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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Sept. 14

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of a tank on a road in the recaptured area of Izium, Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of a tank on a road in the recaptured area of Izium, Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

10:15 p.m.: Poland will formally ask Russia to return seven paintings now in a leading Moscow museum that were looted during World War II by the Soviet Red Army, the Polish culture minister said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Piotr Glinski also said that about 20 previous requests to Moscow for the return of thousands of other items stolen during WWII have fallen on deaf ears. The previously requested items included archives of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, paintings by Old Masters such as Durer, Holbein or Cranach, and manuscripts by Polish writers.

The new request concerns seven paintings – by Italian artists – that are now at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. They date from the 14th to the 18th century and include "Two Saints" by Spinello Aretino and "Adoration of the Child" by Lorenzo di Credi.

Before the war, they were in the collections of the Czartoryski family in Goluchow, at the Wilanow Palace, and in Poznan, Wroclaw and Lodz.

Glinski said it is hard to estimate how much of Poland's art and culture was destroyed or looted by occupying Nazi German and Soviet troops during the war, but at the time it was believed that Polish museums had lost about 50% of their collections.

9:12 p.m.: The Biden administration has picked a veteran foreign service officer with years of experience in Russian affairs as its nominee to be the next ambassador to Russia, according to The Associated Press.

Administration officials familiar with the matter say the nomination of Lynne Tracy, the current U.S. ambassador to Armenia, will be submitted to the Senate as soon as the Russian government signs off on the choice. Ambassadorial nominations must be approved by the host government under the rules of diplomatic protocol.

Such approval is generally routine, but Russia's acceptance of President Joe Biden's pick for ambassador cannot be taken for granted at a time of particularly fraught U.S.-Russian relations over Ukraine, the detention of Americans in Russia, allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. and other elections, and an escalating spat over the staffing of embassies in Washington and Moscow.

Tracy, who speaks Russian, previously served as a senior adviser for Russian affairs in the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. She also held several posts in Central and South Asia.

The previous U.S. ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, left earlier this month, in a departure that had been expected this fall but was accelerated by the failing health of his wife, who died a day after his return.

8:27 p.m.: A French court has rejected an appeal placed by an offshore holding company against the seizure of a superyacht linked to a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, according to a ruling published on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Amore Vero, which the French authorities maintain is owned by a company linked to the chief executive of Russian state oil giant Rosneft Igor Sechin, was seized by France in early March.

The seizure of the vessel was part of EU sanctions imposed against Russian oligarchs over the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The vessel, some 86 meters long, with a swimming pool that can be transformed into a helipad and an estimated value exceeding $100 million, is held in the port of La Ciotat outside Marseille where it had been undergoing work.

7:40 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government are studying proposals drawn up by senior officials and the former head of NATO that envisage Western countries providing future security guarantees to Kyiv.

Russia has condemned the draft document, which also underlines Ukraine's continued "aspiration to join NATO and benefit from its mutual defense arrangements."

Moscow views NATO's eastern expansion as a direct threat to its own security and has cited the prospect of Ukraine building closer ties with the alliance as a major reason for its invasion on February 24.

Zelenskyy praised the report, drawn up by a working group that included his chief of staff Andriy Yermak and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former NATO Secretary-General.

The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at bolstering the country's longer term security that fall short of offering full NATO membership, which some member states are wary of doing because of Russia's opposition.

"This requires a multi-decade effort of sustained investment in Ukraine’s defense industrial base, scalable weapons transfers and intelligence support from allies, intensive training missions and joint exercises under the European Union and NATO flags," the report said.

"(The Kyiv Security Compact) will bring a core group of allied countries together with Ukraine," it said, adding that these could include many leading NATO members including the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Poland.

7 p.m.: Vladimir Putin still believes he was right to launch an invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday after a 90-minute-long telephone call with the Russian president, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Sadly, I cannot tell you that the impression has grown that it was a mistake to begin this war," Scholz told journalists a day after his exchange with Putin.

In the call Tuesday with Putin, Scholz urged the Russian leader to seek a diplomatic solution "based on a cease-fire, a complete withdrawal of Russian forces and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukraine."

