The mayor of the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih said 10 people have died following Russian missile strikes overnight that hit civilian sites including a residential building. Oleksandr Vilkul said 28 other people had been wounded and at least one person was believed to be under the rubble. In an early afternoon update Tuesday, Vilkul wrote on the Telegram app that a dozen injured people had been rushed to city hospitals. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below. At least six people were killed when Russian missiles hit civilian buildings in an overnight attack Tuesday in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, regional officials said, as rescuers scrambled to retrieve people believed to be trapped under the rubble. The strike involving cruise missiles hit a five-story residential building, which was engulfed in fire, Gov. Serhiy Lysak of the Dnipropetrovsk region wrote on Telegram. Also Read: Ukraine recaptures village as Russian forces hold other lines, fire on fleeing civilians elsewhere After initial reports of three dead, Kryvyi Rih mayor Oleksandr Vilkul wrote on the social media app that the death toll had risen to a least six, and seven people were feared trapped under the rubble. Authorities initially said at least two dozen people were wounded. The devastation in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hometown is the latest bloodshed in Russia's war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, as Ukrainian forces are mounting counteroffensive operations using Western-supplied firepower to try to drive out the Russians. Images from the scene relayed by Zelenskyy on his Telegram channel showed firefighters battling the blaze as pockets of fire poked through multiple broken windows of a building. Charred and damaged vehicles littered the nearby ground. Also Read: Top UN court allows a record 32 countries to intervene in Ukraine's genocide case against Russia "More terrorist missiles," he wrote. "Russian killers continue their war against residential buildings, ordinary cities and people." The aerial assault was the latest barrage of strikes by Russian forces that targeted various parts of Ukraine overnight. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, was attacked with Iranian-made Shahed drones, and the surrounding region was shelled, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. The shelling wounded two civilians in the town of Shevchenkove, southeast of Kharkiv. The mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, separately reported early Tuesday that the drone strike damaged a utilities business and a warehouse in the city's northeast. Neither Terekhov nor Syniehubov referenced any casualties within Kharkiv. Also Read: A dam collapses and thousands face the deluge — often with no help — in Russian-occupied Ukraine The Kyiv military administration reported that the capital came under fire as well on Tuesday, but the incoming missiles were destroyed by air defenses and there were no immediate reports of any casualties there. Air defenses overnight shot down 10 out of 14 cruise missiles and one of four Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russian forces, Ukraine's General Staff said on its Facebook page. Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine's ground troops said the country's forces were "moving forward" outside the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Oleksandr Syrskyi wrote on Telegram that Russian forces are "losing positions on the flanks," while Ukrainian troops were conducting "defensive" operations in the area. For weeks, Ukrainian officials have been reporting small gains west of Bakhmut, which was largely devastated in the war's longest and bloodiest battle before Moscow's forces took control last month. Also Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry published a video showing what it said was a German-made Leopard 2 tank and U.S.-made Bradley fighting vehicle captured from Ukrainian forces. According to the ministry, the video was shot by Russian soldiers after fierce fighting in the southern Zaporizhzhia, and a soldier is seen pointing at the immobilized vehicles. It wasn't immediately possible to verify the video's authenticity. Like the Bakhmut area, battle zones in Zaporizhzhia are one of several places along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian forces have been intensifying their counteroffensive operations. On Monday, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said the country's troops recaptured a total of seven villages spanning 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of eastern Ukraine over the past week — small successes in the early phases of a counteroffensive. Russian officials didn't confirm those Ukrainian gains, which were impossible to verify and could be reversed in the to-and-fro of war. The advance amounted to only small bits of territory and underscored the difficulty of the battle ahead for Ukrainian forces, who will have to fight meter by meter to regain the roughly one-fifth of their country under Russian occupation.
World leaders ratcheted up pressure Sunday on Russia for its war against Ukraine, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the center of a swirl of diplomacy on the final day of the Group of Seven summit of rich-world democracies. Zelenskyy's in-person attendance at one of the world's premier diplomatic gatherings is meant to galvanize attention on his nation's 15-month fight against Russia. Even before he landed Saturday on a French plane, the G7 nations had unveiled a slew of new sanctions and other measures meant to punish Moscow and hamper its war-fighting abilities. Ukraine is the overwhelming focus of the summit, but the leaders of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, as well as the European Union, are also working to address global worries over climate change, AI, poverty, economic instability and nuclear proliferation. Also Read: Ukrainian president meets with world leaders at G7 as Russia claims a key victory in the war Two U.S. allies — South Korea and Japan — continued efforts Sunday to improve ties that have often been hurt by lingering anger over issues linked to Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a memorial to Korean victims, many of them slave laborers, of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing. Washington wants the two neighbors, both of which are liberal democracies and bulwarks of U.S. power in the region, to stand together on a host of issues, including rising aggression from China, North Korea and Russia. Bolstering international support is a key priority as Ukraine prepares for what's seen as a major push to take back territory seized by Russia in the war that began in February last year. Zelenskyy's visit to the G7 summit closely followed the United States agreeing to allow training on potent American-made fighter jets, which lays the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine. Also Read: Zelenskyy says ‘Bakhmut is only in our hearts’ after Russia claims controls of Ukrainian city "Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today," Zelenskyy tweeted after his arrival. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that President Joe Biden and Zelenskyy would have direct engagement at the summit. On Friday, Biden announced his support for training Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, a precursor to eventually providing those aircraft to Ukraine. "It is necessary to improve (Ukraine's) air defense capabilities, including the training of our pilots," Zelenskyy wrote on his official Telegram channel after meeting Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, one of a number of leaders he talked to. Zelenskyy also met on the sidelines of the summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their first face-to-face talks since the war, and briefed him on Ukraine's peace plan, which calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country before any negotiations. India, the world's largest democracy, has avoided outright condemnation of Russia's invasion. While India maintains close ties with the United States and its Western allies, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and oil. Summits like the G7 are a chance for leaders to put pressure on one another to align or redouble their diplomatic efforts, according to Matthew Goodman, an economics expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington. "Zelenskyy's presence puts some pressure on G7 leaders to deliver more — or explain to him directly why they can't," he said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the G7 summit for aiming to isolate both China and Russia. "The task has been set loudly and openly: to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but not to stop there, but to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor. As a matter of fact, any other country that claims some kind of independent place in the world alignment will also be to suppress a competitor. Look at the decisions that are now being discussed and adopted in Hiroshima, at the G7 summit, and which are aimed at the double containment of Russia and China," he said. The G7, however, has vowed to intensify the pressure. "Russia's brutal war of aggression represents a threat to the whole world in breach of fundamental norms, rules and principles of the international community. We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace," the group said in a statement. Another major focus of the meetings was China, the world's No. 2 economy. There is increasing anxiety that Beijing, which has been steadily building up its nuclear weapons program, could try to seize Taiwan by force, sparking a wider conflict. China claims the self-governing island as its own and regularly sends ships and warplanes near it. The G7 said they did not want to harm China and were seeking "constructive and stable relations" with Beijing, "recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China." They also urged China to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine and "support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace." China's Foreign Ministry said that "gone are the days when a handful of Western countries can just willfully meddle in other countries' internal affairs and manipulate global affairs. We urge G7 members to ... focus on addressing the various issues they have at home, stop ganging up to form exclusive blocs, stop containing and bludgeoning other countries." The G7 also warned North Korea, which has been testing missiles at a torrid pace, to completely abandon its nuclear bomb ambitions, "including any further nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology," the leaders' statement said. The green light on F-16 training is the latest shift by the Biden administration as it moves to arm Ukraine with more advanced and lethal weaponry, following earlier decisions to send rocket launcher systems and Abrams tanks. The United States has insisted that it is sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and has discouraged attacks by Ukraine into Russian territory. "We've reached a moment where it is time to look down the road again to say what is Ukraine going to need as part of a future force, to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression as we go forward," Sullivan said. Biden's decisions on when, how many, and who will provide the fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets will be made in the months ahead while the training is underway, Biden told leaders. The G7 leaders have rolled out a new wave of global sanctions on Moscow as well as plans to enhance the effectiveness of existing financial penalties meant to constrain President Vladimir Putin's war effort. Russia is now the most-sanctioned country in the world, but there are questions about the effectiveness. Russia had participated in some summits with the other seven countries before being removed from the then-Group of Eight after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. The latest sanctions aimed at Russia include tighter restrictions on already-sanctioned people and firms involved in the war effort. More than 125 individuals and organizations across 20 countries have been hit with U.S. sanctions. Kishida has twice taken leaders to visit to a peace park dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world's first wartime atomic bomb detonation. Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, wants nuclear disarmament to be a major focus of discussions. The G7 leaders also discussed efforts to strengthen the global economy and address rising prices that are squeezing families and government budgets around the world, particularly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The group reiterated its aim to pull together up to $600 billion in financing for the G7's global infrastructure development initiative, which is meant to offer countries an alternative to China's investment dollars.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy huddled with some of his biggest backers in Hiroshima on Sunday, building momentum for his country's war effort even as Russia claimed a symbolic victory on the battlefield. The Ukrainian leader's in-person appearance in his trademark olive drab during the final day of the Group of Seven summit underscored the centrality of the war for the bloc of rich democracies. It also stole much of the limelight from other priorities, including security challenges in Asia and outreach to the developing world, that the leaders focused on at the three-day gathering. Zelenskyy held two major rounds of meetings Sunday, one with G7 leaders and a second with them and a host of invited guests including India, South Korea and Brazil. He also held one-on-one talks with several of the leaders. Also Read: Zelenskyy says ‘Bakhmut is only in our hearts’ after Russia claims controls of Ukrainian city U.S. President Joe Biden announced a new military aid package worth $375 million for Ukraine during his meeting with Zelenskyy, saying the U.S. would provide ammunition and armored vehicles. That fresh pledge came days after the U.S. agreed to allow training on American-made F-16 fighter jets, laying the groundwork for their eventual transfer to Ukraine. "We have Ukraine's back and we're not going anywhere," Biden said. Zelenskyy thanked Biden for the support, adding that "we will never forget." Even before Zelenskyy landed Saturday aboard a French plane, the G7 nations had unveiled a slew of new sanctions and other measures meant to punish Moscow over its invasion that began in February last year. Read More: G7 'outreach' an effort to build consensus on global issues like Ukraine, China, climate change Hanging over Sunday's talks was the claim by Russia's Defense Ministry that forces of the Wagner private army, backed by Russian troops, had seized the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The eight-month battle for the eastern city — seen by both sides as a major symbolic prize — has been the longest and likely the bloodiest of the war. Asked if Bakhmut was still in Ukraine's hands, Zelenskyy said he thought that Russian forces had finally taken the city in a siege that "destroyed everything." "For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts. There is nothing in this place," Zelenskyy said, adding that the fight had left nothing in Bakhmut but a lot of "dead Russians." While Ukraine was the overwhelming focus of the summit, the leaders of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, as well as the European Union, also aimed to address global worries over climate change, AI, poverty, economic instability and nuclear proliferation. Biden also aimed to reassure world leaders that the U.S. would not default because of the debt limit standoff that has cast a large shadow over his trip. Two U.S. allies — South Korea and Japan — continued efforts Sunday to improve ties that have often been hurt by lingering anger over issues linked to Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a memorial to Korean victims, many of them slave laborers, of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing. Washington wants the two neighbors, both of which are liberal democracies and bulwarks of U.S. power in the region, to stand together on issues, including rising aggression from China, North Korea and Russia. Biden, Yoon and Kishida met briefly as a group outside the summit venue posing for photos in front of Hiroshima Bay. Biden invited the two leaders to visit Washington for a trilateral meeting and they accepted, a US official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said. Zelenskyy also met on the sidelines of the summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their first face-to-face talks since the war, and briefed him on Ukraine's peace plan, which calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country before any negotiations. India, the world's largest democracy, has avoided outright condemnation of Russia's invasion. While India maintains close ties with the U.S. and its Western allies, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and oil. Summits like the G7 are a chance for leaders to put pressure on one another to align or redouble their diplomatic efforts, according to Matthew Goodman, an economics expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington. "Zelenskyy's presence puts some pressure on G7 leaders to deliver more — or explain to him directly why they can't," he said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the summit for aiming to isolate both China and Russia. "The task has been set loudly and openly: to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but not to stop there, but to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor," he said. The G7, however, has vowed to intensify the pressure, calling Russia's assault on Ukraine "a threat to the whole world in breach of fundamental norms, rules and principles of the international community." The group took a different approach in its comments on China, the world's No. 2 economy. There is increasing anxiety that Beijing, which has been steadily building up its nuclear weapons program, could try to seize self-governing Taiwan by force, sparking a wider conflict. The G7 said they did not want to harm China and was seeking "constructive and stable relations" with Beijing, "recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China." They also urged China to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine and "support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace." China's Foreign Ministry said that "gone are the days when a handful of Western countries can just willfully meddle in other countries' internal affairs and manipulate global affairs. We urge G7 members to ... focus on addressing the various issues they have at home, stop ganging up to form exclusive blocs, stop containing and bludgeoning other countries." The G7 also warned North Korea, which has been testing missiles at a torrid pace, to completely abandon its nuclear weapon ambitions, "including any further nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology," the leaders' statement said. The G7 leaders have rolled out a new wave of global sanctions on Russia, now the most-sanctioned country in the world, as well as plans to enhance the effectiveness of existing financial penalties meant to constrain President Vladimir Putin's war effort. The latest sanctions aimed at Russia include tighter restrictions on already-sanctioned people and firms involved in the war effort. More than 125 individuals and organizations across 20 countries have been hit with U.S. sanctions. Russia had participated in some summits with the other seven countries before being removed from the then-Group of Eight after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. Kishida, mindful of the host city's symbolic importance, has twice taken leaders to visit to a peace park dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world's first wartime atomic bomb detonation. He had wanted nuclear disarmament to be a major focus of discussions. Some survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb attack and their families worried that Zelenskyy's inclusion at the summit overshadowed that priority. Etsuko Nakatani, an activist whose parents survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing, said the leader's visit was "not appropriate for Hiroshima, which is a peace-loving city." Protesters carrying "No War No G7" banners briefly scuffled with riot police deployed as part of a massive show of force throughout the city during a march Sunday. The G7 leaders also discussed efforts to strengthen the global economy and address rising prices that are squeezing families and government budgets around the world, particularly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They reiterated their aim to pull together up to $600 billion in financing for the G7's global infrastructure development initiative, which is meant to offer countries an alternative to China's investment dollars.