(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian troops invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Russian forces have since been met with “stiff resistance” from Ukrainians, according to U.S. officials.
In recent days, Russian forces have retreated from northern Ukraine, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. After graphic images emerged of civilians lying dead in the streets of Bucha, a town northwest of Kyiv, the United States and European countries accused Russia of committing war crimes.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Apr 16, 9:59 am
Ukraine alleges Russia calling on additional units to storm Mariupol
Russian forces have not completely captured Mariupol, but the army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city, Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a press conference.
“The situation in Mariupol is difficult and hard. Fighting is happening right now. The Russian army is constantly calling on additional units to storm the city,” Motuzyanyk said.
Russian forces intend to totally close the city for entry and exit and prohibit movement between the districts and they are filtering out the men left in the city, advisor to the mayor Petro Andriushchenko alleged in a post on Telegram.
“After standard filtration bullying (interrogation, checking gadgets, examining the body) the men are separated from others and are subjected to separate interrogations, including an imitation of an execution,” Andriushchenko claimed.
He added: “In general, we can say that from 5 up to 10% do not pass the filtration and after that are exported to Dokuchaevsk and Donetsk. Their further fate is not known.”
Russian warships, armed with “Caliber” naval cruise missiles, in the Black Sea pose a threat against Ukrainian defense industry and logistics infrastructure, spokesman of the general staff of Ukraine Armed Forces, Alexandra Stupun said.
Stupun added: “In the waters of the Sea of Azov, the enemy’s naval group continues to carry out tasks to block the port of Mariupol and provide fire support in the coastal direction.”
Apr 16, 9:12 am
Romania bans Russian-flagged ships from its ports
The Romanian Naval Administration announced it has banned Russian-flagged ships from entering its ports.
The ban will take effect on Sunday.
Apr 16, 8:53 am
Russia bans UK’s Boris Johnson, members of cabinet from entering its territory
Russia announced it has banned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several members of his cabinet from entering its territory in response to what it claims are the British government’s hostilities, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
Russia said the ban was in response to sanctions placed on Russian senior officials by the British government.
In addition to Johnson, Russia banned the U.K.’s secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs; its secretary of state for defense; the deputy prime minister and secretary of state for justice; and several other members of the British government.
Apr 15, 7:19 pm
Zelenskyy details recovery in hundreds of ‘de-occupied’ settlements
During his latest national address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy detailed the recovery of “normal life” in areas that have been rid of Russian occupiers.
“The restoration of normal life in those areas and districts where the occupiers were expelled continues,” Zelenskyy said, noting that 918 settlements “have already been de-occupied.”
“We carry out demining. We restore the supply of electricity, water and gas. We restore the work of the police, post office, state and local authorities,” he continued.
Other work includes restoring the railways, including the connection between Chernihiv and Nizhyn and in the Sumy region, and resuming medical care and education. Across Ukraine, 1,018 educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged, according to Zelenskyy.
Four-fifths of Ukrainian businesses have also returned to work “in a safe area,” in particular heavy industry enterprises, the president said.
Southern and eastern Ukraine, however, are “far from talking about recovery,” he said.
“In the occupied districts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, the Russian military continue to terrorize civilian residents of our country,” Zelenskyy said.
Apr 15, 6:35 pm
Zelenskyy asked Biden to designate Russia a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’, official says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked President Joe Biden to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” during their call earlier this week, a U.S. official confirmed.
The White House and State Department have not responded to questions about Zelenskyy’s appeal or the designation, but last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed an openness to it.
“In terms of other designations based on actions that Russia’s taking, we are and we will look at everything,” he told reporters during a press conference.
The designation, which is normally reserved for states that are arming and funding terror groups, carries some of the most severe sanctions under U.S. law — although Russia is already under many of them.
Currently there are four countries on the list: Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba. The latter two were added by the Trump administration.
Apr 15, 3:26 pm
Russia claims it intercepted Ukrainian missile strike targeting power station
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it prevented an attempt by the Ukrainians to hit Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station with two Tochka-U tactical missiles on Friday morning.
Russia claimed the missiles were shot down in mid-air and shrapnel from one of them fell on Novaya Kakhovka, Kherson region, damaging Kindergarten and residential buildings.
The facility regulates the flow of the Dnepr River, supplies electricity to Kherson region, and supplies water to agricultural areas in southern Ukraine and northern Crimea, according to Russia.
Russia claimed if the station was hit, it would have caused the release of Dnepr water and caused flooding of Kherson region settlements.
Apr 15, 2:35 pm
Over 900 civilian bodies allegedly found in Kyiv region, Ukrainian police say
More than 900 bodies of civilians were discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, Kyiv region Police Chief Andriy Nebytov said in a press briefing.
“I want to say that the number of killed civilians has surpassed 900 – and I emphasize, these are civilians, whose bodies we have discovered and handed over for forensic examination,” Nebytov said.
He later said, “Bucha has the most significant number of victims. This suggests that the occupiers, the units, that operated in Bucha, were the most brutal. The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses.”
Nebytov claimed Russian forces were forcing Ukrainians to work for Russia.
“We understand that during the occupation, the Russian army established a certain modus operandi, trying to find people who have influence over the community and force them to work for Russia,” Nebytov said.
Nebytov said the bodies had been abandoned in the streets or were buried in temporary graves.
“There were two mass graves, if we can say so. There was a person, a communal worker, who worked before the war in Bucha. He stayed in the city and actually asked the occupiers to allow him to take away the people’s bodies from the streets. He buried them in two graves. The first was for 40 dead people, the second for 57 dead people,” Nebytov said.