The exit of Russian troops from Ukraine was the only way for "peace to have a chance in the region," Scholz said Wednesday.

While Putin's positions did not appear to have shifted, the German chancellor said it was necessary to remain in conversation with the Russian leader.

6:10 p.m.: Ukraine's foreign minister confirmed that the United Nations had started talks on reopening an ammonia pipeline from Russia to Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa, Reuters reported.

The pipeline has been shut as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Ukraine did not initiate these talks; this is an initiative from the U.N.," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a news conference in Odesa, adding that Ukraine would not approve any deal that contradicted its national security interests.

5:20 p.m.: The southern Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih faced rising water levels in the Inhulets River on Wednesday after Russia fired eight cruise missiles at local infrastructure, an official said, according to Reuters.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, posted a video of what appeared to be a small bridge being washed away.

"Rockets were directed at hydraulic structures. This caused water level of (the) Inhulets river to increase, threatening the city," he tweeted.

Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of the president's office, said earlier that there had been no civilian casualties in the attack and accused Russian of trying to sow panic.

4:45 p.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised he would lead Ukraine to victory in its war against Russia as he visited shrapnel-blasted, recently recaptured towns on Wednesday, while pro-Russian officials claimed to have halted Kyiv's forces for now, Reuters reported.

During a surprise visit Wednesday to Izium, he watched as the Ukrainian flag was raised in front of the charred city council building.

"Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in de-occupied Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village," he wrote in a social media post.

On the main thoroughfare, no buildings were left unscathed: a derelict bath house had a hole blasted in its side; meat shops, pharmacies, a shoe shop and a beauty salon were sprayed with shrapnel.

Earlier Wednesday, an emotional-looking Zelenskyy handed out medals to soldiers who had taken part in the operation to free the area in Balakliya, another town retaken in recent days, where citizens and local police told reporters civilians were killed during months of Russian occupation.

4:06 p.m.: German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said it is too early to tell whether Ukraine's significant territorial advances in recent days mark a turning point in the war prompted by Russia's invasion of its neighbor, Reuters reported.

"This is hard to assess because we don't know how the Russians will react now (to Ukraine's counter-offensive)," Lambrecht told Reuters in an interview at the defense ministry in Berlin.

"But it is definitely a remarkable success that will contribute to Russia's destabilization," she added, speaking of a weakening of the Russian military.

Russian forces suffered a stunning reversal this month after Ukrainian troops made a rapid armored thrust with special forces in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, forcing a sometimes rushed and chaotic Russian withdrawal.

3:15 p.m.: The Biden administration has picked a veteran foreign service officer with years of experience in Russian affairs as its nominee to be the next ambassador to Russia, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Administration officials familiar with the matter say the nomination of Lynne Tracy, the current U.S. ambassador to Armenia, will be submitted to the Senate as soon as the Russian government signs off on the choice. Ambassadorial nominations must be approved by the host government under the rules of diplomatic protocol.

Such approval is generally routine, but Russia’s acceptance of President Joe Biden’s pick for ambassador cannot be taken for granted at a time of particularly fraught U.S.-Russian relations over Ukraine, the detention of Americans in Russia, allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. and other elections, and an escalating spat over the staffing of embassies in Washington and Moscow.

The ambassador opening comes as many Russia experts in the United States who might have been candidates for the Moscow post have been banned from Russia. Russia was informed of the administration’s decision to choose Tracy’s several weeks ago but has not yet given its formal approval, known as “agrément” in diplomatic parlance, the officials said.

2:30 p.m.:

2:10 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin told United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday that he welcomed "constructive" cooperation with the IAEA nuclear watchdog following its visit to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the Kremlin said, according to Reuters.

The Kremlin also said in its readout of the phone call that Putin and Guterres discussed a deal on exports of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports as well as exports of Russian food and fertilizers.

2 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday about prospects for peace as well as other topics, VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported.

“The last time I spoke to President Putin was this morning,” he told a media briefing. " It would be naïve to think that we are close to the possibility of a peace deal. My good offices are ready. But I have no illusions that at the present moment the chances of a peace deal are minimal. At the present moment. Obviously, I go on with my contacts with both sides. And hope one day it will be possible to move into a higher level of discussion," he said.

