Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeNewsWorldRussia-Ukraine live updates: Top US officials Blinken, Austin to visit Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Top US officials Blinken, Austin to visit Ukraine

Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

The Russian military has now launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, as it attempts to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol and secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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

Apr 24, 5:08 pm
More than 2.9M people have fled Ukraine to Poland

More than 2.9 million people have fled Ukraine and sought refuge in Poland since the Russian invasion began in February, the Polish Border Guard said on Sunday.

In recent days, however, the number of people crossing the border into Poland has fallen, while the number of refugees going back into Ukraine has risen, according to the border guard.

On Saturday, about 21,100 people entered Ukraine from Poland, while 15,100 fled to Poland from Ukraine, the agency said on Twitter.

Apr 24, 4:42 pm
Ukrainian losses from war top $1 trillion: Economic advisor

Ukraine’s losses, including destroyed homes and massive damage to the country’s infrastructure, has topped $1 trillion since Russian forces invaded the country two months ago, according to Ukraine’s top economic advisor.

Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser the Ukrainian president, announced the country’s staggering losses in a televised address on Sunday.

“This is what was destroyed by the Russian invaders in our assets. It is clear that this figure literally increased every day … the aggressor destroyed our infrastructure, destroyed the homes of our citizens, destroyed everything that could be destroyed by their own and air strikes, and simply by dropping bombs and everything they did,” Ustenko said.

Ustenko said additional losses have come as a result of Ukraine’s declining gross domestic product.

“It is this figure that we must focus on,” Ustenko said. “It is this figure that should be compensated by the Russian Federation immediately after our victory.”

Apr 24, 4:02 pm
Humanitarian corridors fail to open in Mariupol

The opening of humanitarian corridors for people to escape the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol did not occur as scheduled on Sunday because Russian troops in the area did not confirm a cease-fire, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Vereshchuk called on the United Nations to step in and provide the escape routes for civilians still trapped in Mariupol by the fighting.

She said the problem over establishing humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol should be raised with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Apr 24, 1:17 pm
Pope Francis renews calls for Easter truce in Ukraine

Pope Francis renewed calls on Sunday for a cease-fire in Ukraine to allow humanitarian aid to reach the war-torn country’s “exhausted population.”

The pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican that Sunday marked both Orthodox Easter and two months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

“Instead of stopping, the war has become harsher,” Francis said.

He urged political leaders on both sides of the conflict “to listen to the voice of the people, who do not want an escalation of the conflict.”

“I renew an appeal for an Easter truce, the minimum and tangible sign of a willingness for peace. Stop the attacks in order to help the exhausted population. Stop,” Francis said.

Even as the pope spoke, Ukrainian officials reported shelling in Ukraine on Sunday as Russian forces pushed forward with a new offensive targeting eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and territory in southern Ukraine. Two children were among those killed in shelling on Sunday, according to Ukrainian officials.

“It is sad that in these days that are the holiest and most solemn for all Christians, the deadly sound of weapons is heard more than the sound of bells that announce the resurrection,” Francis said. “And it is sad that weapons are increasingly taking the place of words.”

The 85-year-old pontiff did not specifically mention Russia or President Vladimir Putin, but left little doubt which side he was most critical of, using terms such as “unjustified aggression” and lamenting atrocities against civilians.

Putin, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, has described Moscow’s actions as a “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at demilitarizing and “denazifying” the country. Moscow has denied targeting civilians.

“I ask everyone to pray more for peace and to have the courage to say and demonstrate that peace is possible,” the pope said.

-ABC News’ Rashid Haddou

Apr 24, 12:28 pm
Zelenskyy prays for ‘new victory in Ukraine’ in Orthodox Easter address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released an Orthodox Easter message Sunday, saying he believes in a “new victory for Ukraine.”

In a video of his Easter greetings posted on YouTube, Zelenskyy said he was was speaking from the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv and cited the church’s thousand-year history in which it survived the Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine war against the Pechenegs and withstood Nazi occupation.

“Today, we all believe in a new victory for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. “And we are all convinced that we will not be destroyed by any horde or evil.”

Zelenskyy added, “We are enduring dark times. And on this bright day, most of us are not in bright clothes. But we are fighting for a bright idea.”

