For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:
9:20 p.m.: As the U.S. reopens its embassy in Kyiv, one U.S. military officer has been brought back into Ukraine, but the Pentagon said Thursday that no other troops will follow.
“Nothing has changed about the president’s direction that U.S. troops will not be fighting in this war in Ukraine,” press secretary John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. The defense attache, a colonel, is there for diplomatic work, not security, Kirby said.
8:50 p.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of "an obvious policy of genocide" in his country's eastern Donbas region, during his daily televised address.
Moscow's offensive in Donbas could end up leaving the region "uninhabited," he said, accusing the Russians of wanting to reduce its cities to ashes.
"All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia," he said
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late February sent troops into Ukraine, saying the campaign aimed to stop the "genocide" of Russian speakers in the pro-Western country.
8:20 p.m.: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s live Twitter Q&A:
7:45 p.m.: Ukraine’s foreign minister says its most urgent need is multiple launch rocket systems to counter Russia’s heavy weaponry. Dmytro Kuleba called the weapons crucial in a Twitter Q&A Thursday.
CNN is reporting that the Biden administration step up the types of weaponry it is offering Ukraine.
7 p.m.: Russia has 110 battalion tactical groups, each with 800 to 1,000 troops, committed to Ukraine, amounting to 80% of Moscow's total force, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said adding that Russia has lost 1,000 tanks and three dozen fighter jets and other fixed-wing aircraft. The Associated Press reported.
6:22 p.m.: According to a report published Thursday by The New Humanitarian, an independent non-profit news organization, Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border are welcomed but refugees from elsewhere are facing growing crackdowns.
“More than 3.5 million of the 6.5 million people who have fled Russia’s invasion have entered the EU at the Poland-Ukraine border, mainly to open arms and a hot meal,” according to The New Humanitarian. “This situation stands in stark contrast to the reception for refugees from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia a couple of hundred kilometres to the north, in Poland’s densely forested northeast,” it added.
The report said work continues on a wall at the Poland/Belarus border aimed at keeping out asylum seekers, and it said aid volunteers are “bracing for an uptick in attempted crossings” this summer.
5:57 p.m.: Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and using the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter, The Associated Press reported.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week.
Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it, one official said. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow. The official said the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions. The official said it’s also in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.
5:10 p.m.: As the United States and its allies provide Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated arms, Washington has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, U.S. and diplomatic officials tell Reuters. The behind-the-scenes discussions, which are highly sensitive and have not been previously reported, do not put explicit geographic restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Ukrainian forces. But the conversations have sought to reach a shared understanding of the risk of escalation, three U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said.
4:30 p.m.: The World Health Organization shared on Twitter the latest tally of attacks on health care during three months of war in Ukraine.
4:19 p.m.: The resignation this week of veteran Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev over the invasion of Ukraine is an embarrassment for the Kremlin, but fear prevents most Russian officials from voicing dissent, according to analysts. The 41-year-old Bondarev forged a 20-year career in the Russian diplomatic service, including postings in Cambodia and Mongolia. Until this week, he worked at the Russian mission to the United Nations in Geneva, focusing on Moscow’s role in the Conference on Disarmament. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell has this story.
4:02 p.m.: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday he was forming a southern military command and sending battalion tactical groups to the area that borders Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Lukashenko did not give details, but battalion tactical groups typically consist of mechanized infantry including tanks. The territory of Belarus was used for rocket attacks on Ukraine, but the military of Belarus did not take part in the Russian ground operation. Ukrainian authorities have expressed concern that Belarus may agree to a wider participation in the war.
3:52 p.m.: When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, it expected the country to fall within days. Now with the war in its fourth month, Russian troops are largely mired in battles with Ukrainian soldiers, with no end strategy in sight. For VOA, Oleksii Kovalenko has the story.
3:38 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday discussed ways to help ease the international food crisis, with the Kremlin saying this could be done only if the West lifts sanctions, Reuters reported.
In a news conference held on Thursday evening, Draghi said he took the initiative of calling the Russian leader. "I felt it was my duty to take (this initiative) because of the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that may affect the world's poorest," he told reporters. Draghi said Putin told him the food crisis was the fault of sanctions.
"I am interested in a more defined, smaller issue, which is to try to see if we can unblock these huge quantities of grain in Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea," Draghi said. He added he will hold a call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on this issue.