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that Bakhmut was "only in our hearts," hours after Russia's defense ministry reported that forces of the Wagner private army, with the support of Russian troops, had seized the city in eastern Ukraine. Speaking alongside U.S. President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Zelenskyy said the Russians had destroyed "everything." "You have to understand that there is nothing," he said. "For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts," he said. "There is nothing in this place." The Russian ministry statement on the Telegram channel came about eight hours after a similar announcement by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin. Ukrainian authorities at that time said that fighting for Bakhmut was continuing. The eight-month battle for Bakhmut has been the longest and probably most bloody of the conflict in Ukraine. Also Read: Japanese atomic bomb survivors worry Zelenskyy's G7 visit overshadows nuke disarmament message Zelenskyy's comments came as Biden announced $375 million more in aid for Ukraine, which included more ammunition, artillery, and vehicles. "I thanked him for the significant financial assistance to (Ukraine) from (the U.S.)," Zelenskyy tweeted later. Analysts said that a Russian victory in Bakhmut was unlikely to turn the tide in the war. The Russian capture of the last remaining ground in Bakhmut is "not tactically or operationally significant," a Washington-based think tank said late Saturday. The Institute for the Study of War said that taking control of these areas "does not grant Russian forces operationally significant terrain to continue conducting offensive operations," nor to "to defend against possible Ukrainian counterattacks." Using the city's Soviet-era name, the Russian ministry said, "In the Artyomovsk tactical direction, the assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk." Russian state news agencies cited the Kremlin's press service as saying President Vladimir Putin "congratulates the Wagner assault detachments, as well as all servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces units, who provided them with the necessary support and flank protection, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk." In a video posted earlier on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city came under complete Russian control at about midday Saturday. He spoke flanked by about a half dozen fighters, with ruined buildings in the background and explosions heard in the distance. Fighting has raged in and around Bakhmut for more than eight months. Russian forces will still face the massive task of seizing the remaining part of the Donetsk region still under Ukrainian control, including several heavily fortified areas. It isn't clear which side has paid a higher price in the battle for Bakhmut. Both Russia and Ukraine have endured losses believed to be in the thousands, though neither has disclosed casualty numbers. Zelenskyy underlined the importance of defending Bakhmut in an interview with The Associated Press in March, saying its fall could allow Russia to rally international support for a deal that might require Kyiv to make unacceptable compromises. Analysts have said Bakhmut's fall would be a blow to Ukraine and give some tactical advantages to Russia but wouldn't prove decisive to the outcome of the war. Russian forces still face the enormous task of seizing the rest of the Donetsk region under Ukrainian control, including several heavily fortified areas. The provinces of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk make up the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland where a separatist uprising began in 2014 and which Moscow illegally annexed in September. Bakhmut, located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk, had a prewar population of 80,000 and was an important industrial center, surrounded by salt and gypsum mines. The city, which was named Artyomovsk after a Bolshevik revolutionary when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, also was known for its sparkling wine production in underground caves. Its broad tree-lined avenues, lush parks and stately downtown with imposing late 19th-century mansions — all now reduced to a smoldering wasteland — made it a popular tourist destination. When a separatist rebellion engulfed eastern Ukraine in 2014 weeks after Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the rebels quickly won control of the city, only to lose it a few months later. After Russia switched its focus to the Donbas following a botched attempt to seize Kyiv early in the February 2022 invasion, Moscow's troops tried to take Bakhmut in August but were pushed back. The fighting there abated in autumn as Russia was confronted with Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and the south, but it resumed at full pace late last year. In January, Russia captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, just north of Bakhmut, and closed in on the city's suburbs. Intense Russian shelling targeted the city and nearby villages as Moscow waged a three-sided assault to try to finish off the resistance in what Ukrainians called "fortress Bakhmut." Mercenaries from Wagner spearheaded the Russian offensive. Prigozhin tried to use the battle for the city to expand his clout amid the tensions with the top Russian military leaders whom he harshly criticized. "We fought not only with the Ukrainian armed forces in Bakhmut. We fought the Russian bureaucracy, which threw sand in the wheels," Prigozhin said in the video on Saturday. The relentless Russian artillery bombardment left few buildings intact amid ferocious house-to-house battles. Wagner fighters "marched on the bodies of their own soldiers" according to Ukrainian officials. Both sides have spent ammunition at a rate unseen in any armed conflict for decades, firing thousands of rounds a day. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said that seizing the city would allow Russia to press its offensive farther into the Donetsk region, one of the four Ukrainian provinces that Moscow illegally annexed in September.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting Britain on Monday, as the staunch ally of Ukraine prepares to give more military aid in an effort to change the course of the war. The U.K. government confirmed Zelenskyy's arrival early Monday and said he would meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It is the fourth European country Zelenskky has visited in the past few days. He made an unannounced visit to Paris on Sunday evening to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, after trips to Germany and Italy, where he met those countries' leaders and Pope Francis. A message posted Monday on Zelenskyy's official Telegram Channel said: "Today — London. The UK is leading the way when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.” Sunak's office confirmed the two leaders would meet at Chequers. the prime minister's country retreat outside London. It's Zelenskyy's second trip to the U.K. since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The U.K. has become one of Ukraine's major military allies, sending Kyiv short-range missiles and Challenger tanks and training 15,000 Ukrainian troops on British soil. Last week Britain announced it had sent Ukraine Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 250 kilometers (150 miles) — the first known shipment of the weaponry that Kyiv has long sought from its allies. Sunak's office said that on Monday Britain will confirm it is giving Ukraine hundreds more air defense missiles, as well as “long-range attack drones" with a range of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles). “This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke," Sunak said. "They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year. “We must not let them down.” Russia stepped up attacks across Ukraine with drones and missiles over the weekend. On Sunday, Russia shelled two communities in the northern border region of Sumy, the region’s military administration said in a statement on its official Telegram channel. It said 109 explosions were recorded. Zelenskyy