one public servant, a Ukrainian official reported Thursday, describing a dark scene in the city that Russian forces occupied two weeks ago.
    Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in a Telegram post that the volunteers, who he said helped Mariupol residents evacuate the city in March and April, are being held prisoner in Olenivka, north of Mariupol in Russian-controlled territory.
    The Washington Post could not immediately verify his claims, and it’s unclear if Boychenko remains in Mariupol.
    On Wednesday, the Mariupol City Council claimed in Telegram post that Russian forces are forcing residents to work for drinking water, as food and water remain in short supply in the city that has been leveled by a months-long Russian siege.
    He added that residents are clearing the streets of garbage, debris and dead bodies, while there are no steady sources of electricity, gas and water.    Russia, meanwhile, says the port has reopened for maritime traffic.
By: Julian Mark
9:28 AM: Russian missile strikes in Lviv region damage infrastructure
    Four Russian cruise missiles struck the Lviv region in western Ukraine on Wednesday night, wounding five and damaging train infrastructure, according to a Ukrainian official.
    The missiles, which were launched from the Black Sea, struck the railway facilities in the Stryi and Sambir districts, southwest of the city of Lviv, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said in Telegram post.
    The strikes represent a relatively rare attack on the Lviv region, which has not seen the same destruction experienced by cities in the country’s east, where the Russian military has concentrated its war effort.    But Russian attacks have still shaken the relative calm in the western city, with rockets causing casualties and destroying infrastructure there in recent months.
    In the past month, Russia has boosted its attacks on Ukraine’s railway infrastructure to try to hamper its efforts to resupply its forces on the front lines. Lviv is a critical hub for assistance entering Ukraine from neighboring countries.
By: Julian Mark
9:00 AM: Slovakia to send howitzers to Ukraine
© Ints Kalnins/Reuters The Slovak army's Zuzana 2 155-mm self-propelled gun-howitzer fires
during Summer Shield 2022 military exercises in Adazi military base in Latvia on May 27.
    Slovakia will deliver eight self-propelled Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine, Slovakia’s defense minister announced Thursday.
    The Slovak artillery system uses 155-mm rounds and has an effective range of between 40 to over 50 kilometers (25 to over 30 miles), according to Reuters news agency.
    Many Western countries have provided weapons to Ukraine since Russian launched its invasion on Feb. 24, with the United States saying Wednesday it would provide advanced multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine.
    Following setbacks earlier in its invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have increasingly turned to the heavy shelling of its targets before advancing, leading to mounting Ukrainian calls from its Western allies for more long-range weaponry, including artillery.
    Experts say that Ukraine’s most urgent military need is heavy caliber, long-range artillery to allow them to hit Russian lines and beyond them.
By: Victoria Bisset
8:35 AM: Russia misses $1.9 million bond interest payment
© Pavel Golovkin/AP People in downtown Moscow on Feb. 28 walk past a screen
displaying exchange rates for the U.S. dollar and euro to Russian rubles.
    Russia did not pay a $1.9 million interest payment on an international bond, a committee of financial institutions ruled Wednesday.    The decision could force payouts of billions to holders of insurance on Russian bonds, Reuters reported.
    Russia was late to pay the principal and interest on bonds that matured on April 4, triggering an additional interest of $1.9 million, which the country did not pay by May 19, when it was due.    The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee overseeing Europe determined in a 12-to-1 vote Wednesday that the missed payment constituted a “failure to pay event,” which could trigger payouts on holders of Russian default insurance, or credit default swaps.
    There are currently $2.54 billion in credit default swaps outstanding regarding Russia, Reuters reported.
    Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the country has come under tremendous economic pressure as it has been largely cut off from the international financial system.    That pressure increased May 24, when the U.S. Treasury Department barred Russia from making debt payments to American bondholders, pushing Russia closer to a default on its sovereign debt.
By: Julian Mark 8:17 AM: Ukrainian defense minister thanks U.S. for advanced rocket systems
© Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images U.S. military personnel stand next to a High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System on March 6 during the World Defense Show in Saudi Arabia.
    Ukraine’s defense minister thanked the United States after President Biden announced plans to provide Kyiv with medium-range advanced rocket systems.
    “I was pleased to see in the 11th package of military aid to Ukraine the six letters for which the whole country has been waiting: HIMARS,” Oleksii Reznikov tweeted on Wednesday.    “Our cooperation is stronger than ever!
    The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a rocket-launch system that would substantially increase Ukraine’s capability to conduct longer-range strikes against Russian forces, though Ukraine has said it will not use them to strike targets inside Russia.
    After Wednesday’s announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Washington of “deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire” by continuing to provide military aid to Ukraine.
By: Victoria Bisset
7:54 AM: Russian forces now hold 20% of Ukrainian territory, Zelensky says
© Alessandro Guerra/EPA-EFE/REX/ShutterstockRussian military vehicles follow buses (not in picture) carrying Ukrainian
servicemen that are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 17.
    After nearly 100 days of fighting, Russian forces control 20 percent of Ukrainian territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in a speech to the Luxembourg parliament.
    Fierce battles were raging in Ukraine, from the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv in the northeast to the city of Mykolaiv in the south, he said.
    “As of today, about 20 percent of our territory is under the control of the occupiers,” Zelensky told the lawmakers in a virtual address.    “If you look at the entire front line, and it is, of course, not straight, this line is more than a thousand kilometers,” he added.    “Just imagine!