3:29 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he was glad some foreign companies had left Russia because homegrown businesses could take their place, and he warned the West that Moscow would still find ways to acquire advanced technology and luxury goods. "Sometimes when you look at those who leave – thank God, perhaps? We will occupy their niches: our business, our production – it has already grown, and it will safely sit on the ground prepared by our partners," Putin said. He did not elaborate on how Russia would find ways to maintain access to Western components and software, Reuters reported.
3:02 p.m.: Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted Thursday about weapons its military is currently using against Russia, and weapons it still wants to receive from partners in the West, including the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
2:46 p.m.: Russian troops are in the midst of an attack on two cities straddling a river in eastern Ukraine that is designed to encircle Ukrainian forces in what could be a decisive battle for Moscow’s military campaign in the country. The intense fighting in the Donbas comes after more than three months of war that many experts and Western officials originally predicted would see Russia win within days or weeks. To find out more about the changing battlefield, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty spoke with Mark Cancian, a retired U.S. Marine colonel and senior adviser at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
2:17 p.m.: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took questions from an international audience in a live chat broadcast on Twitter Thursday.
2:08 p.m.: Ukraine is desperately trying to export its vast stores of grain by road, river and rail to help avert a global food crisis but has no chance of hitting its targets unless Russia's blockade of its Black Sea ports is lifted, a government official said.
"There is hunger in Africa and in other countries. We have seen the dynamics of a population missing that food from year to year," said Roman Rusakov, a senior official at Ukraine's Agriculture Ministry. "I just cannot imagine what might happen without Ukraine shipping next season's exportable surplus.
"Ports are necessary. But having said that we certainly will improve our railway logistics. Meantime, (river) ports will be in place to do a good job. But will it be enough to reach the target …? No way," he told Reuters.
1:54 p.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Thursday tweeted the latest humanitarian situation report for Ukraine.
1:26 p.m.: Russian bailiffs have reportedly seized more than $123.2 million from Alphabet's Google that it had been ordered to pay as part of a fine calculated on the basis of its turnover. Russian news agencies said on May 26 that Google's name disappeared from the registry of debtors of the Russian Federal Bailiffs' Service (FSSP), concluding that it means the fine had been paid off. Neither Google nor the FSSP have commented on the issue. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.
12:57 p.m.: Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has become the latest European leader to visit Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Marin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday in Kyiv. Finnish public broadcaster YLE said she also visited the towns of Bucha and Irpin where Russian soldiers are alleged to have killed civilians.
Zelenskyy thanked Marin for Finland’s weapons deliveries and its support for sanctions against Russia. Jolted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland recently broke with its policy of non-alignment and applied for membership in NATO, together with neighboring Sweden.
12:38 p.m.: Returning from the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba offered to chat with his Twitter followers about a number of issues, promising to give “frank” answers.
12:13 p.m.: A World Health Organization assembly on Thursday voted to adopt a Western-led resolution condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine that it says led to a health emergency, Reuters reported. The resolution was approved by 88 votes in favor and 12 against, with 53 abstentions, the meeting's president Hiroki Nakatani said prompting a standing ovation by the resolution's backers.
Typically, the WHO annual assemblies make decisions by consensus. A parallel proposal submitted by Russia which mimics the language of the original one has yet to be voted on by the member states.
12:06 p.m.: European Union members are considering a measure that would criminalize the violation of sanctions against Russia.
11:57 a.m.: A senior U.S. defense official said Thursday that 110 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups are now in Ukraine, mostly in the south, and that Russian forces are making “incremental gains.” He said that in the eastern Donbas region, “It is very much an artillery duel … a scrap over smaller pieces of earth” and “it could go on for awhile.” He added that there are “no major changes” around Kharkiv, where Russian forces remain within 10 kilometers of the Ukraine/Russia border. Russia is also adding an air and naval defense system to Snake Island.
Though he had no definitive troop casualty figure, the official said that “the Russians lose soldiers every day,” and he said other Russian losses include 1,000 tanks, 350 artillery pieces, three dozen fighter/bomber aircraft and 50-plus helicopters. VOA’s Jeff Seldin shared more details on Twitter.
11:46 a.m.: The Czech Republic’s ambassador to Ukraine has returned to Kyiv as his country seeks to reinforce its embassy before it takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in July, The Associated Press reported. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said Thursday that the work should help fulfill the priorities of the Czech presidency, which include supporting Ukraine with financial, humanitarian and political aid. The Czech government closed its embassy in Kyiv on February 24 after Russia invaded Ukraine.