toured European capitals over the weekend to seek more aid as Ukraine prepares a long-anticipated spring offensive to retake territory seized by Russia. Zelenskyy and Macron met for about three hours at the French presidential Elysee Palace — an encounter kept under wraps until shortly before the Ukrainian leader’s arrival in Paris. Macron’s office said France will supply dozens of light tanks and armored vehicles “in the weeks ahead,” without giving specific numbers. Also promised were more air defense systems, but again details weren’t made public. More Ukrainians will also be made battle-ready, with France aiming to train about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in France this year and nearly 4,000 others in Poland as part of a wider European effort, Macron’s office said. France has supplied Ukraine with an array of weaponry, include air defense systems, light tanks, howitzers and other arms and equipment and fuel. France had dispatched a plane to pick up Zelenskyy in Germany, where he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier Sunday and discussed his country’s planned counteroffensive. It was his first visit to Berlin since the start of the invasion and came a day after the German government announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition. After initially hesitating to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air defense system. Modern Western hardware is considered crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counteroffensive. In the western German city of Aachen, Zelenskyy also received the prestigious International Charlemagne Prize, awarded to him and the people of Ukraine. On Saturday. he met Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni in Rome. On the European trip, Zelenskyy said it will aim to liberate Russian-occupied areas within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and not attack Russian territory. The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a trove of U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy has considered trying to capture areas in Russia proper for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations to end the war launched by Moscow in February 2022. This would put him at odds with Western governments that have insisted that weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia. Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We don’t attack Russian territory, we liberate our own legitimate territory.” “We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare with which we could do this.” “We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas based on our constitutionally defined legitimate borders, which are recognized internationally,” Zelenskyy said. Among areas still occupied by Russia are the Crimean peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine with mainly Russian-speaking populations.
Just hours before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, actor Sean Penn had his first on-camera meeting with the country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “It was as if he was realizing himself, that he was born for this moment,” Penn recalled in an interview with The Associated Press at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday, a day after the festival premiere of his documentary “Superpower.” Penn and his co-director Aaron Kaufman were in Kyiv to film a profile of the comedic actor-turned-president when the war broke out. It would be the image of the president walking into the room for that first interview that would have the biggest impact on Penn. “It’s hard to explain, but there was a resolve in reaction to something that no one has ever faced before,” Penn said. At a press conference also Saturday, Penn said they returned to the hotel after the interview and the shelling started that very night. When they first met Zelenskyy, he had “a proper suit and a proper office.” “The next time we saw him, he was in camos and his country was at war,” Penn said. The outbreak of war sent the documentary on an unexpected track. The film contains further interviews with the president conducted over the past year. Also Read: Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine: US After completing the project, the pair have continued to speak off camera. Zelenskyy presented the Hollywood star — who has been involved in numerous international humanitarian and anti-war efforts over the years — with the Ukrainian Order of Merit last year. Penn was also given a plaque on a Kyiv walkway honoring world leaders who have shown solidarity with Ukraine. Penn told the AP that people would be most surprised by Zelenskyy's “command of the mechanisms of government.” “Not only his, but all of those upon whom he is reliant, his sense of mapping the diplomatic territory," he said. "He’s on fire. He has that extreme gift for politics.” Also read: Ukraine in mind, US frantic to avert Mideast showdown at UN Penn recalled the “civility” he saw when leaving Ukraine via the Polish border a few days after the invasion began. “No one was honking. No one was trying to drive around the other and take and there was a kind of quiet acceptance," Penn said during the interview. "You know, and these were families being torn apart. Some, most remain torn apart.” During a later visit to Ukraine, Penn loaned one of his two Oscars to Zelenskyy, telling him: “When you win, bring it back to Malibu.” “The Oscar is there in his office and it’s ready to be melted anytime he wants to melt it,” Penn clarified in the press conference after threatening to smelt his awards in public if Zelenskyy was not on the program for last year's Oscar telecast. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not include a video address from the president, opting instead for a moment of silence in support of the people of Ukraine. Zelenskyy did address the opening of the Berlinale on Thursday, exhorting artists and filmmakers to express support for Ukraine. Penn said at the press conference that the gift of the Oscar was inspired by his “continuing shame towards the leadership of the Academy, the motion picture academy, in choosing to present Will Smith smacking Chris Rock rather than the greatest symbol of cinema and humanity living today on their broadcast.” Penn's two Oscars both were for best actor, in 2003 for “Mystic River” and in 2008 for “Milk.” His previous directing credits include “Flag Day,” “Into the Wild” and “The Pledge.” While it is not unusual for entertainment personalities to get behind a cause, “Superpower” sees Penn travel all the way to the front line of the war to talk to soldiers in the trenches. When it comes to his drive and determination, the star couldn’t tell you where that comes from. “I could make up a number of answers” he joked to the AP. “It’s something I just don’t really ultimately think about, though I’ve been asked many times. … I don’t have the words for it.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Britain on Wednesday, his first trip to the U.K. since Russia’s invasion began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine during the war. The British government says Zelenskyy will hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, address Parliament and meet with U.K. military chiefs. The U.K. is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country more than 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in weapons and equipment. The visit comes as Sunak announced that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” Ukraine has urged its allies to send jets, though the U.K. says it’s not practical to provide the Ukrainian military with British warplanes. More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have also been trained at bases in the U.K., some on the Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is sending. “I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future,” Sunak said. “It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.” Zelenskyy addressed the U.K. Parliament remotely in March, two weeks after the start of the invasion. He echoed World War II leader Winston Churchill’s famous “never surrender” speech, vowing that Ukrainians “will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.” Before Sunak took office, Zelenskyy had formed a bond with Boris Johnson, who was one of Ukraine’s most vocal backers while he was U.K. prime minister. Sunak took office in October and has pledged to maintain the U.K.’s support. It will be Zelenskyy’s second known trip visit abroad since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He visited the U.S. in December. Zelenskyy may be seeking Western pledges of more advanced weapons before potential spring offensives by both Russia and Ukraine. In Brussels, there were increasing expectations that the Ukrainian leader might also make his first visit to European Union institutions since the war began. Leaders from 27-nation bloc will be gathering for a summit in Brussels on Thursday. That would enable Zelenskyy to meet with all major leaders of the bloc in one day. Zelenskyy has often addressed EU summits only through video calls from Ukraine. The EU’s legislature has also slated a special plenary session in Brussels for Thursday in the hopes that Zelenskyy will come following his trip to Britain. The London visit came as Russian forces blasted areas of eastern Ukraine with more artillery bombardments, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, in what Kyiv authorities believe is part of a new thrust by the Kremlin’s forces before the invasion anniversary. Russian forces over the past day launched major shelling attacks on areas near the front line in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, killing a 74-year-old woman and wounding a 16-year-old girl in the border town of Vovchansk, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. Russian forces in Ukraine are focusing their efforts on “waging a counteroffensive” in the country’s industrial east, with the aim of taking full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. Russian troops launched assaults near Bakhmut and Vuhledar, two mining towns in the Donetsk region that have been among Moscow’s key targets, Ukrainian officials said. Seizing Bakhmut could severely disrupt Ukraine’s military supply routes. It would also open a door for Moscow’s forces to drive toward key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. Ukrainian authorities say the Kremlin’s goal is to complete full control of the Donbas, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia. That would give Russian President Vladimir Putin a major battlefield success after months of setbacks and help him rally public opinion behind the war. Military analysts say that after a Ukrainian counteroffensive that started last summer and recaptured large areas from Russia, the war has been largely static in recent months. Russia is now also trying to break through Ukrainian lines near the towns of Avdiivka and Marinka in Donetsk, as well as near Kreminna, a front-line town in the Luhansk region which lies along a key Russian supply route, the Ukrainian General Staff said. ___ Raf Casert contributed to this report from Brussels.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is preparing to visit Washington on Wednesday, according to three AP sources, in his first known trip outside the country since Russia’s invasion began in February. Two congressional sources and one person familiar with the matter confirmed plans for the visit. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the highly sensitive nature of the trip. They said Zelenskyy’s visit, while expected, could still be called off at the last minute due to security concerns. The visit to Washington is set to include an address to Congress on Capitol Hill and a meeting with President Joe Biden. It comes as lawmakers are set to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and as the U.S. prepares to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to the country to help stave off Russia’s invasion. The visit comes a day after Zelenskyy made a daring and dangerous trip to what he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line, the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province, where he praised Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength” as artillery boomed in the background. The Ukrainian leader told the troops he passed through Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Druzhkivka to reach Bakhmut in an unannounced trip that appeared designed to show Moscow’s failure to capture the city and dishearten the Russians trying to surround it. Read: Wartime Ukraine erasing Russian past from public spaces “Bakhmut Fortress. Our people. Unconquered by the enemy. Who with their bravery prove that we will endure and will not give up what’s ours,” he wrote on his Telegram channel, thanking the troops for “the courage, resilience and strength shown in repelling the enemy attacks. “Since May, the occupiers have been trying to break our Bakhmut, but time goes by and Bakhmut is already breaking not only the Russian army, but also the Russian mercenaries who came to replace the wasted army of the occupiers,” he said. Russia’s invasion, which began Feb. 24, has lost momentum. The illegally annexed provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia remain fiercely contested. Capturing Bakhmut would sever Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on toward cities that are key Ukrainian strongholds in the Donetsk province. In a video released by his office from the Bakhmut visit, Zelenskyy was handed a Ukrainian flag and alluded to delivering it to U.S. leaders. “The guys handed over our beautiful Ukrainian flag with their signatures for us to pass on,” Zelenskyy said in the video. “We are not in an easy situation. The enemy is increasing its army. Our people are braver and need more powerful weapons. We will pass it on from the boys to the Congress, to the president of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough. It is a hint — it is not enough.” The latest tranche of U.S. funding would be the biggest American infusion of assistance yet to Ukraine, above even Biden’s $37 billion emergency request, and ensure that funding flows to the war effort for months to come. Read: Kyiv targeted in early morning drone attack: Authorities On Wednesday, the U.S. was also set to announce that it will send $1.8 billion in military aid to Ukraine in a major package that will for the first time include a Patriot missile battery and precision guided bombs for its fighter jets, U.S. officials said. The aid signals an expansion by the U.S. in the kinds of advanced weaponry it will send to Ukraine to bolster its air defenses against what has been an increasing barrage of Russian missiles in recent weeks. The package will include about $1 billion in weapons from Pentagon stocks and $800 million in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, officials said. The decision to send the Patriot battery comes despite threats from Russia’s Foreign Ministry that the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the Patriot and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military. It’s not clear exactly when the Patriot would arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, since U.S. troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the high-tech system. The training could take several weeks, and is expected to be done in Germany. To date, all training of Ukraine’s forces by the U.S. and its Western allies has taken place in European countries. Also included in the package will be an undisclosed number of Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, or JDAMs. The kits will be used to modify massive bombs by adding tail fins and precision navigation systems so that rather than being simply dropped from a fighter jet onto a target, they can be released and guided to a target. The visit comes at an important moment as the White House braces for greater resistance from a Republican-controlled House that’s signaled it will put more scrutiny on aid for Ukraine in the new Congress. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has said his party’s lawmakers will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. Biden and Zelenskyy frequently have held phone calls in coordination with the White House announcing new tranches of military assistance for Ukraine. The calls have been mostly warm, with Biden praising Ukraine for remaining steadfast against the Russians and Zelenskyy thanking the U.S. president for support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited Zelenskyy earlier this year in Kyiv, encouraged lawmakers to be on hand for Wednesday evening’s session. “We are ending a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that makes progress for the American people as well as support for our Democracy,” Pelosi wrote Tuesday in a letter to colleagues. “Please be present for a very special focus on Democracy Wednesday night.” Read: Dead boy pulled from rubble of latest Russian hit on Ukraine Later at the Capitol, Pelosi said of Ukrainians, “They are fighting for democracy for all of us.” For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday hailed the “courage and self-denial” of his forces in Ukraine — but he did so at a ceremony in an opulent and glittering hall at the Kremlin in Moscow, not on the battlefield. Mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian military contractor, are reported to be leading the charge in Bakhmut. Unverified videos on a popular Russian social media platform showed the Wagner Group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, standing near an artillery piece and saying he was ready to meet Zelenskyy in Bakhmut. At the Kremlin ceremony, Putin presented awards to the Moscow-appointed heads of the four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine. “Our country has often faced challenges and defended its sovereignty,” Putin said. “Now Russia is again facing such a challenge. Soldiers, officers and volunteers are showing outstanding examples of courage and self-denial on the front line.” In a video address honoring Russia’s military and security agencies, he praised the security personnel deployed to the four regions, saying that “people living there, Russian citizens, count on being protected by you.” Putin acknowledged the challenges faced by the security personnel. “Yes, it’s difficult for you,” he said, adding that the situation in the regions is “extremely difficult.” British authorities, meanwhile, gave a bleak assessment of how the war is going for Russia. Some 100,000 Russian troops were “dead, injured or have deserted” in the invasion, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. Wallace didn’t give a figure for Ukrainian casualties, but the U.S. military recently put the estimated number of Ukrainian troops killed and wounded at about 100,000. Losses in Russia’s military command have also taken a toll, as has the destruction of equipment. “Not one single operational commander then in place on Feb. 24 is in charge now,” Wallace told lawmakers in the House of Commons. “Russia has lost significant numbers of generals and commanding officers.” “Russian capability has been severely hampered by the destruction of more than 4,500 armored and protected vehicles, as well as more than 140 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft,” Wallace said. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has succeeded in recapturing large swaths of land. After 300 days of war, the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted, Ukraine has liberated about 54% of the maximum amount of extra territory Russia seized in the invasion. It didn’t say what portion of Ukrainian territory Russia controlled at the peak of its gains. Russia now controls about 18% of internationally recognized areas of Ukraine, including those parts of the eastern Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula seized in 2014. With the fighting in the east at a stalemate, Moscow has used missiles and drones to attack Ukraine’s power equipment, hoping to leave people without electricity as freezing weather sets in. Life in the Ukrainian capital took a minor but welcomed step toward normality with the reopening of two of Kyiv’s main subway stations for the first time since the war began. The key hubs of Maidan Nezalezhnosti and Khreschatyk, like the capital’s other underground stations, have served as air raid shelters. “It’s the feeling that despite everything, we are returning to a routine that we were used to,” said 24-year-old passenger Denys Kapustin. “This is very important.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged New Zealand to take a leading role in focusing on the environmental destruction his country is suffering as a result of Russia’s invasion. Zelenskyy delivered his message via video link to lawmakers who packed the debating chamber at 8 a.m. Wednesday. He became just the second foreign leader to address New Zealand’s parliament, after Australia’s Julia Gillard did so in 2011. Zelenskyy said it was possible to rebuild a nation’s economy and infrastructure, even though it may take many years. “But you can’t rebuild destroyed nature, just as you can’t restore destroyed lives,” he said. Read: Ukraine president again presses West for advanced weapons Zelenskyy is pushing for a 10-point peace plan that, as well as environmental protection, including items such as nuclear safety and justice. He has been asking various countries to take a lead on different points. He said some of the environmental effects of the war included poisoned groundwater, ravaged forests, flooded coal mines and huge areas of Ukraine that remain contaminated from unexploded mines. Zelenskyy thanked New Zealand for their contributions to Ukraine’s war effort so far and offered a message of hope. “Various dictators and aggressors, they always fail to realize the strength of the free world’s governments,” he said. New Zealand announced it was providing another 3 million New Zealand dollars ($2 million) in humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross, adding to the NZ$8 million it had already provided. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Zelenskyy her country’s support for Ukraine wasn’t determined by geography or diplomatic ties. Read: ‘I’ll kill you all’: Man kills 3 in Rome condo board meeting “Our judgment was a simple one,” she said. “We asked ourselves the question, ‘What if it was us?’” She said that in such a scenario, New Zealand would want nations in the international community to use their voices, “regardless of their political systems, their distance, or their size.” Lawmakers finished the address by singing a World War II-era song in the Indigenous Māori language.
Ukraine’s president implored the world Wednesday to punish Russia for its invasion, even as the leader vowed his forces would win back every inch of territory despite Moscow’s decision to redouble its war effort. In a much-anticipated video address to the U.N. General Assembly hours after Russia announced it would mobilize some reservists, Volodymyr Zelenskyy portrayed the declaration as evidence the Kremlin wasn’t ready to negotiate an end to the war — but insisted his country would prevail anyway. “We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms,” the president said. “But we need time.” Putin’s decree Wednesday about the mobilization was sparse on details. Officials said as many as 300,000 reservists could be tapped. It was apparently an effort to seize momentum after a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month retook swaths of territory that Russians had held. But the first such call-up in Russia since World War II also brought the fighting home in a new way for Russians and risked fanning domestic anxiety and antipathy toward the war. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country rapidly filled up, and more than 1,000 people were arrested at rare antiwar demonstrations across the country. A day earlier, Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans for referendums on becoming parts of Russia. Ukrainian leaders and their Western allies consider the votes illegitimate. Zelenskyy didn’t discuss the developments in detail. But he suggested that any Russian talk of negotiations was only a delaying tactic, and that Moscow’s actions speak louder than its words. “They talk about the talks but announce military mobilization. They talk about the talks but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said. Russia hasn’t yet had its turn to speak at the gathering. Putin, who is not attending the event, has said he sent his armed forces into Ukraine because of risks to his country’s security from what he considers a hostile government in Kyiv; to liberate Russians living in Ukraine — especially its eastern Donbas region — from what he views as the Ukrainian government’s oppression; and to restore what he considers to be Russia’s historical territorial claims on the country. Zelenskyy’s speech was striking not only for its contents but also its context. It took place after the extraordinary mobilization announcement. It was the first time he addressed the world’s leaders gathered together since Russia invaded in February. It wasn’t delivered at the august rostrum where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak — but instead by video from a nation at war after Zelenskyy was granted special permission to not come in person. He appeared as he has in many previous video appearances — in an olive green T-shirt. He sat at a table with a Ukrainian flag behind his right shoulder and large image of the U.N. flag and Ukraine’s behind his left shoulder. Zelenskyy’s speech was one of the most keenly anticipated at international diplomacy’s most prominent annual gathering, which has dwelled this year on the war in his country. Officials from many countries are trying to prevent the conflict from spreading and to restore peace in Europe — though diplomats do not expect any breakthroughs this week. Still, the topic popped up in speeches by leaders from all over the world. Overwhelmingly, the sentiment was similar: Russia’s invasion was not consistent with the cornerstone principles of the United Nations — including peace, dialogue and respect for sovereignty. “It’s an attack on this very institution where we find ourselves today,” said Moldovan President President Maia Sandu, whose country borders Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden’s address, too, focused heavily on the war in Ukraine. “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold,” he said. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for. Everything.” Zelenskky opined that Moscow wants to spend the winter preparing its forces in Ukraine for a new offensive, or at least preparing fortifications while mobilizing more troops in the largest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War. “Russia wants war. It’s true. But Russia will not be able to stop the course of history,” he said, declaring that “mankind and the international law are stronger” than what he called a “terrorist state.” Laying out various “preconditions for peace” in Ukraine that sometimes reached into broader prescriptions for improving the global order, he urged world leaders to strip Russia of its vote in international institutions and U.N. Security Council veto, saying that aggressors need to be punished and isolated. The fighting has already prompted some moves against Russia in U.N. bodies, particularly after Moscow vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have demanded a stop to its attack on Ukraine days after it began. The veto galled a number of other countries and led to action in the broader General Assembly, where resolutions aren’t binding but there are no vetoes. The assembly voted overwhelmingly in March to deplore Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, call for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urge protection for millions of civilians. The next month, members agreed by a smaller margin to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Despite the attention he drew, Zelenskyy was just one of dozens of leaders speaking Wednesday — among them Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Kenya’s newly elected president, William Ruto. Nearly 150 heads of state and government are set to appear during six days of speeches. It also wasn’t the first time the Ukrainian leader has been in the spotlight at the assembly’s annual meeting. Also read: US, Iran to speak at UN; Zelenskyy to appear from Ukraine His 2019 debut speech came as Zelenskyy suddenly found himself embroiled in a political scandal that was absorbing the U.S. — then-President Donald Trump’s effort to get the Ukrainian to investigate his eventual rival Biden and his son Hunter. Zelenskyy steered clear of the affair in his speech that year, but he was barraged with questions about it at a news conference with Trump. The episode ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment. At last year’s General Assembly, Zelenskyy memorably compared the U.N. to “a retired superhero who’s long forgotten how great they once were” as he repeated appeals for action to confront Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its support for the separatists.