WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
After weeks of escalating tensions in the region and sanctions imposed by Western nations, Russia has begun its invasion of Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin authorizing a military operation in the eastern part of the country on Thursday, February 24.
“Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine,” Putin said. “All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine.”
Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv shortly after Putin’s announcement that signaled what appeared to be the start of war in Europe. Ukraine vowed to defend itself from what it called a “war of aggression.”
“The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Bookmark and refresh this page for updates and analyses of the latest news on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Italy’s Draghi calls for urgent ceasefire in Ukraine
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called on Thursday, May 19, for an urgent ceasefire in Ukraine so that serious negotiations can begin to end the war that began with Russia’s invasion almost three months ago.
“A ceasefire must be achieved as soon as possible,” Draghi told the upper house Senate in Rome, opening a debate on Italy’s role in supporting Ukraine which is creating growing tensions in the premier’s ruling majority.
Draghi said it was important to maintain pressure on Russia through economic sanctions “because we have to bring Moscow to the negotiating table.”
Germany’s Scholz proposes EU solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine
The European Union must make preparations for rebuilding Ukraine after the war by setting up a solidarity fund to help cover the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
Addressing parliament ahead of a meeting of EU leaders, Scholz said French President Emmanuel Macron was right that EU accession was not a matter of a few months or years, meaning it was all the more important to focus on pragmatic, immediate support.
“Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalizing the Ukrainian economy will cost billions,” he said. “We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners.”
More than half of Ukrainian fighters have left Azovstal plant – report
More than half of the Ukrainian fighters who were inside Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant have now left, Russia’s TASS news agency cited the leader of pro-Russian separatists in control of the area, Denis Pushilin, as saying on Thursday, May 19.
It was not immediately clear how many fighters Pushilin was referring to and Reuters could not immediately verify the claim. Ukraine and Russia have given conflicting accounts of how many fighters have left the plant.
Ukraine shells village in Russia’s Kursk, killing 1 – official
Ukrainian forces shelled a border village in Russia’s western region of Kursk at dawn on Thursday, March 19, killing at least one civilian, regional governor Roman Starovoit said.
Shells have hit an alcohol factory in the village of Tyotkino and several other buildings, Starovoit wrote on messaging app Telegram.
US Senate confirms Biden nominee to be Ukraine ambassador
The US Senate unanimously approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink on Wednesday, May 18, to be ambassador to Ukraine, filling a critical post that has been vacant for three years as Washington works to increase support for the government in Kyiv.
Brink was approved by unanimous voice vote.
Both President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats and Republicans had urged Brink’s quick confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Brink unanimously earlier on Wednesday, after holding her confirmation hearing just two weeks after Biden announced the nomination on April 25.
The quick action underscored the desire from both parties to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion. Brink’s Senate confirmation came on the same day that the US Embassy in Kyiv reopened after a three-month closure due to Russia’s February 24 invasion.
The Senate also is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv, funding that has already passed the House of Representatives.
A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently US ambassador to Slovakia. A diplomat for 25 years, she has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.
Brink was also confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.
There has not been a US ambassador in Kyiv since May 2019, when Trump abruptly recalled then US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch later testified as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid to put pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, then seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.
Ukraine officials give conflicting accounts of attack on Russian train
Ukraine’s territorial defense force said on Wednesday, May 18, its fighters had blown up an armored train carrying Russian troops, but an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelinskiy later said the attack had been confined to rails near the train.
Reuters could not independently verify the defense force’s assertion, posted on Facebook, that it had carried out the attack in the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol.
The city lies in the region of Zaporizhzhia and in a belt of southern Ukrainian land that was occupied by Russian forces after they invaded on February 24.
The defense force – the reservist branch of Ukraine’s armed forces – said in an online posting that explosives had detonated under a rail car carrying military personnel. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.
But several hours later, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych gave a conflicting account, saying Ukrainian forces had blown up the tracks ahead of the train.
“The partisans got it, although they did not blow up the armored train itself,” he said in a video posted on social media, saying the Russians “got off lightly.”
Arestovych said the incident showed that the partisan movement was actively disrupting Russian forces.
Ukrainian news reports say partisans have been operating actively in Melitopol. The town’s mayor was taken away by Russian troops for several days in March before being released.
Google’s Russian subsidiary to file for bankruptcy after bank account seized
Google’s Russian subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors, but free services including search and YouTube will keep operating, a Google spokesperson said on Wednesday, May 18.
The Alphabet Inc unit has been under pressure in Russia for months for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal and for restricting access to some Russian media on YouTube, but the Kremlin has so far stopped short of blocking access to the company’s services.
Read more here.
Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now
Russia said nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol, although commanders are still holed up in tunnels beneath the giant Azovstal steelworks, a pro-Russian separatist leader said.
Read more here.
Russia says more Ukraine fighters surrender in Mariupol; US reopens Kyiv embassy
Russia said on Wednesday, May 18, nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol, while the United States became the latest Western country to reopen its Kyiv embassy after a three-month closure.
More than a day after Ukraine announced it had ordered its garrison in Mariupol to stand down, the ultimate outcome of Europe’s bloodiest battle for decades remained unresolved.
Ukrainian officials declined to comment publicly on the fate of fighters who had made their last stand at the Azovstal steelworks plant, holding out as Mariupol was taken over by Russian forces.
Read more here.