(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 earlier this month 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 28, 4:58 pm
House approves lend-lease measure to help expedite aid
The House voted 417-10 approving a measure that will make it easier for the U.S. to send military aid and equipment to Ukraine.
The Senate approved the measure by voice vote last month. It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The lend-lease program was created during WWII and was seen as a game-changer in the conflict, allowing the U.S. to quickly resupply Allies.
This enhanced lend-lease authority would be specific to helping remove obstacles to lending arms to Ukraine. It would not create a new program but would streamline the president’s current authority to lend the defense articles necessary to defend civilian populations.
The legislation would also require Biden to establish expedited delivery procedures for any military equipment loaned or leased to Ukraine to ensure timely delivery.
It would remain in effect for two years with the possibility of Congress extending the authority if needed.
-ABC News’ Mariam Khan
Apr 28, 4:02 pm
Kyiv targeted in shelling as UN chief visits
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Ukraine’s capital was hit by two missile strikes in the Shevchenkivsky district on Thursday.
At least one Russian missile struck a residential building. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister who was at the scene following the attack, told journalists at least six people were injured.
This came as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the city.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tweeted that the attack came right after Guterres visited Russia.
“The day before he was sitting at a long table in the Kremlin, and today explosions are above his head. Postcard from Moscow? Recall why [Russia] still takes a seat on the UN Security Council?” he tweeted.
This was the first strike on central Kyiv in over a week.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Apr 28, 2:35 pm
UN chief: Discussions ongoing on ways to evacuate civilians from Mariupol plant
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “intensive discussions” are ongoing on proposals to evacuate Ukrainian civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol.
“Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis,” Guterres said in a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday. “Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility. They need an escape route out of the apocalypse.”
Guterres said that during his visit to Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed “in principle” to the involvement of the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the plant.
Guterres said he and Zelenskyy had the opportunity to address the issue Thursday.
“As we speak, there are in intense discussions to move forward on this proposal to make it a reality,” he said.
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
Apr 28, 1:25 pm
UN chief visits sites of suspected war crimes
United Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited sites of suspected war crimes in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka.
In Irpin, Guterres visited the destroyed Irpinsky Lipki residential complex and said that the “horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately always true: Civilians always pay the highest price.”
Guterres urged Russia to cooperate with the investigation launched by the International Criminal Court.
Guterres, speaking from Bucha, said, “When we see this horrendous site, it makes me feel how important it is [to have] a thorough investigation and accountability.”
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
Apr 28, 12:46 pm
Slow Russian progress in Donbas, more training for Ukrainians on US weapons
There are now 92 operational Russian battalion tactical groups — each made up of about 700 to 1,000 troops — inside Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
Russia continues to suffer logistical problems, as it has since early in the invasion. This, on top of the Ukrainian defense, is slowing their progress.
“They’re only able to sustain several kilometers or so progress on any given day just because they don’t want to run out too far ahead of their logistics and sustainment lines,” the official said.
The official added, “We would assess that Russian forces are making slow and uneven, and frankly, we would describe it as incremental progress, in the Donbas.”
More than 54 of the 90 howitzers the U.S. is sending Ukraine have arrived in the country, the official said.
The first batch of 50 Ukrainians taken out of the country for training on U.S. artillery systems is back in Ukraine, where they can teach others what they’ve learned, the official said. A second group of 50 Ukrainians has begun its six days of training, the official said.
-ABC News’ Matt Seyler
Apr 28, 11:20 am
Biden asking Congress for $33 billion in supplemental aid for Ukraine over the next 5 months
President Joe Biden is asking Congress for a total of $33 billion in supplemental aid for Ukraine over the next five months, administration officials previewed in a Thursday morning call ahead of the president’s remarks.
Over $20 billion of the $33 billion will be for military and other security systems.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly,” Biden said in remarks later in the morning.
Biden stressed, “We’re not attacking Russia — we’re helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.”
The administration is also asking for an additional $8.5 billion in economic assistance to help provide basic services to the Ukrainian people.
Part of the package also includes targeted funding to address economic disruptions in the U.S. as a result of the war in Ukraine, like helping increase U.S. production of wheat and soybeans, “and funding to allow the use of the Defense Production Act to expand domestic production of critical reserves – of reserves of critical minerals and materials that have been disrupted by Putin’s war and are necessary to make everything from defense systems to cars,” a senior administration official said.
