The fighting in Ukraine has become largely an artillery battle, a senior US defense official said on Friday, as Ukrainian forces thwarted Russian efforts to seize territory in the eastern part of the country.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe developments on the battlefield, said that Ukrainian artillery, backed by approximately 90 US howitzers, prevented Russian forces from crossing the Donets River. The failure of Russian forces to cross the rivers prevents them from uniting their forces in the northern Donbass region of Ukraine.
All but one of the 90 US M777 howitzers are located inside Ukraine, the official said, and Ukrainian soldiers reported that the guns were effective in attacking Russian positions.
Elsewhere, the Russians have made increasing gains, the official said, but nothing is considered significant. The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine appears to be at least two weeks behind schedule.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov On Friday, he acknowledged that the war with Russia had entered a “long new phase”.
“To win it, we must plan resources carefully, avoid mistakes, and show our strength in such a way that the enemy is finally broken,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
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The latest developments:
President Joe Biden spoke on Friday with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö as the two Scandinavian countries consider joining NATO.
►The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said Friday that the bloc plans to give Ukraine nearly 500 million euros, or $520 million, in exchange for heavy weapons.
The British government said on Friday it would add the ex-wife and alleged girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin to its list of Russian individuals and entities facing economic sanctions.
WNBA star Britney Greiner has been extended by one month in Russia on Friday, her lawyer said. Griner was arrested for allegedly possessing cans of cannabis oil, but US officials say she was “unjustly detained.”
About 3,000 civilians from Mariupol are being held in prisons controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, a Ukrainian human rights official said. Lyudmila Denisova said officials are aware of at least two de facto prisoners.
On Friday, US Secretary of Intensive Affairs Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart for the first time since before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
Austin, who has not held a conversation with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since February 18, “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication,” a Pentagon spokesperson said. John Kirby said in a statement.
The call lasted about an hour. A US Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe developments in the war, said the Pentagon had sought contact with the Russian defense minister since their last call. It’s unclear why Shoigu chose to take the Friday call.
A Russian soldier faces his first war crime trial in the conflict
A Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian appeared in a Kyiv courtroom on Friday for the first time for an alleged war crime since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sgt. It is alleged that Vadim Shishimarin, 21, shot a 62-year-old man in the head in the northeastern village of Chubakivka in the first week of the war. A member of the Russian tank unit faces life imprisonment under Ukrainian law.
Lawyers and judges briefly discussed procedural issues on Friday. Defense attorney Viktor Ovsyanikov said the court would decide what evidence to allow at trial, but added that the case against the Russian soldier was strong.
Since the invasion began in February, more than 10,700 possible war crimes have been investigated by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova. Her office said there were more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Swedish report outlines costs and benefits of NATO membership
A Swedish government report on its potential NATO membership lists Russian cyberattacks as one of the many aggressive actions the country could face if it joined the military alliance.
The report, published on Friday, comes as the Scandinavian country considers whether to join NATO and its neighbour. Finland said this week that it wants to be part of the military alliance.
The Swedish report noted the security benefits of NATO membership, but also said the country could be subject to mixed attacks and violations of its airspace or waters.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday that his country is still ready to negotiate with Russia over the supply of banned grain and find a diplomatic solution to end the war.
Kuleba made the comments in Germany, where top diplomats from the Group of Seven are meeting. Kuleba said Kyiv “has not received any positive feedback” from Moscow, which “prefers wars over talks.”
“We are ready to talk, but we are ready to have a meaningful conversation on the basis of mutual respect, and not on the Russian ultimatums placed on the table,” he added.
Almost on Thursday, UNICEF said 100 Ukrainian children killed During the month of April alone, the humanitarian agency estimates that the death toll is likely to be much higher.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said earlier this week that Russian forces have bombed hundreds of schools across Ukraine. “In Ukraine today, education is also under attack,” Abdi said.
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Russian forces continued their assault on Ukrainian education Thursday night, bombing schools in the Chernihiv region.
The war displaced millions of children, and The United Nations estimates that 6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the invasion began in February.
Not all of them were successful, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in an operational update on Friday.
It targeted villages near Donetsk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Korakhiv, and the armed forces also fired on Ukrainian forces near Novobavlovsk and Zaporizhzhya, according to the General Staff. The Ukrainian military said the bombing of the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city if Mariupol continues.
According to estimates by British defense officialsRussian forces have not made significant advances in eastern Ukraine lately. The British Ministry of Defense said that Russian forces suffered heavy losses when a column attempted to cross the Severodonetsk River west of Severodonetsk on a pontoon bridge.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is an extremely risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure on Russian leaders to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine,” British officials said in a daily intelligence update.
Zelensky said that the Russian army destroyed more than 500 medical facilities
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday evening that the Russian army has destroyed 570 medical facilities and completely destroyed 101 hospitals since the war began in February.
“They are cowards, trying to hide the truth behind missiles, airstrikes and artillery,” Zelensky said in a nightly video address to the nation. “So our mission is to fight until we achieve our goals in this war: to liberate our land and our people and to secure our security.”
Zelensky also said that Russian forces had bombed the Chernihiv region, hitting schools and condemned what he said were senseless attacks on the refinery in the Kremenchug industrial center in central Ukraine, in the Zaporizhia region and Donbass.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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