Guterres also said he discussed with Putin the potential for export of Russian fertilizer through in line with the recent Black Sea Grain Initiative, the issue of prisoners of war and a fact-finding mission to Olenvika where a number of Ukrainian POWs lost their lives, and ongoing issues at the Zaporizhizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

“I usually do not say what I say in phone calls, my positions are known," Guterres said.

1:40 p.m.: Over 3 million metric tons of agricultural goods have been exported from Ukraine through Black Sea ports since August, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

“According to the Infrastructure Ministry, a total of 134 ships loaded with agricultural products were bound for Asian, European, and African countries,” the media outlet said.

1:25 p.m.:

1:10 p.m.: Ukraine’s government said Wednesday that its forces are constructing fortifications in areas in the northeast where it recently regained territory from Russia’s military, according to the Kyiv Independent.

“Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine is building new fortifications on recently liberated territories to prevent their recapture by Russian forces,” the media outlet reported.

12:50 p.m.: Some 1,500 troops have been sent from a vast Russian military base in Tajikistan to Ukraine, where the Russian Army is said to have suffered enormous casualties in its unprovoked war, multiple sources told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

About 600 more soldiers are set to be dispatched to the frontlines from Russian military facilities located in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, and the southern city of Bokhtar, the sources said.

It comes as hundreds of contract soldiers were deployed from Russia's Kant Air Base in neighboring Kyrgyzstan to Ukraine in recent months, according to residents, activists, and soldiers' relatives. Both Central Asian countries -- allies of Moscow -- host one Russian base each with multiple facilities in several locations.

The number of Russian personnel in Tajikistan is estimated at up to 7,000 troops, while Kyrgyzstan reportedly hosts about 500 Russian servicemen. The exact figures haven’t been made public.

Officials at the Russian military bases have not yet responded to RFE/RL’s requests for comment on the reported redeployments and RFE/RL cannot independently verify the movement of Russian troops from Central Asia to Ukraine.

12:25 p.m.:

11:50 a.m.: The Kremlin played down the impact of lost gas sales to Europe on Wednesday, saying there were other countries willing to buy Russian energy as Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on Moscow, Reuters reported.

Responding to a question about whether a prolonged halt in gas exports to Europe would prove impossible in the long run, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a briefing that other buyers would be able to offset European demand.

"Europe is not the only consumer of natural gas and not the only continent that needs natural gas," Peskov said. "There are regions developing at a much faster pace ... they can compensate for the (reduced) demand for (Russian) gas in Europe," he said.

Since the start of what Russia calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, the European Union has pledged to reduce its reliance on Russian energy, introducing restrictions on Russian oil imports and proposing a price cap on Russian gas.

11:30 a.m.:

11:10 a.m.: The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office has denied a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk that Russian teachers in territories liberated from Russian occupying troops had been detained, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Ihor Belousov of the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office told Current Time that no Russian teachers were detained by Ukrainian armed forces in "de-occupied territories" of Ukraine.

Sources in prosecutor's offices in Ukraine's Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions also told Current Time that no Russian teachers were arrested in the regions' districts retaken under Kyiv's control in recent days.

On September 12, Vereshchuk said Ukrainian forces arrested an unspecified number of Russian teachers who moved to Ukraine to teach a Russian curriculum at local Ukrainian schools in regions taken under Russian armed forces' control during Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in late February.

10:35 a.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday started his first foreign trip since the outbreak of the pandemic with a stop in Kazakhstan ahead of a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other leaders of a Central Asian security group, The Associated Press reported.

Wearing a blue suit and a face mask, Xi was met on the airport tarmac by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and an honor guard, all of whom wore masks.

Xi’s trip underlines the importance Beijing places on asserting its role as a regional leader amid tension with Washington, Japan and India.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that after his visit to Kazakhstan, Xi flew to Samarkand in neighboring Uzbekistan for a summit of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by China and Russia.