Reciting a prayer, Zelenskyy asked God to protect Ukrainians and give the nation “strength to fight and win.”

“This Easter, we ask God for great grace to make our great dream come true — a dream of another great day, a day when great peace will come to Ukraine and with it eternal grace and prosperity,” Zelenskyy said. “With faith and confidence in this, I wish you all a Happy Easter.”

Apr 24, 11:18 am
Orthodox Easter services go on amid war

Gathering outside bombed churches, Ukrainians marked Orthodox Easter on Sunday in the capital of Kyiv and throughout the country with prayers for peace and the safety of soldiers fighting on the front lines.

Among those attending an Easter service at at Pyrohoshcha Dormition of the Mother of God Church in Kyiv was Inna Tsarkova, who told ABC News she was praying for the safety of her son, Roman, who she hasn’t heard from in 11 days.

“(Easter) is much different because of the war. It’s supposed to be a very cheerful day. But right now we don’t know what the future is for Ukraine,” Tsarkova said. “I hope he’s OK, that he will come back. There is no joy for Easter this year. Eleven days is a lot, it’s a lot for me to not talk with my son.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine, worshipers gathered for an Easter service outside The Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church in the Kyiv suburb of Peremoha because the church was heavily damaged by Russian shelling. During the service, an Orthodox priest sprinkled holy water on believers lined up outside the church.

In Krakow, Poland, Ukrainian refugees lined the street outside the Orthodox Church of the Assumption for a Easter Mass.

About 200,000 displaced Ukrainians have sought refuge in Krakow, where the local Orthodox church has been struggling to provide shelter and humanitarian aid to the refugees.

Large TV screens were installed outside the Church of the Assumption so devotees who couldn’t fit inside could participate in the service. Following the service, the church held a procession and blessing of food baskets that were given away to those in attendance.

Apr 24, 9:58 am
Blinken, Austin visit to focus on logistics of sending more weapons: Ukrainian deputy PM

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told ABC News that an anticipated visit to Ukraine on Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will focus on logistics of funneling more military assistance to the country’s embattled troops to fight off Russian forces.

Vereshchuk told ABC News’ foreign correspondent James Longman that the face-to-face visit will also give Ukrainian leaders a better chance to express the urgency and turmoil of their predicament.

“When you talk on the phone, the emotional part of the conversation cannot be conveyed,” Vereshchuk said.

Vereshchuk said it is incumbent on NATO to step in, given Russia’s apparent plans to take the Donbas region in eastern as well as territory in southern Ukraine.

She expressed disappointment in Germany for seemingly dragging its feet on sending heavy artillery, including tanks, to Ukraine and said it appeared German leaders are attempting to placate Putin.

“They don’t understand. There is no way to pacify Putin,” Vereshchuk said. “It would be a huge problem for NATO if Russia has dominance over the Black Sea.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended the support his country has sent Ukraine, saying last week, “The weapons we are delivering have made a very substantial contribution” to Ukraine fight against Russia.”

“We are delivering, we have delivered and we will deliver,” Scholz said.

Vereshchuk also told ABC News that about 200 Russian soldiers have been exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers, so far. She said the highest ranking Russian military leader captured by Ukraine was a lieutenant colonel.

Vereshchuk, who is in charge of prisoner exchanges for her country, said Ukraine won’t exchange those responsible for war crimes.

Vereshchuk also claimed that 200,000 Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russian-controlled territory into “filtration camps,” including 5,000 children.

“We saw what Stalin did, we know what they are,” Vereshchuk said of the camps.

Apr 23, 6:00 pm
Russian missile attack kills 8 people in Odesa, including 3-month-old

Eight people were killed, including a 3-month-old infant, after Russian forces shelled the Black Sea port city of Odesa Saturday, Ukrainian officials said.

“The war started when this baby was 1 month old. Can you imagine what is happening?” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a press briefing. “They are just scum. … I don’t have any other words for it, just scum.”

Russian forces fired at least six cruise missiles, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Telegram. Ukrainian forces were able to shoot down two of the missiles, according to Zelenskyy, who said they were launched by Russian strategic aircraft from the Caspian Sea region.

“Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas,” Gerashchenko said in on Facebook. “Residential buildings were hit.”