    Reuters also cited Zelensky as saying on Thursday that nearly 100 people were dying and more than 400 were suffering injuries on a daily basis in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have ramped up air and artillery attacks as they fight to make advances in the Donbas region.
By: Ellen Francis
7:33 AM: Ukraine’s first lady urges Americans: ‘Don’t get used to our pain’
© Viacheslav Ratynskyi/ReutersUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska,
attend the funeral of the first president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 17.
    Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has urged the people of the United States to “not get used to this war” as her country reaches its 100th day of fighting with Russia.
    “Otherwise, we are risking a never-ending war, and this is not something we would like to have,” she told ABC in a rare interview that will air on Thursday.    “Don’t get used to our pain.”
    Zelenska also said that giving up any Ukrainian territory in exchange for peace is akin to “conceding a freedom,” adding that ceding control of parts of Ukraine would not stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggression.    “He would continue pressing, he would continue launching more and more steps forward, more and more attacks against our territory,” she said in the interview.
    At last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger said Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to bring about an end to the invasion. He also urged the United States and the West to not seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia on the battlefield, warning it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability.
    The remarks from the 98-year-old quickly drew backlash among Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who compared Kissinger’s suggestion to ceding control to Nazi Germany in 1938.
    “Behind all these geopolitical speculations of those who advise Ukraine to give away something to Russia, ‘great geopoliticians’ are always unwilling to see ordinary people,” Zelensky said.    “Ordinary Ukrainians.    Millions of those who actually live in the territory they propose to exchange for the illusion of peace.”
    Timothy Bella contributed to the report.
By: Victoria Bisset and Amy Cheng
7:32 AM: Putin adviser turned apparent critic reportedly under corruption investigation
© Daniel Berehulak/Getty ImagesAnatoly Chubais, Russia's climate envoy and aide to President Vladimir Putin,
has reportedly resigned from his positions and left the country, citing his opposition to the war in Ukraine.
    Anatoly Chubais, one of the most senior Russian officials to cut ties with the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine, is being investigated on corruption-related charges, according to Russian news agency Tass.    Authorities are questioning witnesses, Tass reported, but it is not clear what — if any — alleged wrongdoing prompted the investigation.
    Chubais, who was known as an economic reformer after the fall of the Soviet Union, resigned as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy on sustainable development in March and reportedly left the country as a result of his opposition to the war.    Chubais’s wife, Avdotya Smirnova, also expressed her dissent by signing an open letter addressed to Putin.
    Chubais is hardly the first critic of Putin to be probed by the Russian justice system: The imprisoned Russian opposition head, Alexei Navalny, said this week that he was the target of another criminal investigation. Navalny and rights groups have said he was convicted on baseless charges.
    Chubais did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Annabelle Chapman, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.
By: Amy Cheng
7:15 AM: Interpol worried about illicit arms dealing after Ukraine conflict ends
© Mauricio Campino/AP In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, Airmen and civilians palletize
ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Jan. 21.
    Interpol, the international police organization, is worried that the flood of arms being deployed in Ukraine — including those from the United States and the West — could end up in criminal hands after the conflict.
    “The high availability of weapons during the current conflict will result in the proliferation in illicit arms in the post-conflict phase,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said Wednesday, urging countries to be prepared to scrutinize arms-tracking databases.     “This will come, I have no doubts. … Criminals are already now, here as we speak, focusing on that,” Stock told reporters in Paris, according to Agence France-Presse.
    Senior police officials from around the world gathered in Lyon, France, last month to discuss security threats posed by the war in Ukraine.
    During that meeting, officials discussed issues including human trafficking and the smuggling of refugees, potential cybercrimes, fuel theft and increases in counterfeit production of goods such as fertilizer and pesticides because of price spikes.
By: Rachel Pannett
6:50 AM: JP Morgan chief predicts economic ‘hurricane’ from Ukraine
© Michael Nagle/Bloomberg NewsStock information is reflected on a window at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York City on Tuesday.
    JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon is predicting an economic “hurricane” arising from the war in Ukraine amid increasing inflation pressures and interest rate hikes.
    Speaking at an investment conference on Wednesday, Dimon said a “hurricane is right out there down the road coming our way.”    He added: “We just don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy … you better brace yourself.”
    Financial stocks slumped Wednesday following his remarks at a Bernstein conference, where he said JPMorgan is going to be “very conservative” with its own balance sheet.
    “Wars go bad.    They go south, they have unintended consequences,” he said.    “And this happens to be really in the commodity markets of the world; wheat, oil, gas, and stuff like that which, in my view, will continue.”
    Oil prices surged and gas hit new highs this week after the European Union moved to cut off Russian crude, raising the specter of even higher gasoline prices as Americans grapple with decades-high inflation.
    A Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian grain exports is threatening global food supplies and could lead to a food crisis.
    Brent crude, the global benchmark, swelled above $120 a barrel this week before pulling back after the E.U. levied its most significant economic penalty yet in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
    Dimon on Wednesday predicted crude prices could spike as high as $150 to $175 a barrel.
    Hamza Shaban contributed to this report.
By: Rachel Pannett
6:05 AM: Fans celebrate Ukraine’s win at World Cup qualifying match
© Ian MacNicol/Getty Images Ukrainian players celebrate their victory over Scotland in a World Cup qualifier in Glasgow on Wednesday.