Beijing and Moscow see the SCO as a counterweight to U.S. alliances in East Asia. Other SCO governments include India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Observers include Iran and Afghanistan.

The Chinese leader is promoting a “Global Security Initiative” announced in April following the formation of the Quad by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in response to Beijing’s more assertive foreign policy. Xi has given few details, but U.S. officials complain it echoes Russian arguments in support of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

Xi and Putin plan to hold a one-on-one meeting and discuss Ukraine, according to the Russian president’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.

10 a.m.:

9:25 a.m.: The successes of the Ukrainian army, which has liberated a significant territory in the northeast and south of Ukraine, may improve the forecasts of the winter sowing area for the 2023 grain crop, a deputy agriculture minister said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Ukrainian farmers have already started winter sowing and the ministry says the sowing area could fall by 35% this year to around 4.7 million hectares due to the Russian invasion. Farms sow winter wheat, winter barley, rape and rye.

“Regarding the liberation of Ukrainian territories from occupation by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we have reasonable optimism that this forecast of 4.7 million hectares will improve,” Markiyan Dmytrasevych said.

The ministry said on Tuesday farms in almost all regions had started sowing winter wheat for the 2023 harvest, seeding 141,000 hectares, or 3.5% of the expected area.

Ukraine harvested 19 million metric tons of wheat this year compared with around 32.2 million tonnes in 2021. Hostilities in many regions and the occupation of large areas by Russia accounted for the decline.

8:55 a.m.: Many Russians on the street say they are deeply skeptical about their army's sudden retreat in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, where they left tanks, armored vehicles and artillery behind, fleeing advancing defenders over the past week. RFE/RL has this report.

8:40 a.m.: Vladimir Putin's chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader as the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia's demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and pressed ahead with his military campaign, according to three people close to the Russian leadership.

The Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, told Putin that he believed the deal he had hammered out removed the need for Russia to pursue a large-scale occupation of Ukraine, according to these sources. Kozak's recommendation to Putin to adopt the deal is being reported by Reuters for the first time.

Putin had repeatedly asserted prior to the war that NATO and its military infrastructure were creeping closer to Russia's borders by accepting new members from eastern Europe, and that the alliance was now preparing to bring Ukraine into its orbit too. Putin publicly said that represented an existential threat to Russia, forcing him to react.

But, despite earlier backing the negotiations, Putin made it clear when presented with Kozak's deal that the concessions negotiated by his aide did not go far enough and that he had expanded his objectives to include annexing swathes of Ukrainian territory, the sources said. The upshot: the deal was dropped.

Asked about Reuters findings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "That has absolutely no relation to reality. No such thing ever happened. It is absolutely incorrect information."

Kozak did not respond to requests for comment sent via the Kremlin.

8:30 a.m.:

8:15 a.m.: The European Union's executive outlined plans on Wednesday for raising more than 140 billion euros ($140 billion) to cope with an energy crisis that has increased the prospect of winter fuel rationing, corporate insolvencies and economic recession, Reuters reported.

European gas prices have rocketed this year as Russia has reduced fuel exports to retaliate for Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, leaving households struggling to pay energy bills and utilities grappling with a liquidity crunch.

European governments have responded with measures ranging from capping prices on consumer electricity and gas bills to offering credit and guarantees to prevent power providers from collapsing under the weight of collateral demands.

"EU Member States have already invested billions of euros to assist vulnerable households. But we know this will not be enough," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen members of the European Parliament.

She unveiled plans to cap revenues from those electricity generators that have gained from surging power prices but do not rely on costly gas. She also outlined plans to force fossil fuel firms to share windfall profits from energy sales.

But her announcement did not include an earlier EU idea to cap Russian gas prices. That idea has divided member states, after Russia warned it could cut of all fuel supplies. Von der Leyen said the Commission was still discussing the idea.

Europe has been racing to refill its storage facilities and has already met target to have them 80% full by November. But Russia's moves to cut supplies, including via the major Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany, makes the winter outlook uncertain.

8 a.m.:

7:50 a.m.: Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis told the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and other faith leaders Wednesday that religion must never be used to justify the “evil” of war and that God must never “be held hostage to the human thirst for power,” The Associated Press reported.

