Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that European nations halt sanctions on his country and weapons shipments to Ukraine. Putin held a three-way telephone call on Saturday with the leaders of France and Germany. The Kremlin says the Russian leader affirmed Moscow's openness to resuming talks to end the fighting. But Russia’s recent progress in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region could embolden Putin to keep pursuing his military goals in the country. Moscow claimed that its forces had captured another small city in the Donbas, the second this week. After failing to occupy Ukraine's capital, Russia set out to seize the last parts of the eastern region not controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.

Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle

Russia has claimed the capture of a key railway junction as its forces fight to seize all of eastern Ukraine's contested Donbas region. A Russian Defense ministry spokesman reported Saturday said the city of Lyman had been “completely liberated” by a joint force of Russian soldiers and Moscow-backed separatists. The city is the second small municipality to fall to Russian forces this week. Controlling Lyman would give the Russian military a foothold for advancing on larger Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Since failing to occupy Ukraine’s capital, Russia has concentrated on seizing parts of the region not already controlled by the separatists.

Live updates | Ukraine leader defiant on victory over Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy has spoken defiantly in two speeches about his country’s ultimate victory over Russian forces in both the most pressing battle in eastern Ukraine and the war, generally. “Ukraine is a country that has destroyed the myth about the extraordinary power of the Russian army -- an army that supposedly, in a few days, could conquer anyone it wants,” he told Stanford University students by video. Later, in his nightly video address, Zelenskyy reacted to Russians’ capture of the city of Lyman and its attempt to encircle and seize the city of Sievierodonetsk. “If the occupiers think that Lyman or Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong.”

Biden tells Naval Academy grads Putin 'NATO-ized Europe'

President Joe Biden has told Naval Academy graduates that they will be “representatives and defenders of our democracy” because free societies are under threat from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to China’s maritime expansion. Biden spoke Friday at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to the more than 1,000 newly commissioned ensigns and second lieutenants. It's his first commencement address of the year. Biden is also set to deliver remarks at Saturday’s graduation ceremony at the University of Delaware, his alma mater. On Sunday, Biden will visit Uvalde, Texas to console grieving families after Tuesday’s shooting at an elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers.

Russia slams sanctions, seeks to blame West for food crisis

Russia is pressing the West to lift sanctions over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis. That crisis is worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products because of the conflict. According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italy's prime minister that Russia would help with grain exports if sanctions are lifted. Britain accused Moscow of trying to hold the world ransom and insisted there would be no sanctions relief. Meanwhile, Russia made incremental advances as fighting continued in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Separately, two Russian soldiers pleaded guilty to shelling civilian infrastructure during the war, which is now in its fourth month.

Live updates | Mayor: Some 1,500 killed in Sievierodonetsk

The mayor of Sievierodonetsk says the Ukrainian city is holding out, although a Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group went into a city hotel. Sievierodonetsk is the center of fierce fighting in the east. Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk says at least 1,500 people have been killed in Sievierodonetsk and about 12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city, where he says 60% of residential buildings have been destroyed. Sievierodonetsk is the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbas under Ukrainian government control. Russian forces have been trying to cut it off from the rest of Ukrainian-controlled territory. Stryuk says the main road between the neighboring town of Lysychansk and Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous.

West mulls having Russian oligarchs buy way out of sanctions

Government officials say Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs buy their way out of Western sanctions and use the money to rebuild Ukraine. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week. One official said Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow. One official says the Ukrainian leadership is aware of the discussions and have “some comfort” with the idea since Ukraine badly needs the additional liquidity.

Blinken: US to leverage Russia-Ukraine bloc against China

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration is aiming to lead the international bloc opposed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine into a broader coalition to counter what it sees as a more serious, long-term threat to global order from China. In a Washington speech outlining the administration's China policy on Thursday, Blinken laid out a three-pillar approach to competing with Beijing in a race to define the 21st century's economic and military balance. While the U.S. sees Russia as the most acute and immediate threat to international stability, Blinken says the administration believes China poses a greater danger.