“The only aim of Russian missile strikes on Odesa is terror. Russia must be designated a state sponsor of terrorism and treated accordingly. No business, no contacts, no cultural projects. We need a wall between civilization and barbarians striking peaceful cities with missiles,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

Following the airstrike, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Russian Aerospace Forces were targeting an airfield terminal outside Odesa storing “a large batch of foreign weapons” from the U.S. and European countries.

Apr 23, 2:15 pm

Top US officials Blinken and Austin to visit Ukraine Sunday, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Ukraine on Sunday.

Zelenskyy said they will discuss the list of weapons Ukraine needs and their delivery date.

A spokesperson for the State Department declined to comment and a spokesperson for the Defense Department said they had “nothing to offer” on the trip.

-ABC News’ Jason Volack

Apr 23, 2:15 pm

Top US officials Blinken and Austin to visit Ukraine Sunday, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Ukraine on Sunday.

Zelenskyy said they will discuss the list of weapons Ukraine needs and their delivery date.

-ABC News’ Jason Volack

Apr 23, 2:00 pm

UK’s Boris Johnson assures Zelenskyy Russia will be held to account for its actions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russia would be held to account for its actions and that the British government is helping collect evidence of war crimes, when the two spoke on Saturday.

Johnson confirmed that the U.K. will provide Ukraine with more defensive military aid including protected mobility vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons.

He also updated Zelenskyy on new U.K. sanctions against members of the Russian military and confirmed the U.K. would reopen its embassy in Kyiv next week.

Ahead of the U.N. Secretary-General’s meetings with Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, both leaders agreed on the importance of establishing a cease-fire and humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave Mariupol, according to a statement from the British government.

The leaders discussed the U.K.’s efforts with partners to reach a long-term security solution for Ukraine, including discussions with international partners to provide more financial support to Ukraine.

Apr 23, 12:14 pm

Russia attacks Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Russian forces attacked a steel plant in the shattered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office.

In a briefing, Arestovich said Russian forces had resumed airstrikes on the plant and were trying to storm it, a reversal of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order two days earlier.

Ukrainian officials estimate that about 1,000 civilians are sheltered in the plant along with the remaining Ukrainian fighters.

Apr 23, 11:57 am

Mariupol evacuation fails

Busses promised by Russia to evacuate people from Mariupol did not arrive on Saturday.

At least 200 Mariupol residents had gathered near the Port City shopping center to be evacuated to Zaporizhia, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko said on Facebook.

“Instead of the buses promised by the Russian side, the Russian military approached Mariupol residents and ordered them to go away because “there will be shelling now.” In fact, with rough coercion, they dispersed people. The buses were not submitted for loading,” he wrote.

Apr 23, 11:28 am

Russian missile attack kills 5 people in Odesa, including 3-month-old

Russian forces fired at least six cruise missiles at the Black Sea port city of Odesa, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Telegram.

Five citizens were killed, including one 3-month-old baby and 18 people were injured, said Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office.

“These are only those who were found. And most likely, there will be more,” he wrote.

Ukrainian forces were able to shoot down several missiles, but at least one landed and exploded, Gerashchenko said.

“Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas,” Gerashchenko said in a post on Facebook. “Residential buildings were hit.”

“The only aim of Russian missile strikes on Odesa is terror. Russia must be designated a state sponsor of terrorism and treated accordingly. No business, no contacts, no cultural projects. We need a wall between civilization and barbarians striking peaceful cities with missiles,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet.

Apr 23, 9:08 am

Ukraine resists Russian advance in the East: UK defense ministry

Despite the increased activity, Russian forces have made no major gains in the last 24 hours as Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hinder their efforts, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

Russian air and maritime forces have not established control in either domain, owing to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air and sea defense.

Despite their stated conquest of Mariupol, heavy fighting continues to take place frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city, further slowing their desired progress in the Donbas.

Apr 23, 8:45 am

UN Secretary-General to meet with Zelenskyy

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on April 28.

Guterres will also meet with staff of U.N. agencies to discuss scaling up humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine.

Apr 22, 6:29 pm

1 dead, 27 missing from Moskva ship, Russian Defense Ministry says

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that one service member died and another 27 crew members went missing from its Black Sea Fleet flagship vessel Moskva last week.

“The remaining 396 crew members were evacuated from the cruiser to the ships of the Black Sea Fleet,” the defense ministry said Friday.