11:09 a.m.: The head of the Russia-backed separatist region in eastern Ukraine says that there may be more Ukrainian fighters hiding at the sprawling Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, even after Moscow officially declared the operation of taking control over it successful and completed, The Associated Press reported.
Denis Pushilin of the Donetsk People’s Republic said of the Ukrainian fighters on Thursday: “They could be hiding....They could be lost somewhere, lagged behind” the ones who surrendered and were captured. The Russian military declared Azovstal and all of Mariupol “completely liberated” on May 20 and reported that a total of 2,439 fighters had come out of the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the besieged city.
Pushilin says any Ukrainians left behind at the plant don't pose a threat to the Russian forces.
11:02 a.m.: After decades of neutrality, Finland has now formally applied to join NATO. The decision now lies with the parliaments of NATO countries, which need to ratify Finland's application. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Georgian Service spoke to Major General Pekka Toveri, the former intelligence chief of the Finnish General Staff, and Colonel Peterri Kajanmaa, director of the Department of Military Skills at the National Defense College, about Finland's changing security outlook, the potential stumbling blocks ahead, and why so-called "Finlandization" was never a good model for Ukraine.
10:41 a.m.: Russia has started broadcasting its state television news in the ravaged port city of Mariupol and other locations it controls in eastern Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Thursday, The Associated Press reported. Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations, or MChS, said it has launched “three mobile complexes for informing and alerting the population” that will be “broadcasting news for two hours in different parts of Mariupol.”
Such mobile units also operate in the city of Volnovakha and the Lyman district of Ukraine’s Donetsk province, broadcasting state news shows, “practical information” and cartoons for children, Russian state news agency Tass reported Thursday.
Petro Adnryushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor, posted on his Telegram channel footage of MChS trucks with TV screens broadcasting Russian news shows to crowds of people in the Russian-occupied city. “Yesterday, the occupiers launched three mobile propaganda cars and additionally installed 12 75-inch TVs in places of mass gathering — humanitarian aid distribution points, paperwork points and water access points,” he wrote. “The practice of ‘nothing to feed, feed lies’ is gaining momentum.”
10:24 a.m.: Advancing Russian forces came closer to surrounding Ukrainian troops in the east, briefly seizing positions on the last highway out of a crucial pair of Ukrainian-held cities before being beaten back, a Ukrainian official said on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Russia has poured thousands of troops into its assault, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. The fall of the two cities, which straddle the Siverskiy Donets river, would bring nearly the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war aim.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, said around 50 Russian soldiers had reached the highway and "managed to gain a foothold for some time. They even set up some kind of checkpoint there," he added. "The checkpoint was broken, they were thrown back. That is to say, the Russian army does not control the route now, but they are shelling it," he said in an interview posted on social media. He hinted at further Ukrainian withdrawals, saying it was possible troops would leave "one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle."
Western military analysts see the battle for the two cities as a potential turning point in the war, now that Russia has defined its principal objective as capturing the east.
10:12 a.m.: Ukraine's richest man says he plans to sue Russia over what he said was $17 billon to $20 billion in losses caused by its bombardment of steel plants he owns in the devastated city of Mariupol, Reuters reported.
"We will definitely sue Russia and demand proper compensation for all losses and lost business," Rinat Akhmetov, who owns the biggest Ukrainian steelmaker Metinvest, told Ukrainian news portal mrpl.city in an interview.
The Azovstal steelworks suffered heavy damage from Russian bombing and shelling after the sprawling plant became the last bastion of defence in the southern port city. The Illich Steel and Iron Works, also owned by Akhmetov, was also badly damaged during Russian shelling of Mariupol.
9:47 a.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is marking Protection of Civilians Week from May 23-27, and has been sharing stories each day of how ordinary people are impacted by the war in Ukraine.
9:28 a.m.: A senior Ukrainian military official conceded at a briefing on Thursday that Russia had the upper hand in fighting in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region at present, Reuters reported. "Russia has the advantage, but we are doing everything we can," General Oleksiy Gromov said. Gromov also said Ukraine had observed Russia moving Iskander missile systems to Belarus' western Brest region, which Gromov said raised the possibility of new missile strikes on west Ukraine.
9:06 a.m.: Russia's invasion of Ukraine appears to be having an unanticipated impact in cyberspace — a decrease in the number of ransomware attacks, VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin reported. "We have seen a recent decline since the Ukrainian invasion," Rob Joyce, the U.S. National Security Agency's director of cybersecurity, told a virtual forum Wednesday.