    Fans celebrated Ukraine’s 3-1 win over Scotland in a soccer semifinal on Wednesday, a victory that brought the war-torn nation’s team one game closer to qualifying for the World Cup.
    Ahead of the match, attendees at the 51,866-capacity Glasgow venue received fliers containing a phonetic version of the Ukrainian national anthem and were invited to sing along in solidarity with the country, which has been fighting to repel Russian forces for more than three months.
© Ian MacNicol/Getty ImagesUkraine fans celebrate the victory at Glasgow's Hampden Park.
    Ukrainian players walked onto the field with their flag draped over their shoulders and stood for the national anthem, with about 2,000 Ukrainian fans in attendance, according to ESPN estimates.    Some waved flags, while others raised signs that read “Stronger Together” or “Stop War.”
    Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov later told reporters he dedicated the win to “the armed forces in the trenches and in the hospitals … for those who give their last drop of blood, those who suffer every day.”
© Ian MacNicol/Getty Images Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates Ukraine's victory.
    Ukraine has not played in the World Cup since 2006, and Scotland’s last appearance was in 1998.    They were competing on Wednesday for a chance to join England, the United States and Iran in Group B of the World Cup in November.
    Ukraine will play for that spot against Wales on Sunday, and the winner will go to Qatar.
© Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty ImagesUkraine fans at Wednesday's qualifier.
By: Glynn A. Hill and Ellen Francis
5:50 AM: Energy crisis is speeding up E.U. transition to clean energy, report says
© Alex Kraus/Bloomberg NewsA chimney at a coal-fired power plant near a wind turbine in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
    Soaring fuel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are helping speed up the transition to renewable energy in some European countries, a new report has found.
    Nineteen of the European Union’s 27 member states have accelerated their decarbonization plans in response to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s recent aggression, according to a report published Wednesday by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent research group, and Ember, a British energy think tank.
    Oil prices surged and gas hit new highs this week after the European Union moved to cut off Russian crude, its most significant economic penalty yet in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
    The researchers analyzed the latest E.U. country policies and found that plans for fossil fuel electricity generation in 2030 have been slashed by a third compared with national energy and climate plans from 2019.
    “Russia’s aggression and corresponding volatility in global electricity prices has underlined the need to phase out fossil fuels and accelerate decarbonization,” the report’s authors said.    They noted that it is not solely an issue of climate concerns, but also one of ensuring stable supplies of energy.
    “This is especially obvious for the biggest importers of Russian fuels, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands scaling up wind and solar ambitions, France subsidizing housing insulation, and others ramping up heat pump installations and electrifying transport,” they wrote.
By: Rachel Pannett
5:30 AM: Analysis: Hopes of Russian help on ransomware are officially dead
    Any lingering hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin might put a stop to the barrage of ransomware attacks hitting U.S. targets is officially dead.
    Russian prosecutors appeared poised to suspend the only case they had ever brought against top-shelf ransomware hackers, the Russian outlet Kommersant reports.    The hackers were alleged members of the REvil gang, which U.S. officials have blamed for the largest U.S. ransomware attack, which hit IT service provider Kaseya last year.
    The prosecutors are now highly unlikely to bring charges for that or any other REvil hacks that hit U.S. victims, the Russian outlet reported.    The prosecutors accused the United States of not sharing enough information to continue with the cases, according to the Kommersant article, which was titled, “America doesn’t care about Russian hackers.”
By: Joseph Marks
5:04 AM: Zelensky says Russia has deported more than 200,000 children
    As cities across Ukraine marked Children’s Day on Wednesday, Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of deporting more than 200,000 children and described the tragic fate of those killed.
    In his nightly address, Ukraine’s president called deportations “one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes,” where people are sent to remote regions to “forget about Ukraine and not be able to return.”
    “These are orphans from orphanages.    Children with parents.    Children separated from their families,” he said in an English translation posted on the Ukrainian government’s website.
    Zelensky said that 243 children have been killed in the war, with 446 injured and 139 missing, adding that “these are only those we know about.”     He did not elaborate on the numbers, which could not be independently verified.
    Zelensky named children who he said had been killed, from younger than 2 to 15, spanning Odessa to Izyum and Mariupol, including sisters Varvara and Polina from Mariupol, who he said died after Russia shelled an apartment building.
    According to UNICEF, 5.2 million children need humanitarian assistance.
By: Herman Wong
4:42 AM: Russia controls ‘most’ of Severodonetsk, U.K. says
© Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty ImagesSeverodonetsk, Ukraine, during Russian shelling on Monday.
    Russian forces have taken control of “most” of Severodonetsk, one of the largest cities in Ukraine’s east, the British Defense Ministry said Thursday.
    The main road into the city is likely to still be under Ukrainian control, “but Russia continues to make steady local gains,” the ministry said in its daily update.
    Leonid Pasechnik, the head of Russia-backed separatist region of Luhansk, confirmed that all of the settlements in the region were now in Russian hands with exception of Severodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk.
    Russia’s focus after capturing Severodonetsk and securing the Luhansk region would involve crossing the Siversky Donets River, according to the update, identifying two potential sites where the river is held by Ukrainian forces and bridges have been destroyed.