Francis opened an interfaith conference in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan by challenging delegations to unite in condemning war and religious justifications for it. He cited a Kazakh poet in warning that “he who permits evil and does not oppose it cannot be regarded as a true believer. At best he is a half-hearted believer.”

In the audience of the 80 imams, patriarchs, rabbis and muftis was Metropolitan Anthony, in charge of foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, which has firmly backed Russia’s invasion. His boss, Patriarch Kirill, was supposed to have participated in the congress but canceled last month.

Kirill has supported Russia’s invasion on spiritual and ideological grounds, calling it a “metaphysical” battle with the West. He has blessed Russian soldiers going into war and invoked the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.

Francis didn’t mention Russia or Ukraine in his remarks to the Kazakh conference. But he insisted that faith leaders themselves must take the lead in promoting a culture of peace, since it would be hypocritical to expect that non-believers would promote peace if religious leaders don’t.

7:35 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday tweeted a video showing what life is like in the village of Balakliya, in Kharkiv region, now that Russian occupying forces have been driven out of the area in a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive over the past week. The video was produced by United24, an organization founded by Zelenskyy to collect charitable donations in support of Ukraine.

7:20 a.m.: There’s not much left of Hrakove, a devastated Ukrainian village emerging from Russian occupation, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Its houses and shops lie in ruins, its school is a bombed-out hull. The church is scarred by rockets and shells, but the golden dome above its blasted belfry still gleams in the fading autumn light.

Only about 30 people remain, living in basements and gutted buildings in this small village southeast of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, according to resident Anatolii Klyzhen. About 1,000 lived here when Russian troops rolled over the border in February, occupying the village shortly after.

Those forces abandoned Hrakove around September 9 as Ukrainian soldiers advanced in a lightning counteroffensive. That blitz could be a turning point, setting the stage for further gains in the east and elsewhere — but it could also trigger a violent response from Moscow, leading to a new and dangerous escalation in the war.

There were no signs the Russian soldiers were about to leave. “Nobody knew anything. They left very quietly,” said Viacheslav Myronenko, 71, who has lived in the basement of his bombed-out apartment building with three neighbors for more than four months.

The detritus of a fleeing army still litters the village: packs of empty Russian army food rations, abandoned crates with instructions for using grenades, a gas mask dangling on a tree, an army jacket trampled into the mud. Just outside the village by the bus stop, a Russian tank lies rusting on a road pockmarked with craters from shells, its turret and cannon blown off its body.

7:10 a.m.:

6:15 a.m.: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy on Wednesday visited the newly recaptured town of Izium, a key supply hub in the northeastern Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian military brigade said, following the departure of Russian troops a few days ago, Reuters reported.

“The President of Ukraine thanked the soldiers for liberating Ukrainian lands, and solemnly raised the Ukrainian flag over the city council,” the 25th Separate Airborne Sicheslav Brigade said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The post included photographs of the president, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar and senior military personnel at the ceremony.

6 a.m.: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, whose work in recent years has focused on the release of detainees, was in Moscow this week, according to a person familiar with the matter.

It is not clear who Richardson met with, and The Richardson Center for Global Engagement declined to give details to news organizations.

Among his efforts has been advocating for Russia to release American basketball star Brittney Griner and American Paul Whelan.

Griner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison for drug possession, while Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage-related charges.

The United States has offered Russia what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said was a “substantial offer” that is believed to have included the U.S. swapping jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Whelan.

5 a.m.: Volkswagen truck subsidiary Traton said Tuesday that two of its divisions are selling their business activities in Russia to local partners, transactions expected to lead to a loss of up to $550 million, The Associated Press reported.

Traton said both MAN Truck & Bus and Scania “are disposing their sales companies in the Russian Federation to local sales partners,” which were not identified. It said Scania also is disposing of its Russian financing business.

The transactions still need approval from the Traton and Volkswagen supervisory boards, as well as various Russian regulatory authorities. They are expected to be completed by next year’s first quarter, Traton said in a statement.