Joyce said one reason for the decrease in ransomware attacks since the February 24 invasion is likely improved awareness and defensive measures by U.S. businesses. He also said some of it is tied to measures the United States and its Western allies have taken against Moscow in response to the war in Ukraine.
8:25 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Thursday that Western sanctions against Russia were disrupting its supply chains, but said they would not succeed in cutting it off from technology, Reuters reported. Speaking by video link to leaders of ex-Soviet states, Putin said Russia would keep working to find substitutes for foreign imports no longer available to it, even though this was not a "panacea for all ills".
8:13 a.m.: Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov says that not enough strategic steps have been taken in recent years to prevent Europe’s growing dependence on Russian gas and to counter hybrid attacks, The Associated Press reported. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Petkov said that the war in Ukraine “caused many crises to us because we had allowed ourselves to be dependent on Russia”.
Petkov said that after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Europe criticized Moscow but did nothing to reduce its dependence on it. “While we linked the price of electricity to that of gas, Russia now can not only reduce gas supplies, but also regulate electricity prices in Europe,” he said.
8:03 a.m.: Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Western nations have sidelined a raft of Russian artists, dancers and musicians with links to President Vladimir Putin. That includes star opera singer Anna Netrebko, who was dropped by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Netrebko, however, is making a comeback of sorts with an appearance Wednesday night in Paris — underscoring a broader debate over the limits of cultural boycotts. VOA’s Lisa Bryant has this story.
7:59 a.m.: The appeal of Russian money is making some countries tolerant of its aggression, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday as he rejected calls to accept territorial concessions to appease Moscow, Reuters reported. "Today we hear that allegedly Russia should be given what it wants, supposedly it is necessary to agree that some peoples may be deprived of some of their foreign policy rights," Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Latvian parliament. "We must fight for the principle that nation(hood) is important," he said.
7:54 a.m.: Italy and Hungary have urged the EU to call explicitly for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks with Russia, putting themselves at odds with other member states determined to take a hard line with Moscow ahead of a summit next week, Reuters reported.
A draft concluding statement for the May 30-31 summit, seen by Reuters and dated May 19, describes the European Union as "unwavering in its commitment to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defense against the Russian aggression." It does not mention peace talks.
At a meeting of EU envoys on Friday, Italy's ambassador proposed changes to the text saying it should refer to peace talks and set out an immediate ceasefire as one of the EU's first goals, according to people who attended the meeting. That proposal was backed by Hungary and Cyprus, which are among the states most critical of a new package of EU sanctions against Russia that has been blocked for weeks because of internal divisions.
7:44 a.m.: Russia will not win its war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin must not dictate the terms of any peace agreement, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday. "Putin must not win his war, and I am convinced he will not win," Scholz said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. "A capture of the whole of Ukraine seems further away now than at the beginning of the war." Although some have suggested that Ukraine should negotiate with Putin and consider ceding territory, Scholz rejected the idea of letting Putin dictate the terms of an agreement, Reuters reported.
7:23 a.m.: Slovakia Prime Minister Eduard Heger has warned that Russia that “will go further” and his country could be next if Ukraine fails to win the war, The Associated Press reported. Heger was speaking to Sky News at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Slovakia, a member of the European Union and NATO, borders Ukraine.
“We need to support Ukraine because if they fail, then it’s going to threaten us, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia,” Heger said.He said Russia going beyond Ukrainian borders is “the fear.” He added, “But at this moment I’m glad what kind of bravery the Ukrainian people show, how much they are able to defend their country.”
7:08 a.m.: A U.S. diplomat based in Vienna has condemned the “sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty, and lawlessness” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter was speaking Thursday, three months after Russia launched its invasion.
“I think we all know what would happen if Russia were to achieve ‘success’ in Ukraine,” Carpenter said in a speech to the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Russian diplomats know it too,” he said. “There would be more horrific reports from filtration camps, more forcibly displaced people, more summary executions, more torture, more rape, and more looting.”
Carpenter called on OSCE member countries to provide Ukraine with “the support it needs right now to defend itself against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s revanchist delusions.”
6:43 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday savaged suggestions that Kyiv give up territory and make concessions to end the war with Russia, saying the idea smacked of attempts to appease Nazi Germany in 1938, Reuters reported. The angry comments by Zelenskyy and a senior aide come as Ukrainian troops are facing a renewed offensive in two eastern regions that Russian-speaking separatists seized part of in 2014.