    Russia would probably need “at least a short tactical pause to re-set” before undertaking river crossings and any further attacks into the neighboring Donetsk region, which would “risk losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week,” the ministry said.
By: Victoria Bisset
4:25 AM: NATO chief: Russia unlikely to retaliate after U.S. sends Ukraine advanced weapons
© Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/ShutterstockNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,
left, speaks to reporters Wednesday alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday that he does not expect Russia to take any retaliatory steps in response to the United States’ decision to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine.    Western assistance bolsters Ukrainian self-defense, which is a right protected under international law, Stoltenberg said.
    President Biden announced on Tuesday that he had approved plans to send medium-range advanced rocket systems to Ukraine after officials in Kyiv requested more sophisticated technology to beat back Russian troops.    The U.S. rocket systems are capable of hitting targets nearly 50 miles away, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the rockets would not be used to conduct strikes on Russian territory.
    The Kremlin on Wednesday denounced the decision, as well as the United States’ continued military support for Ukraine.
    In a joint news briefing Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Stoltenberg lauded the United States’ “very significant support” for Ukraine, saying that its contributions are “making a difference on the battlefield every day.”
    He is set to meet with Biden on Thursday during his visit to Washington to prepare for the upcoming NATO summit.
By: Amy Cheng
4:01 AM: U.S. defends supplying advanced rocket systems to Ukraine
© Tony Overman/Olympian/APA High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is launched
during combat training at the Yakima Training Center in Washington in 2011.
    The Biden administration on Wednesday defended its decision to send advanced multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, rejecting criticism that the decision comes too late to make a difference while brushing aside the Kremlin’s complaint that the United States is prolonging the war.
    The transfer of four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, commonly known as HIMARS, to Ukraine will come soon, and will require about three additional weeks to train Ukrainian forces to use them, said Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy. The weapons, deployed by the U.S. military to target militants during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, will allow Ukrainian forces to rapidly and precisely launch multiple rockets at Russian artillery and forces.
    “We’re not seeing the Ukrainian defenses buckle.    They’re hanging on, but it is a grinding fight,” Kahl said.    “We believe that these additional capabilities will arrive in a time frame that’s relevant.”
By: Dan Lamothe, John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Mary Ilyushina
2:59 AM: Denmark votes to join E.U. defense framework as Russia cuts more gas shipments
© Martin Sylvest/AFP/Getty ImagesDanish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she was
“very, very happy” with the country’s decision to join the European Union’s defense framework.
    Denmark on Wednesday voted to join the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy, a move that further signified the desire for stronger defense ties on the continent in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    In a national referendum, nearly 67 percent of voters chose to end Denmark’s three-decade policy opting out of the E.U. security framework.    Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen welcomed the outcome, saying she was “very, very happy” with the majority’s choice, according to the Associated Press.
    “With the decision we have made, we show that when [Russian President Vladimir Putin] invades a free and independent country and threatens peace and stability, we will move closer together,” Frederiksen said after the vote.
    In the three months since Russia invaded Ukraine, there have been tectonic shifts in Europe’s security landscape, including the decisions of Sweden and Finland to pursue NATO membership.    On Wednesday, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter that Denmark’s vote is “another important and timely step” to strengthening the bloc.    Foreign ministers from Germany and Sweden also offered their support.
    Also on Wednesday, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said it had halted natural gas supply to Danish energy firm Orsted and Shell’s European subsidiary that supplies to Germany.    Gazprom said it pumped about 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany via Shell each year.    Its contract with Orsted entailed 1.97 billion cubic meters last year, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of Denmark’s total natural gas consumption.
    In a news release, Orsted said there is no direct gas pipeline between Denmark and Russia, and that Gazprom’s suspension means the company must find a substitute supplier in Europe.    Being cut off from Russian gas is not expected to change Orsted’s financial future, company leadership said, adding that they support Denmark and the E.U. in becoming independent from Russian energy.
By: Amy Cheng
2:25 AM: Lawmaker: Russian-occupied areas could hold accession referendums soon
© Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament, signaled
that occupied Ukrainian territories could soon vote on becoming part of Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
    Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine could soon hold referendums on joining the Russian Federation, a top lawmaker in Moscow said Wednesday, a step that would lay the groundwork for their annexation.
    Officials in Ukraine, the United States and elsewhere have warned for weeks that Russia may try to absorb the swaths of territory its troops have taken since the invasion began, along with separatist-backed regions in the country’s east.
    Leonid Slutsky, the chair of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s parliament, told the state media outlet Tass that such referendums could appear as soon as the summer in the Donbas provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the southern region of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.
    “I do not want to predict, but I can guess that initiatives to hold referendums in those regions may appear very soon, and they may take place, quite possibly, in the summer,” Slutsky said.
    The Kremlin has falsely framed its war in Ukraine as a “liberation” effort, and Russian officials have employed similar rhetoric in discussing the fate of the occupied regions.    However, in several Russian-held cities, Ukrainians have carried out defiant demonstrations protesting the invading forces, stunning displays that came despite the associated danger.
    In early May, Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Russia would probably hold sham referendums in the Donbas and Kherson as a pretext to formally seize the areas.
By: Reis Thebault
2:01 AM: Updates from key battlefields: Russia’s focus on Severodonetsk is creating ‘vulnerabilities,’ analysts say Russian forces are attempting to seize Severodonetsk, one of the largest Ukrainian-controlled cities in the east.    If Russia takes the city, it would occupy nearly all of Luhansk, a major part of the Donbas region.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s combat power is at “maximum” strength in its push to capture the area.
    Severodonetsk: In an intelligence update Wednesday morning, the British Defense Ministry said that “over half of the town is likely now occupied by Russian forces, including Chechen fighters.”    Serhiy Hadai, Luhansk’s regional governor, said that “most of Severodonetsk” — perhaps as much as 70 percent — was under Russian rule.    The city has been cut off from central sources of water, gas and electricity, he said, and near-constant shelling has made evacuation and humanitarian aid impossible.
    Donbas region: Russia must capture the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk and a key road linking the cities of Dnipro and Donetsk to achieve its probable goal of seizing the entirety of the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Tuesday. Severodonetsk is about 45 miles northeast of Kramatorsk.
    Kharkiv region: Kremlin forces have been prevented from seizing Ukraine’s second-largest city, with Ukrainian operations pushing the Russians almost out of artillery range of the city and stopping Russian advances from Izyum, to the southeast.    But Kremlin troops occupy about one-third of the wider Kharkiv region, according to the regional military administrator.
    Kherson region: Moscow’s focus on seizing Severodonetsk and Donbas is creating “vulnerabilities for Russia” in this pivotal region, where Ukrainian counter-offensives continue, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said.    Kherson is critical terrain because it is the only part of Ukraine where Russian forces hold ground on the west bank of the Dnipro River, ISW’s analysts said.    The city of Kherson fell under Russian occupation in the early days of the war.    If Moscow holds onto it, it’ll be in a strong position once fighting stops to launch future invasions; likewise, if Kyiv regains Kherson, it’ll be in a stronger position to defend itself.
    Lviv: Five people were wounded when a Russian missile hit railway infrastructure in this city not far from the Polish border, an official with the Interior Ministry, Anton Gerashchenko, wrote on Telegram.    He said it was “an attempt to interrupt the western supply of weapons and fuel to Ukraine.”
    Odessa region: Russia is “trying to intensify air reconnaissance” in the Odessa area, the head of the regional military administration, Sergey Bratchuk, said on Telegram on Wednesday.    Odessa is the only major Black Sea port still under Ukraine’s control, and Russia is maintaining a blockade of grain exports from the area, threatening global food supplies.
    Bryan Pietsch and Reis Thebault contributed to this report.
By: Rachel Pannett
2:00 AM: Photos: Ukraine celebrates Children’s Day in wartime
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Children make embroidered hearts and paper birds for soldiers on the
front lines as they take part in events to mark Children's Day on June 1, 2022, in Bucha, Ukraine.
    Wednesday is the International Day for the Protection of Children in Ukraine and many other former Soviet countries.    In past years, children may have marked the occasion with concerts and outdoor games, but this year some made gifts for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines, as others hid from the fighting.
    Photos from Bucha, where Russian forces were accused of committing war crimes during their month-long occupation of the normally quiet suburb of Kyiv, show children making “embroidered hearts and paper birds for soldiers on the front line,” according to the Getty photo service.
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Children take part in events to mark Children's Day on June 1, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine.

© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Embroidered hearts are among the gifts they made for soldiers on the front lines.
    Ukrainian officials have said there is little cause to celebrate.    The war has left 5.2 million children in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations, and has disrupted children’s lives and education.
    “This year, Children’s Day in Ukraine is celebrated in a different way than usual,” Daria Herasymchuk, an adviser to Ukraine’s president on children’s rights and rehabilitation, said Wednesday, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
    In wartime, children “are forced to hide from the bombing in shelters, in the subway,” Herasymchuk said during a news briefing.    “They are forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in safe regions.”
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Children wear traditional dress as
they take part in events to mark Children's Day on June 1, 2022, in Bucha, Ukraine.
    Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, at least 262 children have been killed and 415 injured in Ukraine, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, citing confirmed figures that the United Nations acknowledges are incomplete and much lower than the actual tolls.
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Children make embroidered hearts and paper birds for soldiers on the front lines
as they take part in events to mark Children's Day on June 1, 2022, in Bucha, Ukraine. By: Annabelle Timsit

6/3/2022 Ukraine facing grinding campaign as it waits for weapons - Russia warns West as battles in east continue by John Leicester and Elena Becatoros, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the war’s frontline
in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Thursday. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces locked in a grinding battle for control of the country’s east struggled to hold off Russian troops and buy themselves some time Thursday while they await the arrival of the advanced rockets and anti-aircraft weapons promised by the West.
    With the arms deliveries possibly weeks away, Ukraine is looking at a prolonged period of grueling combat, military analysts said.
    “There’s a time lag, so the next few weeks are going to be pretty tough for our Ukrainian friends,” said retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of U.S. Army forces in Europe.
    Ukraine is intent on exhausting Russian forces, as evidenced by street-to-street fighting in the critical eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.
    “And this can go on for quite some time,” he warned.
    Britain on Thursday pledged to send sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, joining the U.S and Germany in equipping the country with some of the advanced weapons Kyiv had been begging for to shoot down aircraft and destroy artillery and supply lines.
    Western arms have been critical to Ukraine’s success in stymieing Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military during the war, which was in its 99th day Thursday.
    The Kremlin warned of “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios” if the latest Western-supplied weapons are fired into Russia.
