Russia-Ukraine Conflict

German leader says it's necessary to keep talking to Putin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says it’s “absolutely necessary” for some leaders to talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid efforts to end the war in Ukraine. He told German news agency dpa on Friday that he and France’s president will continue to do so. Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have held several telephone conversations with Putin, separately and together, since Russia’s invasion began in late February. Those contacts have drawn some criticism — including from Poland’s president, who said recently that they achieve nothing and serve only to legitimize the Russian leader. But Scholz said some leaders need to talk to Putin “and it is necessary that they are clear.”

Putin: Russian economy to overcome 'reckless' sanctions

President Vladimir Putin has said at Russia’s showpiece investment conference that the country’s economy will overcome sanctions that he called “reckless and insane.” Putin began his address Friday to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with a lengthy denunciation of countries that he contends want to weaken Russia, including the United States. He says the U.S. “declared victory in the Cold War and later came to think of themselves as God’s own messengers on planet Earth.” Russia came under a wide array of sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine in February. Putin said trying to damage the Russian economy “didn’t work.”

US sanctions Nicaraguan gold mining firm over ties to Russia

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Nicaragua’s state-owned gold mining company and the president of its board of directors partly over the Central American nation’s ties to Russia. The Treasury Department says Friday's sanctions were imposed, in part, because Nicaragua's leaders are “deepening their relationship with Russia" as it wages war against Ukraine and are “using gold revenue to continue to oppress” Nicaragua's people. The actions are authorized under a Trump administration executive order targeting the violent response by the Nicaraguan government to civil protests that began in 2018. The sanctions mean all property that the company ENIMINAS has that the U.S. has jurisdiction over is blocked.

UK sanctions Russian Orthodox head; decries forced adoption

Britain has announced a new round of sanctions against Russia. Those targeted include Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who Britain said “repeatedly abused his position to justify” Russia's war on Ukraine. Britain also sanctioned Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, who is accused of overseeing the forced transfer of 2,000 Ukrainian children and facilitating their forced adoption in Russia. Others on Thursday’s list include four colonels from a brigade known to have killed, raped and tortured civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said Britain is “taking all steps we can” regarding two British citizens sentenced to death for fighting Russian forces in Ukraine.

Kyiv Diary: European leaders bear witness to war's horror

Before meeting Ukraine's president, a group of European leaders took a tour of the devastation wrought by Russia. To understand Ukraine’s fight for survival, they had to see it themselves, with their own eyes. The blown up buildings. The smashed cars. And a message of hope spray-painted on a damaged building despite mounting Ukrainian deaths. French President Emmanuel Macron spotted it immediately amid the ruins. It said “Make Europe, not war.” Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Premier Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis toured the small city of Irpin on Thursday. It bore the full brunt of Russia’s failed assault on the Ukrainian capital in the first weeks of the war. Later, they met with Ukraine’s president.

US, Germany sending weapons to Ukraine as Russia advances

The governor of a key eastern Ukrainian city is acknowledging that Russian forces are advancing in heavy fighting. But he says the Ukrainian military is “holding back the enemy from three sides” in Sievierodonetsk. As fighting remains fierce in the eastern Donbas region, NATO members are pledging to send more and longer-range weapons to Ukraine, whose troops are outnumbered and outgunned. President Joe Biden says the U.S. will send an additional $1 billion in military aid, the largest single tranche of weapons and equipment since Russia invaded Ukraine. Germany says it will provide multiple launch rocket systems. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the military support “brings us closer to a common victory over the Russian aggressor.”

Russia's war on Ukraine will shape the Czech EU presidency

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and what Europe must do to counter the consequences of it have become the key task for the Czech Republic’s upcoming presidency of the 27-nation European Union. The country formally takes reins from France on July 1. The political priorities of the rotating presidency are all linked to the war. The Czechs want to use this period to help Ukraine, including granting it EU candidacy status. The Czech are also seeking the toughest possible sanctions against Russia and hope to organize a summit on Ukraine's post-war reconstruction. The Czechs want the EU to “drastically reduce its (energy) dependence on hostile or unstable regimes,” setting up possible disputes with Germany and Italy, who are more dependent on Russian gas than other EU nations.

US sending $1 billion more military aid to outgunned Ukraine

The U.S. says it will send an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, as America and its allies work to provide longer-range weapons they say can make a difference in a fight where Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and outgunned by their Russian invaders. President Joe Biden and his top national security leaders say the U.S. is moving as fast as possible to get critical weapons into the fight, even as Ukrainian officials protest that they need more, and faster, in order to survive. The aid will include anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems that U.S. forces are training Ukrainian troops on now.

Russian opposition leader confirms prison move

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny confirms he's been moved to another maximum security prison. Navalny wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday that he's now at the IK-6 prison in the Vladimir region of Russia. The most determined political foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin previously was held at a penal colony in the same region. He says he is confined in a “strict regime” and in quarantine, but didn't say why. Navalny was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve-agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. His imprisonment is part of a Kremlin crackdown on opposition activists and independent journalists.

Time correspondent writes book on Zelenskyy and Ukraine war

A Time magazine correspondent has a book planned for next year that will draw upon his extensive access to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Simon Shuster’s “When the World Is Watching: Volodymyr Zelensky and the War in Ukraine.” HarperCollins Publishers says the book will provide a detailed account of the Ukrainian president's response to the Russian invasion. “Shuster will offer revelations about the way Zelensky and his team have experienced this war and navigated the shifting roles of foreign leaders from around the world," the publisher said. Shuster is a Moscow native currently spending much of his time in Kiev.

China's Xi reasserts support for Russia on security issues

Chinese President Xi Jinping has reasserted his country's support for Russia on issues of sovereignty and security in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. State media say Xi told Putin that China is “willing to work with Russia on issues concerning core interests and major concerns." He added that “all parties should responsibly push for a proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” China has refused to criticize Russia's invasion of Ukraine or even to refer to it in such terms. Weeks before the Russian attack, Putin and Xi met in Beijing and oversaw the signing of an agreement pledging that relations between the sides would have “no limits."

Russians control 80% of key Ukraine city, cut escape routes

A governor says Russian forces control about 80% of the key Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk. The Luhansk regional leader says Russian forces have destroyed all three bridges out of the city but Ukrainians were still trying to evacuate the wounded despite relentless shelling. A Russian general says a humanitarian corridor will be opened Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the city's Azot chemical plant. In other news on the war, a U.N. official said nearly two-thirds of the children in Ukraine have been uprooted during the war. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Romania to meet with French troops there on NATO's eastern flank. And President Joe Biden spoke of building silos on Ukraine's borders to help it export much-needed grain to the world.

War isn't funny but humor helps Ukrainians cope with trauma

Russia's war in Ukraine isn’t remotely funny. But Ukrainians are learning to laugh about the awfulness. Not because they want to. But because they have to in order to stay sane. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his troops are favorite targets of dark Ukrainian wartime humor. But there are red lines. Ukrainian dead aren’t laughed about and the grimmest battles like the brutal siege of Mariupol are far too raw for jokes. Stand-up comics Serhiy Lipko and Anastasia Zukhvala are among those using humor as a weapon and to keep spirits up. But he'll soon have a real weapon in his hands because he's going into battle.

Pope blasts Russian 'cruelty,' lauds Ukrainian 'heroism'

Pope Francis has blasted the “ferocity and cruelty” of Russian troops in Ukraine while praising the “heroism” and “courage” of Ukrainians to defend their land. Francis made some of his most pointed comments about the war in a meeting with European editors of Jesuit journals last month. Excerpts of the conversation were published Tuesday in Italian dailies La Stampa and Avvenire. Francis also insisted there weren’t “good guys and bad guys” and that Russia was in some ways provoked by NATO’s expansion east.

Bucolic Ukraine forest is site of mass grave exhumation

Ukraine's national police chief says authorities are investigating the killings of more than 12,000 Ukrainians nationwide in the war since the Russian invasion in February. Authorities in the Kyiv region near Bucha on Monday showed reporters several victims whose hands had been tied behind their backs. Some of the victims were found in a lush green Ukrainian forest, where birds were singing. Workers in white hazmat suits conducted an exhumation in a mass grave behind a trench for a military vehicle. In other news of the war, the Russian military claimed it had destroyed weapons that the U.S. and Europe had supplied to Ukraine. There was no immediate comment on that from Ukraine.

Japan philanthropic group begins fund raising for Ukrainians

A Japanese foundation has announced it is launching a fundraising drive to provide more than 1,200 Ukrainian evacuees in Japan with additional financial support for language studies and other needs. Jumpei Sasakawa, executive director of the Nippon Foundation, says it aims to raise $7.4 million through cooperation with the U.S. and Ukrainian ambassadors. The foundation has already pledged $37 million for the transportation and living costs of Ukrainian evacuees. Japan has so far accepted more than 1,200 war-displaced Ukrainians since Russia invaded in late February. Sasakawa says he was approached by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who asked him to enable ordinary Japanese to help support Ukrainian evacuees.

The battle of Donbas could prove decisive in Ukraine war

Day after day, Russia is pounding the Donbas region of Ukraine with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress to seize the industrial heartland of its neighbor. With the conflict now in its fourth month, it’s a high-stakes campaign that could dictate the course of the entire war. If Russia prevails in the battle of Donbas, it will mean that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, opening the way for Moscow to grab more territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv. A Russian failure could lay the grounds for a Ukrainian counteroffensive — and possibly lead to political upheaval for the Kremlin.

Moscow-backed officials try to solidify rule in Ukraine

Kremlin-installed officials in occupied southern Ukraine celebrated Russia Day on Sunday and began issuing Russian passports to those in one city who requested them, as Moscow seeks to solidify its rule over captured parts of the country. Russia Day is the holiday that marks Russia’s emergence as a sovereign state after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukrainian media reported that few, if any, local residents attended the Russia Day festivities in the two cities.

Cyprus eyes rebound from loss of Russian, Ukrainian tourists

Orthodox Christians visiting Cyprus from Russia and Ukraine usually would be streaming past an icon of the Virgin Mary that tradition dictates was blessed by the Virgin herself. But the war in Ukraine and a European Union ban on Russian flights has meant a loss of visitors from the two countries. Ukrainian and Russian vacationers accounted for a fifth of all tourists to Cyprus in 2019, a record-setting year for tourism on the island nation south of Turkey. But officials say that thanks to seeking new markets before the war, Cyprus is projected to make up a sizable chunk of the estimated $645 million in tourism revenue it's losing from Russians and Ukrainians.

Ukraine: Russia said to be using more deadly weapons in war

Ukrainian and British officials have warned that Russian forces are relying on weapons with potential to cause mass casualties as they try to make headway in capturing eastern Ukraine. The U.K. Defense Ministry said Saturday that Russian bombers have likely been launching heavy 1960s-era anti-ship missiles that can cause severe collateral damage and casualties when used on land targets. A regional governor accused Russia of using incendiary weapons in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province. Both sides have been expending large amounts of weaponry in what has become a grinding war of attrition. During a visit by the European Union’s top official, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy called for “even stronger” EU sanctions against Russia.

Live updates | Biden: Zelenskyy didn't want to hear US info

President Joe Biden says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “didn’t want to hear it” when U.S. intelligence gathered information that Russia was preparing to invade. Speaking to donors at a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles, made the remarks as he talked about his work to rally support for Ukraine as the war continues into its fourth month. “Nothing like this has happened since World War II. I know a lot of people thought I was maybe exaggerating. But I knew we had data to sustain he” — meaning Russian President Vladimir Putin — “was going to go in, off the border.”

Civilians flee intense fighting in contested eastern Ukraine

Civilians are fleeing eastern Ukraine where Russian and Ukrainian forces are engaged in a grinding war off attrition. Women, children and elderly residents departed Friday on a special evacuation train. Svitlana Kaplun left with her family after shelling reached their neighborhood. She told The Associated Press that her kids were "worried all the time” and “afraid to sleep at night.” Russia's military bungled an attempt to overrun Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv in the early days of the war. It has since shifted its focus to Ukraine's eastern region of coal mines and factories known as the Donbas. The area borders Russia and has been partly controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.