The warship sank on April 14 following what the Ukrainians claimed was a missile attack. Russia did not acknowledge an attack on the ship and continued to say a fire broke out after ammunition detonated.

The defense ministry’s latest announcement contradicts its earlier statement that all Moskva crew members had been rescued.

-ABC News’ Somayeh Malekian

Apr 22, 4:28 pm

More than 20 countries to attend defense talks hosted by US

More than 20 countries have accepted an invitation to attend a Ukraine-focused defense talk on Tuesday hosted by the U.S., Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday.

More than 40 NATO and non-NATO countries have been invited to the talks, which will be hosted by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Kirby said.

“The goal is to bring together stakeholders from all around the world for a series of meetings on the latest [Ukrainian] defense needs and … ensuring that Ukraine’s enduring security and sovereignty over the long-term is respected and developed,” Kirby said.

Apr 22, 12:19 pm
UN chief to meet with Putin in Moscow

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Monday.

Guterres wrote separate letters to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday asking to meet “to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine,” a U.N. spokesperson said earlier this week.

Apr 22, 12:12 pm
Russian swimmer suspended for attending Putin event

The international swimming federation FINA said it has suspended swimmer Evgeny Rylov, a Russian Olympic gold medalist, for allegedly attending a March concert where Russian President Vladimir Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine. The suspension will last nine months.

FINA also said Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials won’t be invited to any FINA events through the end of 2022.

Apr 22, 9:30 am
European Council president holds call with Putin

European Council President Charles Michel and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a call Friday. Michel said afterwards on Twitter that he “strongly urged for immediate humanitarian access and safe passage from Mariupol and other besieged cities all the more on the occasion of Orthodox Easter.”

Michel also said he “firmly reiterated” the EU’s support for Ukraine and “condemnation and sanctions for Russia’s aggression.”

According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Michel asked Putin to have direct contact with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Kremlin said Putin “reaffirmed the well-known position on this matter, noting that such a possibility depends, in particular, on concrete results in the ongoing negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, during which the Ukrainian side is showing inconsistency and is not ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions.”

Apr 22, 8:15 am
UK to reopen embassy in Kyiv

The United Kingdom announced Friday that it will soon reopen its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

The U.K. Embassy in Kyiv, in northern Ukraine, was forced to temporarily close in late February due to Russia’s invasion. A contingent of British staff remained in western Ukraine to provide humanitarian and other support. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Friday that the embassy will reopen next week, “dependent on the security situation,” according to a press release from the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

“The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces, means we will shortly be re-opening our British Embassy in Kyiv,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement. “I want to pay tribute to the bravery and resilience of the Embassy team and their work throughout this period.”

The embassy premises in Kyiv are currently being made secure before staff return, starting with U.K. ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons. The U.K. continues to advise its citizens against all travel to Ukraine, according to the FCDO.

-ABC News’ Guy Davies

Apr 22, 7:58 am
Russia aims to ‘contain Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol,’ UK says

Russia’s decision to blockade a steel plant in Mariupol “likely indicates a desire to contain Ukrainian resistance” in the strategic port city “and free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Friday in an intelligence update.

The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant is the last holdout for Ukrainian fighters in besieged Mariupol.

“A full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, heavy shelling and fighting continues across eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region as Russian forces seek to advance further toward settlements including Krasnyy Lyman, Buhayikva, Barvinkove, Lyman and Popasna, “as part of their plans for the region,” according to the ministry.

“Despite Russia’s renewed focus they are still suffering from losses sustained earlier in the conflict,” the ministry added. “In order to try and reconstitute their depleted forces, they have resorted to transiting inoperable equipment back to Russia for repair.”

Apr 22, 6:34 am
Putin to speak with European Council president

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a telephone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel on Friday before meeting with permanent members of the Russian Security Council, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“Putin will now have an international conversation,” Peskov told reporters Friday. “It will be the President of the European Council, Michel. And then during the day, Putin is scheduled to have an operational meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council.”

The U.S. has assessed that the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol remains contested, and that Russian airstrike activity remains focused there and on the Donbas region, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.

Russia now has 85 battalion tactical groups, each made up of roughly 800 to 1,000 troops, inside of Ukraine, the official said. More of these groups are headed to the Donbas region, the official said.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments