(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.
Russian forces have since retreated from northern Ukraine, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. The United States and many European countries accused Russia of committing war crimes after graphic images emerged of dead civilians in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv. The Russian military has now 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 20, 1:45 pm
Blinken warns atrocities in Mariupol ‘far worse’ than Bucha
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wednesday that he thinks the atrocities in the port city of Mariupol will show to be “far worse” than in Bucha, where, after Russian troops retreated, there were found to be scores of civilians killed, and in some cases, tortured.
“We can only anticipate that when this tide also at some point recedes from Mariupol, we’re going to see far worse — if that’s possible to imagine,” Blinken said during a press conference in Panama.
Blinken expressed some doubts about Russia’s offer of humanitarian corridors for Ukrainian civilians and service members to leave Mariupol.
“Of course, we want to see people who are in harm’s way, if they’re able to, leave it safely and securely,” he said. “The judgment on whether the humanitarian corridor established to do that from Mariupol is safe and secure is one ultimately that the Ukrainian government is going to make … and ultimately, the decision to leave is going to be a burden on the people themselves to make that very difficult decision.”
He said the U.S. is “certainly assisting” by giving its evaluations and assessments of the situation to the Ukrainian government.
But Blinken warned: “What gives pause is the fact that there have been agreements on humanitarian corridors established before that have fallen apart very, very quickly – if not immediately – principally because the security has been violated by Russian forces.”
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Apr 20, 1:00 pm
New military aid package to focus on artillery, ammunition
The Biden administration is preparing to announce another military aid package for Ukraine worth roughly $800 million, a U.S. official said. Details have not been determined but the package is believed to focus more on artillery and ammunition.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Apr 20, 12:54 pm
Yellen to meet with Ukrainian prime minister
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will hold a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, a Treasury Department spokesperson confirmed. Ukraine’s finance minister will also attend.
The meeting will take place during the annual conferences of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The conferences draw leaders from the G20, of which Russia is currently a member.
While Yellen will participate in some meetings and panels where Russian officials will be present, she will skip others, a Treasury Department official said.
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky
Apr 20, 10:58 am
Tennis players from Russia, Belarus banned from Wimbledon Championships
Tennis players from Russia and Belarus have been banned from this summer’s Wimbledon Championships due to the “unjustified and unprecedented military aggression” in Ukraine, The All England Lawn Tennis Club said.
“It would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players,” the statement said, adding: “If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly.”
Apr 20, 9:44 am
Ukrainian refugees top five million
Over five million people have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The majority of those refugees — over 2.8 million — are in Poland.
Apr 20, 7:55 am
Russia again calls for surrender at Mariupol steel plant
Russia’s military issued another ultimatum on Wednesday, calling for Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and leave a Mariupol steel plant, according to Russian state media.
Moscow claimed that Ukrainian troops and civilians would be allowed to leave the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant without harm during a cease-fire beginning at 2 p.m. local time.
Ukrainian forces at the besieged plant rejected a similar offer on Tuesday.
More than 1,000 civilians are sheltering on the grounds of the sprawling industrial plant, the Mariupol City Council said on Monday.
A Russian official, Dmitry Polyansky, on Tuesday accused Ukrainian troops of using civilians at the plant as human shields.
“One month into the siege of Azovstal plant, those same radicals and neo-Nazis suddenly declared that allegedly there had been civilians inside the plant all that time, even though until yesterday, they had never uttered a word about it,” Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council during a session on Ukraine on Tuesday.
Apr 19, 11:40 pm
Russia could be making probing attacks ahead of larger assault in Donbas: US official
As Ukrainian forces brace for a full-scale assault in the eastern part of the country, a U.S. official said the increased pace of operations from Russian forces in the past 24 hours could be probing attacks or the beginning of the main battle for the Donbas.
The defense official said the Russian offensive to seize southeastern Ukraine will likely involve a frontal assault from inside Russia and a double envelopment, or encircling, of Ukrainian forces in the Donbas. Russian forces will come south from Izyum and troops in the Berdyansk area will move north to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Joint Forces Operations area in the Donbas.
But the U.S. defense official said Ukraine has the advantage in the region since they have prepared a defense for years, including digging trenches, preparing anti-armor traps and ambush locations and more.
The U.S. and other countries have now provided close to 70,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine as well as 30,000 anti-aircraft missiles and 7,000 launchers to fire them, according to the defense official.
As for stopping the shipments of those weapons, the U.S. believes Russia will target the paths and roads in western Ukraine being used to ship Western military aid into Ukraine even though it has not done so yet. Still, it’s believed with the amount of weaponry being delivered to Ukrainian forces, it will be impossible to stop it all.
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