He added: “Among them was one of our policemen, a criminal investigation officer, who unfortunately was also shot with a small weapon. Most of these bodies have been examined, and I want to say that 95% of the people were killed by sniper rifles or small arms. That is, we understand that during the occupation, people were shot in the streets.”
Apr 15, 1:25 pm
US believes Ukrainian missiles sunk Russian warship
Senior U.S. defense officials believe Russia’s sunken Moskva cruiser was hit by two Ukrainian-launched Neptune missiles, bolstering claims from Ukrainian officials on Thursday.
The officials could not confirm how many Russian crew members were injured or killed in the attack or subsequent fire and eventual sinking.
Apr 15, 1:24 pm
Russia sent US diplomatic note protesting aid to Ukraine
The U.S. received a formal diplomatic note from Russia protesting U.S. and NATO military aid to Ukraine and accused them of violating principles and potentially risking weapons falling into bad actors’ hands, a U.S. official briefed on the note confirmed to ABC News.
The Russian government previously warned the U.S. and NATO against providing weapons and other military equipment. Both Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and one of his deputies, Sergei Ryabkov, also warned that Western convoys providing military aid were “legitimate targets” for Russian attack.
The White House referred questions to the State Department, but a State Department spokesperson declined to comment on “any private diplomatic correspondence.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price also declined to confirm the report, but during an interview with CNN, said, “The Russians have said some things privately. They have said some things publicly. Nothing will dissuade us from the strategy that we’ve embarked on.”
Another source said it shows the effectiveness of U.S. weapon deliveries and security assistance, that Russia is upset is happening.
Price also told CNN that the war in Ukraine could drag on through the end of this year into next year, something other U.S. officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, have warned about as well.
“It is possible … but what we’re trying to do is to shorten this conflict,” Price told CNN, by providing Ukraine with “unprecedented amount of security assistance” and applying pressure on Russia.
The Washington Post first reported on the diplomatic note.
Apr 15, 5:55 am
Ukrainian commander issues urgent plea in Mariupol
Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, which is engaged in a brutal fight to defend Mariupol against invading Russian forces, has issued an urgent plea for military reinforcements or a political solution — anything to break Russia’s siege of the Ukrainian port city.
In an interview Friday with Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, the commander said the situation is critical and the fighting is fierce.
“It can be done and it must be done as soon as possible,” Volyna added.
Despite Russia’s relentless bombardment for more than a month, the 36th Marine Brigade along with units of the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, have held down Mariupol. They have refused to surrender, vowing to fight until the end.
-ABC News’ Yulia Drozd
Apr 14, 9:06 pm
Zelenskyy remarks on 50 days of war: ‘Ukraine became a hero’
During his latest daily address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy observed that Ukraine has withstood 50 days of the Russian invasion.
“During the 50 days of this war, Ukraine became a hero for the whole free world,” he said.
Zelenskyy said he was grateful to those who have supported the country, though said that during the last 50 days he’s started to view world leaders in a different light.
“I have seen politicians behaving as if they had no power, and I have seen non-politicians who did more in these 50 days than some statesmen who claimed leadership,” he said.
Zelenskyy praised how Ukraine has defended itself, including those “who have shown that Russian ships can go … to the bottom only” — a nod to the sinking of the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship vessel, Moskva.
Ukrainian government officials had claimed on Wednesday its armed forces fired missiles that damaged the vessel.
-ABC News’ Fidel Pavlenko
Apr 14, 5:46 pm
US says its assessment could conclude Russia committed genocide
The U.S. Department of State’s s ongoing review of atrocities in Ukraine could conclude with a determination that genocide has been committed by Russian forces, spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday.
The comments come after President Joe Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine as genocide.
Price told reporters during a briefing Thursday that there was some “misimpression” about the process, but that the department’s effort to document, compile and analyze evidence of atrocities, which determined last month that Russian forces were committing war crimes, could include a determination on genocide.
“That same broader process the process to collect, analyze, share, document evidence of atrocities and potential atrocity crimes is the very same one that could ultimately inform other potential atrocity crime determinations, including the atrocity crime of genocide,” Price said.
Price reiterated that the U.S. is working with the Ukrainian prosecutor-general, whose office has clear jurisdiction for potential war crimes trials.
The U.S. has been providing the Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office with the evidence it has collected, though it has not yet provided that information to the International Criminal Court, of which it’s not a member.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s chief, Karim A.A. Khan, currently is in Ukraine surveying scenes of atrocities in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Borodyanka.
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford and Conor Finnegan
Apr 14, 5:12 pm
France moving its Ukraine embassy back to Kyiv
France is planning to move its embassy back to Kyiv “very soon” after relocating it more than 500 miles away in Lviv in western Ukraine when hostilities began to heat up around the capital city in March, the French foreign minister said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement in a phone call Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.
“This redeployment will take place very soon and will make it possible to further deepen the support provided by France to Ukraine in all areas to deal with the war launched by Russia on February 24,” Le Drian said in a statement.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price was asked at a briefing if the United States was considering a similar move now that the bulk of the fighting has shifted in Ukraine from the south of the country to the east. The U.S. embassy in Ukraine was also moved from Kyiv to Lviv following the start of the Russian invasion, but embassy staff has been working from Poland in recent days, Price said.
Price told reporters that the State Department is “always reviewing” the possibility of moving the embassy back to Kyiv, but the embassy team remains in Poland and is not crossing the border into Lviv as they had been.
“Obviously, our goal is to have a functioning diplomatic presence in Ukraine as soon as it is safe and practical for us to do so,” Price said.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
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