Biden insisted that, despite Russia’s claims, the U.S. is not fighting a proxy war.
“It shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance,” Biden said.
-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Armando Tonatiuh Torres-García
Apr 28, 8:00 am
Russia retains ability to strike Ukrainian coastal targets, UK says
The Russian Navy still has the ability to strike coastal targets in Ukraine, even after the “embarrassing losses” of two warships, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
In an intelligence update posted Thursday, the ministry said approximately 20 Russian naval vessels, including submarines, are currently in the “Black Sea operational zone.” But the ministry said Russia isn’t able to replace the missile cruiser Moskva because the Bosphorus strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships.
The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sunk in the Black Sea earlier this month while being towed to port after a fire onboard, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Ukrainian officials, however, claimed that ship was struck by Ukrainian missiles, which the Russian defense ministry has denied.
Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosions and fire on March 24.
Apr 28, 6:48 am
Separatist forces arrest over 100 captured Ukrainian troops in Donetsk
Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast claimed Thursday that they have arrested more than 100 captured Ukrainian troops suspected of being involved in crimes.
“Facts of involvement in crimes have been brought to light following investigators’ works. There are already more than 100 people who have been arrested by investigators,” Yury Sirovatko, justice minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state-owned television channel Rossiya 24 on Thursday.
Sirovatko on Wednesday told Channel One, a Russian state-controlled TV channel, that there are about 2,600 captured Ukrainian servicemen in the region.
Apr 28, 5:01 am
Russia accuses Ukraine of war crimes
Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine of committing war crimes by indiscriminately attacking civilian areas in Ukrainian cities.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces “launched a massive attack” using ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers on residential areas of Kherson in southern Ukraine late Wednesday.
“The indiscriminate missile attack launched by the nationalists targeted kindergartens, schools and various social facilities in residential areas near Ushakova avenue,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday. “Russian air defense units have repelled the attack of the Ukrainian troops launched at the residential districts of Kherson.”
The ministry also claimed that Ukrainian troops had launched indiscriminate attacks on residential areas of Izyum in eastern Ukraine.
“The Kyiv nationalist regime’s indiscriminate attacks on residential areas of Izyum and Kherson are a war crime and a gross violation of international humanitarian law,” the ministry added.
Ukraine did not immediately respond to the allegations.
Apr 28, 4:55 am
Putin ramps up nuclear threats, as US weapons head to Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at the possibility of nuclear warfare during his Wednesday address to the council of legislators.
“If someone from outside moves to interfere in the current developments, they should know that they will indeed create strategic threats to Russia, which are unacceptable to us, and they should know that our response to encounter assaults will be instant, it will be quick,” Putin said, according to Russian state media.
Putin claimed Russia’s response to strategic threats from outside Ukraine would be “immediate.”
“We have all the tools to do it, tools that others can’t boast of at the moment, but as for us, we won’t be boasting,” Putin said.
Putin said that Russia is prepared to use those “tools” if “the need arises,” adding that he “would like everyone to be aware of it.” A nuclear attack has been on the table since the onset of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin said. He had ordered his nuclear forces to be put on high alert on Feb 27.
Putin’s remarks came as Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced that “more than half” of the 90 howitzers the U.S. agreed to send to Ukraine were now in the country, adding that around 50 Ukrainian troops have already been trained to operate the weapons.
“We finished up earlier this week, the first tranche of more than 50 trainers that are going to go in and train their teammates,” Kirby said during a press briefing on Wednesday, a moment later adding, “But there was another tranche of more than 50 that we’re going to go through training in the same location outside Ukraine.”
The U.S. Department of Defense on Wednesday tweeted pictures of more howitzers “bound for Ukraine” that were being loaded onto US Air Force aircraft. Additional training opportunities on Howitzers and other weapons systems were also being explored, Kirby said.
As U.S. weapons head to Ukraine, Russia is increasing the pace of its offensive in almost all directions, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Thursday.
The U.S. is considering the legal aspects of officially listing Russia as a state-sponsor of terrorism, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told lawmakers on Wednesday. Officials said they haven’t yet determined whether Russia’s actions meet the legal standard required for the designation, Blinken said.
The designation, called for by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, would further cripple Russia’s trade potential, including bans on defense exports and limits on foreign aid.
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