4:30 a.m.: Denmark has agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on Danish soil, Ritzau news agency quoted Defense Minister Morten Bodskov as saying after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Bodskov could not provide details about the number of Ukrainian soldiers, or timing or location of the training, Ritzau reported. The defense ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The ministry said in August that Denmark would support a British-led training project with 130 soldiers.

Denmark has contributed to both British and Canadian training missions in Ukraine since 2015 and provided weapons and cybersecurity support to Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor in February.

4 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized Russia for targeting energy infrastructure in its attacks over the past days, The Associated Press reported.

“Hundreds and thousands of Ukrainians found themselves in the dark — without electricity. Houses, hospitals, schools, communal infrastructure ... sites that have absolutely nothing to do with the infrastructure of the armed forces of our country.”

Among Kharkiv’s battle-scarred apartment buildings, one man who returned to feed the birds struck a defiant tone, saying that the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive would likely prompt harsh Russian retaliation against civilian targets. But he said it would not succeed in intimidating ordinary Ukrainians.

Putin “does not know what to do, and he will strike here even more. Just on infrastructure,” said Serhii who only gave his first name.

“He will strike so we don’t have water, electricity, to create more chaos and intimidate us. But he will not succeed because we will survive, and Putin will soon croak!”

3:20 a.m.: Western sanctions on Russia are having a real impact and are there to stay, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, stressing that the European Union’s solidarity with Ukraine would be “unshakeable.”

With Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska the guest of honor as she delivered her annual state of the union speech, von der Leyen was set to unveil proposals to curb the energy price spike that has hit Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“Never before has this Parliament debated the State of our Union with war raging on European soil,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where many lawmakers and EU commissioners wore Ukraine’s blue and yellow colors.

“And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” von der Leyen said, adding: “Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable.”

Von der Leyen, whose proposals to help European households and companies will include skimming off windfall profits from energy companies and imposing cuts in electricity usage across the bloc, said the bloc would also help rebuild Ukraine.

3 a.m.: Russia’s Gazprom said on Wednesday that it will ship 42.4 million cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via Ukraine, a volume unchanged from yesterday, Reuters reported, citing state-owned TASS news agency.

1 a.m.: Russia has likely used Iranian-made uncrewed aerial vehicles in Ukraine for the first time, Britian’s defense intelligence said on Wednesday, after Kyiv reported downing one of the UAVs on Tuesday.

“Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle,” it said in a regular update.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Wednesday that Russian forces had launched three missile strikes, 33 air strikes and fired 58 rocket artillery strikes at military and civilian targets over the past 24 hours, Reuters reported.

12:30 a.m.: In Verbivka, a village northwest of Balakliya, Nadia Khvostok, 76, described the traumatic occupation and the arrival of Ukrainian troops, saying residents greeted them “with tears in our eyes.”

“We could not have been happier. My grandchildren spent two and a half months in the cellar. When the corner of the house was torn off, the children began to shudder and stutter,” she said.

The village school, where the Russians were based, was destroyed and trees on the road to the village and a cement factory showed battle scars. Elsewhere were abandoned Russian vehicles, including a military truck with a smashed windscreen. Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syehubov, who came to Verbivka, said the authorities were trying to record crimes committed by Russians during their occupation of the area, and recover the bodies of victims.

“We’re asking everyone around about all the places of burial which can be found,” he said. “We have found some places of the burial of civilians. We are continuing with the process of exhumation. So far, we know of at least five people, but unfortunately this is not the end, believe me.”

Moscow denies its forces have committed atrocities in areas they have controlled.

12:05 a.m.: Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s general staff, accused Russian forces of committing hundreds of war crimes in territory they once held, The Associated Press reported.

He said the danger of minefields in liberated towns and villages remained high, and ammunition and high explosives have been strewn across 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles).

“The defense forces are taking measures to return peaceful life to the liberated communities as soon as possible,” he said.

While dozens of towns and villages were liberated, authorities moved into several areas to investigate alleged atrocities against civilians by Russian troops.

The Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office said four bodies bearing signs of torture were found in the village of Zaliznychne. It’s not clear how many other places investigators have entered.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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