6:38 a.m.: The Kremlin says it expects Ukraine to recognize the existing situation and accept Moscow’s demands, The Associated Press reported. Asked Thursday if Russia expects Ukraine to make territorial concessions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “Moscow expects the acceptance of its demands and the understanding of the real situation that exists de-facto.”
Russia has previously demanded that Ukraine recognize the Russian sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and acknowledge the independence of Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
During the talks in March, Ukrainian officials said that the status of Crimea and the separatist regions could be discussed later, but in recent weeks they have toughened their stand and said that Russian troops should pull back to areas where they were before Moscow launched a military action in Ukraine on February 24.
6:31 a.m.: A decree allowing residents of two Ukrainian regions, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, to obtain Russian citizenship has prompted objections from Kyiv and the U.S. State Department, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed the decree affecting residents of the two Ukrainian regions, parts of which have been occupied by Russian forces during Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in a statement protested the "illegal issuing of passports," calling it "a flagrant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as norms and principles of international humanitarian law."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price voiced concern that the plan was part of "Russia's attempt to subjugate the people of Ukraine -- to impose their will by force."
6:29 a.m.: British foreign minister Liz Truss accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of holding the world to ransom over food, responding to a question about whether she supported lifting sanctions in exchange for grain exports from Ukraine. "It is completely appalling that Putin is trying to hold the world to ransom, and he is essentially weaponizing hunger and lack of food amongst the poorest people around the world," Truss said during a visit to Bosnia on Thursday. "We simply cannot allow this to happen. Putin needs to remove the blockade on Ukrainian grain."
6:27 a.m.: The World Food Program has been pushing to get wheat out of Ukrainian ports to help feed the hungry elsewhere in the world and avert growing food insecurity in vulnerable regions, while also making room for the harvest of grain that has recently been planted, The Associated Press reported.
“We are pushing 100% to get the food that is stuck in that port out. It needs to be a continuous flow, it cannot be a few ships full. We need to get what we can out of there, not just for the Ukrainian economy but to get to people who need it in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan,” said WFP spokesman John Dumont.
Dumont was in Odesa a couple of weeks ago, and says the grain silos are full. “They are planting now. Where are they going to put that wheat when it is harvest time at the end of June and July? There is no place for it to go.”
“It needs to get out in a continuous way. It cannot just be a little one-off humanitarian convoy. The Black Sea needs to open.”
6:26 a.m.: The Kremlin says that the West needs to lift some of its sanctions against Russia for grain shipments from Ukraine to resume, The Associated Press reported. Western allies have accused Russia of blocking grain exports from Ukraine in a move that is exacerbating food shortages in Africa and other regions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that “we categorically reject the accusations and accuse Western countries of taking a series of unlawful actions that has led to the blockade.” Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he added that the West, in particular, “must cancel the unlawful decisions that hamper chartering ships and exporting grain.”
6:25 a.m.: G-7 officials are meeting in Berlin to tackle the current energy crisis stoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
6:10 a.m.: Russia’s central bank cut its key interest rate Thursday following an emergency meeting, as authorities seek to rein in the ruble which has surged in value despite the conflict in Ukraine. Agence France-Presse has the story.
5:54 a.m.: Two captured Russian soldiers pleaded guilty on Thursday to shelling a town in eastern Ukraine in the second war crimes trial of the war, Reuters reported.
At the trial in the Kotelevska district court in central Ukraine, state prosecutors asked that the soldiers get 12 years in jail for violating the laws of war. A defense lawyer, however, asked for leniency, saying the two soldiers had been following orders and repented.
5:15 a.m.: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that reporters from Western countries will be expelled from Russia if YouTube blocks access to her briefings, Reuters reported citing Russian state media, TASS news agency.
Zakharova holds a weekly briefing on topical issues in Russian foreign policy that is broadcast on YouTube and other platforms.
5:10 a.m.: Ankara is in negotiations with Moscow and Kyiv to open a corridor via Turkey for grain exports from Ukraine, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Thursday.
Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Russia invaded in February and more than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos there. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies and the lack of exports from Ukraine is contributing to a growing global food crisis.