No warmth for Russia at diplomatic conference on Antarctica

Russia has received a frosty reception at the start of an international conference on managing and protecting Antarctica. The 10-day meeting in Berlin to review the Antarctic Treaty is a rare point of diplomatic contact between Russia and other nations since the start of the war in Ukraine. Russia is represented by an official from its embassy in Germany and further delegates were participating remotely by video link. Opening the meeting Tuesday, a senior German official addressed the Russian presence directly and called on Moscow to end its war in Ukraine. It was not immediately clear whether or how Russian officials responded.

Davos ends with Germany pushing global work on climate, war

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has expressed hopes for global cooperation on climate change, hunger and war as dozens of climate activists demonstrated in the Swiss town of Davos. Both came on the last day of the World Economic Forum's meeting of global elites. It ended Thursday with many words but little concrete action to solve the world’s most pressing crises. The Davos gathering has been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, rising food and fuel prices, and signs that governments aren’t doing enough to fight global warming. That has doused many moods in the face of a can-do spirit by many innovators and entrepreneurs in Davos.

Davos updates | Iran's foreign minister talks war, nuke deal

Iran’s foreign minister sat before an audience of Western business executives and policymakers at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, fielding questions about why Iran has yet to condemn Russia for its invasion in Ukraine and why efforts to revive its nuclear deal have stalled. It was a rare opportunity for many in the audience to hear directly from Hossein Amirabdollahian, who was interviewed Thursday by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. When pressed on why Iran hasn't condemned its ally Russia for the war in Ukraine, he said Iran has, just as it had wars “against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine.” On stalled nuclear talks, he says Iran is “keeping the window of diplomacy open.”

How Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea in fall from grace

Roman Abramovich's ownership of Chelsea is ending in a way unimaginable when he was on the field in February celebrating the team's FIFA Club World Cup triumph. It was only in November that Abramovich was seen back at Stamford Bridge for the first time in more than three years being feted by the president of Israel for his antisemitism activism. Ultimately, it was Abramovich's ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin that led to him losing control of Chelsea. An enforced sale after Abramovich was sanctioned is concluding after three months with American investor Todd Boehly fronting a new ownership group.

Live updates | Ukraine president rebuffs calls to cede land

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is strongly rebuffing those in the West who suggest Ukraine cede control of areas occupied by Russian forces for the sake of reaching a peace agreement. Zelenskyy repeated his opposition to the idea late Wednesday in his nightly video address to the nation. He compared those who argue for giving Russia a piece of Ukraine to those who in 1938 ceded territory to Hitler in hopes of preventing World War II. Zelenskyy says his army is facing the fiercest attack by Russian forces. He's asking for even more military assistance from the West.

Russia takes steps to bolster army, tighten grip on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to strengthen his control of southern Ukraine by giving residents of two regions a fast path to Russian citizenship. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to bolster Russia's army, which is fighting an intense battle for Ukraine’s east. Putin visited a Moscow military hospital on Wednesday and met with some soldiers wounded in Ukraine. Three months into the war, Russian rockets pounded towns in the industrial Donbas region. Ukraine’s foreign minister said the situation there was “extremely bad.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that he'd be willing to negotiate with Putin directly but said Moscow needs to retreat to the positions it held before the Feb. 24 invasion.