    “This pumping of Ukraine with weapons … will bring more suffering to Ukraine, which is merely a tool in the hands of those countries that supply it with weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
    Russian forces continued to pound towns and cities and to tighten their grip on Sievierodonetsk in the eastern industrial Donbas region, which Moscow is intent on seizing.    An estimated 800 people, including children, were holed up in bomb shelters at a chemical factory under attack in the city, the regional governor said.
    In the neighboring city of Lysychansk, some 60% of the infrastructure and residential buildings have been destroyed by nonstop shelling, the mayor said.
    Britain’s Defense Ministry reported that Russia had captured most of Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities in Luhansk province that had remained under Ukrainian control.    The Donbas is made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that there has been “some progress” in the battle for Sievierodonetsk but it was too early to give specifics.
    He said he was thankful to the United States for agreeing to send the advanced rocket systems, which “really can save the lives of our people and defend our land.”
    Meanwhile, residents forced to flee the Kyiv area after Russian forces’ abortive attempt to storm the capital weeks ago confronted the overwhelming task of rebuilding their shattered lives.
    Nila Zelinska and her husband, Eduard, returned for the first time to the charred ruins of their home outside Kyiv.
    They fled with her 82-year-old mother under Russian shelling and airstrikes in the early days of the war. A sobbing Zelinska recovered from the rubble a doll that belonged to one of her grandchildren, clutching it as if it were a real child.
    “May there be peace on earth, peace so that our people are not suffering so much,” she said.
Speaking by video link to a security conference in Slovakia, Zelenskyy called for even more weapons and sanctions against Russia to halt such horrors.
    “As of today, the occupiers control almost 20% of our territory,” he said.
    Zelenskyy said Russia had fired 15 cruise missiles in the past day and used a total of 2,478 missiles since invading.    He said “most of them targeted civil infrastructure.”
    British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain will send an unspecified number of M270 launchers, which can fire precision-guided rockets up to 50 miles.    Ukrainian troops will be trained in Britain to use the equipment, he said.
    On Wednesday, the U.S. said it would supply advanced rocket launchers to Ukraine, and Germany agreed to provide up-to-date anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems.
    Analysts think Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive.
    It will take at least three weeks to get the precision U.S. weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.
    Zhdanov, the Ukrainian analyst, said Russia stepped up missile strikes in response to the newly promised arms.
    “Supplies of Western weapons are of great concern for the Kremlin, because even without sufficient weapons the Ukrainian army is daringly resisting the offensive,” he said.
    Zhdanov predicted Russian forces will be exhausted when the fierce fighting in and around Sievierodonetsk is over, giving Ukraine time to get the weapons and prepare a counteroffensive.
    Kyiv also got a diplomatic boost with the formal installation Thursday of a new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink.
    Brink said her top priority “is to help Ukraine prevail against Russian aggression.”
    “There is no place on the planet I would rather be,” she said after presenting her credentials to Zelenskyy.    “President Biden has said that we’re going to be here, helping Ukraine, for as long as it takes.    And that’s what we’ll do.”
    Brink is Washington’s first ambassador in Kyiv since former U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly forced out Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019.    She later became a key figure in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Smoke rises over Sievierodonetsk during fighting on Thursday. Britain’s Defense Ministry reported that Russia had
captured most of the eastern Ukrainian city, one of two in Luhansk province that had remained under Ukrainian control.

Residents wait to evacuate the city of Sloviansk in eastern
Ukraine on Thursday. PHOTOS BY ARIS MESSINIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

6/4/2022 Russia may be in Ukraine to stay after 100 days of war by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Nila Zelinska holds a doll belonging to her granddaughter that she was able to find in her destroyed house
in Potashnya on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Zelinska had just returned
to her hometown after escaping the war only to find out she is homeless. Natacha Pisarenko/AP
    When Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in late February, the Russian president vowed his forces would not occupy the neighboring country.    But as the invasion reached its 100th day Friday, Russia seemed increasingly unlikely to relinquish the territory it has taken in the war.
    The ruble is now an official currency in the southern Kherson region, alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.
    Residents there and in Russia-controlled parts of the Zaporizhzhia region are being offered Russian passports.    The Kremlin-installed administrations in both regions have talked about plans to become part of Russia.
    The Moscow-backed leaders of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, which is mostly Russian-speaking, have shared similar intentions.    Putin recognized the separatists’ self-proclaimed republics as independent states two days before launching the invasion.    Fighting has intensified in Ukraine’s east as Russia seeks to 'liberate' all of the Donbas.
    The Kremlin has largely kept mum about its plans for the cities, towns and villages it has bombarded with missiles, encircled and finally captured.
    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russian troops have succeeded in their main stated task of protecting civilians in the separatist-controlled areas.    He added that Russian forces have 'liberated' parts of Ukraine and 'this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.'
    In a video message marking the war’s first 100 days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy indicated that his country would not submit easily to Russian aggression after showing it could withstand months of attacks from a larger adversary.
    'We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already.    Victory will be ours,' he said.
    Annexing more land from Ukraine was never the main goal of the invasion, but Moscow is unlikely to let go of its military gains, according to political analysts.
    'Of course (Russia) intends to stay,' Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.    To Russia, 'it’s a pity to give away what has been occupied, even if it was not part of the original plan.'
    Putin has described the goals of the invasion somewhat vaguely, saying it was aimed at the 'demilitarization' and 'denazification' of Ukraine.    It was widely believed that the Kremlin intended initially to install a pro-Moscow government in Kyiv and to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and taking other steps away from Russia’s sphere of influence.
    Russia captured much of Kherson and neighboring Zaporizhzhia early in the war, gaining control over most of Ukraine’s Sea of Azov coast and securing a partial land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
    There was hardly a warm welcome from the locals.    Residents of the cities of Kherson and Melitopol took to the streets to protest the occupation, facing off with Russian soldiers in plazas.    Ukrainian officials warned that Russia might stage a referendum in Kherson to declare the region an independent state.
    They installed people with pro-Kremlin views to replace mayors and other local leaders who had disappeared in what Ukrainian officials and media said were kidnappings.    Russian flags were raised and Russian state broadcasts that promoted the Kremlin’s version of the invasion supplanted Ukrainian TV channels.
    The Russian ruble this month was introduced as the second official currency in both the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions – at least in the parts under Russian control – and pro-Russian administrations started offering a 'one-time social payment' of 10,000 rubles (roughly $163) to local residents.
    Top Russian officials started touring the regions, touting the territories’ prospects for being integrated into Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in mid-May and indicated they could become part of 'our Russian family.'
    A senior official in the Kremlin’s ruling United Russia party, Andrei Turchak, put it even more bluntly in a meeting with residents of Kherson: 'Russia is here forever.'
    Members of the pro-Kremlin administrations in both regions soon announced that the areas would seek to be incorporated into Russia.    While it remains unclear when or if it will happen, Russia is laying the groundwork.
    An office of Russia’s migration services opened in Melitopol, taking applications for Russian citizenship in a fast-track procedure Putin expanded to residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.    The rapid procedure was first implemented in 2019 in the rebel-controlled areas of the Donbas, where more than 700,000 people have received Russian passports.
    Oleg Kryuchkov, an official in Russia-annexed Crimea, said this week that the two southern regions have switched to Russian internet providers; state media ran footage of people lining up to get Russian SIM cards for their cellphones.    Kryuchkov also said that both regions were switching to the Russian country code, +7, from the Ukrainian +380.
    Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, a member of the Russian delegation in stalled peace talks with Ukraine, said that referendums on joining Russia could take place in the Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as early as July.

6/5/2022 100 speeches in 100 days of war: Ukraine leader rallies citizens by Lynn Berry, ASSOCIATED PRESS
During the 100 days of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been speaking to his people daily.
His usual outfit is a drab T-shirt, and along the way he let his beard grow. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
    As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells it, when Russia invaded 100 days ago, no one expected his country to survive. World leaders advised him to flee.
    'But they didn’t know us,' he said in a late-night video address in April when the war hit its 50th day.    'And they didn’t know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom.'
    He could have been speaking about himself.    No one knew how a 44-year-old man who had catapulted himself from the world of entertainment into the presidency would respond to an invasion by Russia’s giant army.
    His response has been forceful – and compellingly public.    Zelenskyy has led his country in mounting an unexpectedly fierce resistance.    Every night, he rallies Ukrainians to the fight with a video address on social media.    There have been 100 so far – one for each day of the war – in nightly reminders that he has not fled, that Ukraine has indeed survived.
    His actor-trained voice can be soothing, a deep, confidential almost-whisper as he looks directly into the camera.    Or forceful, rising in moral outrage as he condemns the most recent Russian atrocities and insists that those responsible will be punished.
    As the days and weeks have ticked by, his unshaven face has grown a dark beard.    He has lost his boyish looks.    The puffiness from sleepless nights as Russian troops marched on the capital was replaced by new resolve when the invasion stalled.
    From the start of the war he has dressed in various shades of army green, appearing most often in a simple T-shirt.    The impression he leaves is clear: He’s fresh from the fight and about to get back to it.
    A tireless and skilled communicator, Zelenskyy has spoken by video link to the United Nations, British Parliament, U.S. Congress and about two dozen other parliaments around the world, as well as to the Cannes Film Festival and America’s Grammy Awards.    Rarely if ever has a man without a tie addressed so many VIPs.    He also has given interviews to journalists. He held a news conference in the safety of the Kyiv subway.
    But his nightly video address has been his favored channel for informing and inspiring his fellow citizens.
    He often begins with an exuberant greeting to Ukrainians as 'the free people of a brave country' or 'the invincible people of our great country.'    He invariably ends with a defiant 'Glory to Ukraine.'
    He tells them of the world leaders he has spoken with during the day and his efforts to get those leaders to send more and better weapons, to inflict ever more punishing sanctions on Russia.
    He speaks to his fellow Ukrainians’ anger and pain from the devastation of the country, the untold deaths.    'My heart breaks from what Russia is doing to our people,' he said on March 16 after Russian bombs killed hundreds sheltering in a theater in Mariupol.
    He salutes their courage and says he never gets tired of thanking all those fighting to determine the future of Ukraine.    That the country did not fall within days as Russia expected, he said on April 14, was because millions of Ukrainians 'made the most important decision of their life – to fight.'
    He also has tried to reach a Russian audience, as on April 1 when he switched from Ukrainian into Russian to urge Russians to keep their sons away from the war.