“Turkey is negotiating with both Russia and Ukraine for the export of grains from Ukraine,” the official told Reuters, requesting anonymity. “With a corridor to be opened from Turkey, there was a demand for this grain to reach their targeted markets. Negotiations are still ongoing.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko was quoted as saying on Wednesday that Moscow is ready to provide a corridor for vessels carrying food in return for lifting of some Western sanctions. Turkey neighbors Ukraine and Russia on the Black Sea.
5:02 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that at least 431 civilians have been killed and 1,168 more wounded in the Donetsk region since the Russian invasion began.
4:20 a.m.: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called Ukraine the “key for freedom in the world” and urged for more support Thursday as his country faces what he called “this senseless war” with Russia.
Klitschko said Ukraine is a peaceful country that was not aggressive toward anyone, and that Ukrainians want to be “part of the European family” with a priority on human rights, press freedom and “democratic standards of life.”
Russia on the other hand, he said, wants to rebuild the Soviet Union and would not stop with a takeover of Ukraine. “We’re defending not just our family and our children, we’re defending you because we have the same values,” Klitschko said, adding that Russia will go as far as it is allowed to go. He thanked those who have supported Ukraine politically, economically and by sending weapons, and those who have taken in Ukrainians refugees. Noting that it has been more than 90 days since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Klitschko said it feels to him like “one long, long day.”
4 a.m.: Fighting in recent weeks has been focused in the eastern Donbas region where Russia has been trying to seize control after failing to topple Zelenskyy or capture Kyiv.
The Ukrainian governor of the eastern region of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, described the situation around the industrial hub of Severodonetsk as “very difficult” and said there was “already fighting on the outskirts.”
“Russian troops have advanced far enough that they can already fire mortars” on the city, he said.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin issued an order that would fast-track Russian citizenship to people living in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. There is already a program to fast-track citizenship for people living in the Donbas.
3:59 a.m.: ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan spoke to CNN about his war crimes inquiry in Ukraine, saying, "We need to not lose hope, even in these desperately uncertain times."
3:45 a.m.: A proposal to condemn the regional health emergency triggered by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will come before a World Health Organization (WHO) assembly on Thursday, prompting a rival resolution from Moscow that makes no mention of its own role in the crisis, Reuters reported.
The original proposal, backed by the United States and more than 40 other countries, condemns Russia’s actions but stops short of immediately suspending its voting rights at the U.N. health agency. The Russian document backed by Syria, which echoes the language of the first text, will also be decided on, the report said.
2:15 a.m.: Reuters reported that the leader of Russian-backed separatists in the breakaway Donetsk region called on Thursday for the military operation in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to be accelerated, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said Kyiv had blocked water supplies to key cities in the north of the region and called for military action to be stepped up.
2:03 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, says that Russian forces are dealing with an increasing scarcity of high-precision weapons. "The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) noted that up to 60% of Russia’s high-precision stockpile has already been exhausted," the Institute said in a recent update. Additionally, it said, Russia is trying to force Ukrainians in occupied areas to cooperate with "occupation organs" and is trying to get Ukrainians into the Russian army.
1:30 a.m.: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to give a speech Thursday in which she plans to call on allies to continue support for Ukraine against Russian aggression.
In a speech to Bosnia and Herzegovina armed forces at Sarajevo’s Army Hall, The Guardian shared excerpts from prepared remarks. “Russia’s aggression cannot be appeased. It must be met with strength. We must not allow a prolonged and increasingly painful conflict to develop in Ukraine,” the newspaper reported.
Earlier, Truss announced plans for $100 million of U.K.-backed investment in the Western Balkans by 2025 to counter Russian efforts in the region, VOA’s national security correspondent Jeff Seldin reported.
1:15 a.m.: The U.K. defense ministry said Thursday Russia didn’t anticipate Ukraine’s resistance and ultimately the complacency of Russian commanders resulted in “significant losses across many of Russia’s more elite units,” in its daily report.
“The misemployment of the VDV [Russia’s airborne forces] in Ukraine highlights how Putin’s significant investment in the armed forces over the last 15 years has resulted in an unbalanced overall force,” the ministry said.
1:00 a.m.: Russian troops continue to attack eastern Ukraine, The Guardian reported Thursday, citing the Ukrainian military. 40 towns in the Donbas region are under fire, the report added.
12:02 a.m.: Al Jazeera reported that Russia has promised to allow foreign ships to leave ports in the Black Sea. A defense ministry official said 70 foreign vessels from 16 countries are currently in six ports in the Black Sea.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.