Russian rockets hit eastern Ukrainian town of Pokrovsk

The Russian rocket strikes came early in the morning in the eastern Ukrainian town of Pokrovsk. The attack shook buildings and jolted people out of bed and sent chunks of concrete and jagged pieces of metal flying through the air. At least four people were wounded. One of the two rockets left a crater about three meters deep. Remnants of the projectile were still smoldering as nearby residents picked through the debris of their homes. They tried to salvage whatever they could. The strikes in Pokrovsk were among several over the past two days that have hit towns and villages as Russia pressed forward in its offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

Saving the children: War closes in on eastern Ukrainian town

Chunks of twisted metal and wood splinters lie among the swings and slides in the playground outside the bombed-out school. A few streets away, a yellow bathtub hangs precariously over the void left when part of an apartment building collapsed in a bombing. The eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut has been coming under increasing artillery strikes, particularly over the last week, as Russian forces try to press forward in an effort to encircle and capture the key city of Sieverodonetsk to the northeast. Most of Bakhmut’s population has already fled, and more are leaving every day. Evacuation minibuses run mainly by volunteers shuttle back and forth. “Now it’s a question of saving the children,” said Olga Hordiyenko, 51.

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as Chelsea owner is closer to ending after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly. The government had to be sure that Abramovich, who was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not profit from the enforced sale of the club that his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football. The reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions will  be sold for 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) — the highest price ever for a sports team — once Premier League approval is granted.

Live updates | Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian parliament has given preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. According to the state news agency Tass, the new law would transfer control over companies that left Russia not for economic reasons but because of “anti-Russian sentiment in Europe and the U.S. Tass says foreign owners would still be able to resume operations in Russia or sell their shares. Many foreign companies have suspended operations in Russia. Others have walked away entirely, despite their huge investments. McDonald’s announced this month that it is selling its 850 restaurants in Russia.

Ukraine: 200 bodies found in basement in Mariupol's ruins

Ukrainian authorities say workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol found 200 bodies in the basement. It was a grim reminder of the horrors still coming to light in the ruined city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the 3-month-old war. An adviser to Mariupol's mayor said Tuesday that the bodies were decomposing and a stench permeated the neighborhood. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Donbas, where Russian troops went on the offensive in Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities. Intense fighting raged on in Lyman, in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

Kremlin critic Browder urges forced oligarch whistleblowers

Kremlin critic Bill Browder wants governments to step up efforts to get to the riches squirreled away by Russian oligarchs by forcing accountants, lawyers and others who set up murky legal and financial structures to become whistleblowers. Browder, author of the best-seller “Freezing Order: “A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath,” says Russia’s war in Ukraine has increased attention on how oligarchs are custodians of President Vladimir Putin's wealth. He spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. A former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says “a lawyer shouldn’t do anything illegal" but you can't ask them to turn in a client.

Duterte hits Putin: I kill criminals, not children, elders

Outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sharply criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin for the killings of innocent civilians in Ukraine, saying while the two of them have been tagged as killers, “I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly.” Duterte, who openly calls Putin an idol, voiced his rebuke for the first time over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in remarks aired Tuesday where he blamed the three-month-old war for the spike in global oil prices that has battered many countries, including the Philippines. Duterte, who steps down on June 30, has presided over an anti-drugs crackdown that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead. The drug killings have sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Live updates | Russia accused of spreading disinformation

The United States and Britain are accusing Russia of spreading disinformation online and manipulating public opinion about the war in Ukraine. The two countries vehemently rejecting Russian claims that the West is aiming to control all information flows and define what is true or untrue. Britain’s deputy ambassador James Roscoe told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the use of digital technologies in maintaining peace that Russia has conducted cyber-attacks and used “an online troll factory to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion about their war.”  U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield says the Russian government continues to “censor content” and "intimidate and arrest journalists for reporting the truth about its invasion.”

Russian sentenced to life in Ukraine's 1st war crimes trial

A Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to killing a Ukrainian civilian was sentenced to life in prison. The sentencing Monday comes amid signs the Kremlin may hold trials of its own, particularly against the captured Ukrainian fighters who held out at Mariupol’s steel plant. Meanwhile, in a rare public expression of opposition to the war from the ranks of the Russian elite, a veteran diplomat resigned and sent a letter to foreign colleagues in which he said he had never been so ashamed of his country as he was on the day Moscow invaded. On the battlefield, heavy fighting raged in the Donbas in the east, where Moscow’s forces have stepped up bombardments.