6/5/2022 Albania elects top general as country’s president
    PERMET, Albania – Albania’s parliament elected its top military official as the country’s president Saturday after no candidates were nominated in three rounds of voting.    Gen.-Maj. Bajram Begaj won the post after the 140-seat Parliament voted 78-4 in favor, with one abstention.    A simple majority was needed in the fourth round of voting.    The five-year presidency has a largely ceremonial role and the chosen candidate is expected to stand above partisan divisions.    It holds some authority over the judiciary and the armed forces.

6/5/2022 As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up? - Russian artillery causes more and more deaths by John Leicester and Hanna Arhirova, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during his funeral Friday in
Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Makhachek was killed May 30 during a Russian shelling attack. Natacha Pisarenko/AP
    ZHYTOMYR, Ukraine – As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole.    Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long.
    Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and their daughters Olena and Myroslava-Oleksandra.    In the first 100 days of war, his grave was the 40th dug in the military cemetery in Zhytomyr, 90miles west of the capital, Kyiv.
    He was killed May30 in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine where the fighting is raging. Nearby, the burial notice on the also freshly dug grave of Viacheslav Dvornitskyi says he died May27.    Other graves also showed soldiers killed within days of each other – on May 10, 9, 7 and 5.    And this is just one cemetery, in just one of Ukraine’s cities, towns and villages laying soldiers to rest.
    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that Ukraine is now losing 60 to 100 soldiers each day in combat.    By way of comparison, just short of 50 American soldiers died per day on average in 1968 during the Vietnam War’s deadliest year for U.S. forces.
    Among the comrades-in-arms who paid respects to the 49-year-old Makhachek at his funeral on Friday was Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ chief of general staff until 2019.    He warned that losses could worsen.
    'This is one of the critical moments in the war, but it is not the peak,' Muzhenko told The Associated Press.    'This is the most significant conflict in Europe since World War II.    That explains why the losses are so great.    In order to reduce losses, Ukraine now needs powerful weapons that match or even surpass Russian weaponry.    This would enable Ukraine to respond in kind.'
    Concentrations of Russian artillery are causing many of the casualties in the eastern regions that Moscow has focused on since its initial invasion launched Feb.24 failed to take Kyiv.
    Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of U.S. Army forces in Europe, described the Russian strategy as a 'medieval attrition approach' and said that until Ukraine gets promised deliveries of U.S., British and other weapons to destroy and disrupt Russian batteries, 'these kinds of casualties are going to continue.'
    'This battlefield is so much more lethal than what we all became accustomed to over the 20 years of Iraq and Afghanistan, where we didn’t have numbers like this,' he said in an AP phone interview.
    'That level of attrition would include leaders, sergeants,' he added.    'They are a lot of the brunt of casualties because they are the more exposed, constantly moving around trying to do things.'
    Makhachek, a military engineer, led a detachment that laid minefields and other defenses, said Col. Ruslan Shutov, who attended the funeral of his friend of more than 30 years.

6/5/2022 Ukraine stages counterattacks INVASION IN UKRAINE - Russia continues ‘creeping’ advance by John Leicester, Inna Varenytsia and Andrea Rosa, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A man carries water in front of an apartment building damaged in an overnight missile strike,
in Sloviansk, Ukraine, Tuesday. In towns and cities near the fighting in eastern Ukraine,
crews race to repair the damage even while she shells are still flying. FRANCISCO SECO/AP
    KYIV, Ukraine – Reinforced Russian troops backed by airstrikes pummeled a portion of eastern Ukraine on Saturday, blowing up bridges and shelling apartment buildings as they fought to capture two cities that would put a contested province under Moscow’s control, Ukrainian officials said.
    Russian and Ukrainian forces battled street-by-street in Sievierodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.    Russian strikes killed four people, including a mother and child, in the nearby village of Hirske, Haidai said.
    The cities are the last major areas of Luhansk province still held by Ukraine.    The Russian attacks are central to the Kremlin’s reduced wartime goal of seizing the entire Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years and established self-proclaimed republics.
    Russia also escalated attacks in Donetsk, the other province that makes up the Donbas, the Ukrainian military said, as the war reached its 101st day.    Reflecting the close combat, Russian and Ukrainian military officers blamed each other for a fire that destroyed the main church at the Sviatohirsk monastery, one of Ukraine’s holiest Orthodox Christian sites.
    In a video address Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “deliberately destroying the Ukrainian culture and its historic legacy along with social infrastructure and housing – everything needed for normal living.”
    In recent days Russian forces have focused on capturing Sievierodonetsk, which had a prewar population of about 100,000.    At one point they held 90% of the city, but Ukrainian soldiers clawed back some ground, Haidai reported Friday.    Zelenskyy described the city’s situation as “extremely difficult” on Saturday.
    Western military analysts said Russia was devoting significant troop strength and firepower to what British officials called a “creeping advance” in the Donbas.
    “The combined use of air and artillery strikes has been a key factor in Russia’s recent tactical successes in the region,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in a Saturday assessment.    The ministry warned that after launching so many guided missiles, Russia was employing unguided missiles that have “almost certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties.”
    The Ukrainian military reported that it repulsed nine attacks in the Donbas over 24 hours.
    The claim could not be independently verified.
    While Russian forces are concentrated on the Donbas in the east, Ukraine has staged counterattacks to try to regain territory in the south.
    After seizing most of the Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk regions, as well as the port city of Mariupol, Moscow has installed