(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military last month launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, attempting to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol and to secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
May 12, 8:24 am
Finland joining NATO would pose threat to Russia, Kremlin says
Russia will conduct a “special analysis” and take necessary measures for national security if Finland joins NATO, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.
“There is an order from the president, the supreme commander-in-chief, that a list of measures be composed to strengthen our western flanks in connection with the strengthening of the eastern flank of NATO,” Peskov told reporters during a daily briefing. “NATO has been enlarging towards us. So, clearly, all of that will be elements of a special analysis and the elaboration of measures necessary for maintaining a balance and providing our security.”
“Everything will depend on the manifestation of the further [NATO] enlargement process — how far the military infrastructure will grow towards our borders,” he added.
When asked whether Finland’s accession to NATO — the world’s biggest military alliance — would pose a threat to Russia, Peskov told reporters: “Of course it will.”
“Another enlargement of NATO does not make our continent more stable and secure,” he said.
Peskov’s comments followed a joint statement released by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announcing their support for Finland applying to join NATO.
May 12, 4:09 am
Finland says it ‘must apply for NATO membership without delay’
Finland’s leaders announced Thursday their support for the country applying to join NATO, the world’s biggest military alliance.
“During this spring, an important discussion on Finland’s possible NATO membership has taken place. Time has been needed to let Parliament and the whole society establish their stands on the matter,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement. “Time has been needed for close international contacts with NATO and its member countries, as well as with Sweden. We have wanted to give the discussion the space it required.”
“Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties. NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” they added. “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”
The Finnish Parliament will now take up the issue, with a vote expected to be held early next week.
The announcement marks a major shift in Finland’s traditionally neutral policy, triggered by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and recent opinion polls show Finnish public support for joining NATO has surged to 76%.
Neighboring Sweden is also considering applying to join the alliance.
May 11, 4:40 pm
State Dept. maintains Putin still has ‘straightforward’ path to peace
Despite President Joe Biden saying Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a “way out,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price insisted the U.S. is providing the Kremlin with a “very simple” and “straightforward” exit strategy through genuine diplomacy.
“The State Department, this administration, provided an off ramp well before President Putin decided to launch this war against Ukraine … it has not closed,” Price said.
The problem, Price said, was that Russia continues to show no interest in that route.
Price repeated that one area where the U.S. was not willing to give over any ground was the potential expansion of the NATO alliance.
“NATO’s open door means an open door. That is important to us and it is nonnegotiable,” he insisted.
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
May 11, 4:36 pm
Biden: ‘American agriculture imports will make up for the gap in Ukrainian supplies’
President Joe Biden said the war in Ukraine is an opportunity for American farmers to step in to address shortages caused by the invasion.
“We can make sure the American agriculture imports will make up for the gap in Ukrainian supplies,” Biden told a group at a farm in Illinois on Wednesday.
Biden said to the farmers, “With Putin’s war in Ukraine, you’re like the backbone of freedom.”
The president pointed the finger at Russia for preventing Ukraine from shipping wheat to the rest of the world.
Biden noted: “Ukraine was the world’s largest producer of wheat and corn and cooking oil — but wheat, the largest. … Ukraine says they have 20 million tons of grain in their silos right now … because of what the Russians are doing in the Black Sea, Putin has warships, battleships preventing access to the Ukrainian ports to get this grain out, to get this wheat out.”
“The brutal war launched on Ukrainian soil has prevented Ukrainian farmers from planting next year’s crop and next year’s harvest,” he added.
-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson
May 11, 4:08 pm
1 dead, 6 hurt in bombardments in Russia’s Belgorod region
One person has been killed and six others are injured from shelling in the Solokhi village in Belgorod, Russia, according to Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov. A 14-year-old boy is among the injured, the governor said.
This area is less than 7 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Gladkov said the shelling originated from Ukraine’s side of the border and that this was the most serious incident since Ukrainian forces began firing on the region. Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed that Ukrainian forces are firing on Russia’s side of the border.
May 11, 3:04 pm
UK signs new security pacts with Sweden, Finland
As Sweden and Finland consider NATO memberships, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed new security pacts with the leaders of both nations on Wednesday, ensuring the U.K. could give military support even if the countries are not NATO members.
Johnson said the invasion of Ukraine “sadly” opened a new chapter.
“Our armed forces will train, operate and exercise together — marrying our defense and security capabilities and formalizing a pledge that we will always come to one another’s aid,” he said at a news conference.
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
May 11, 12:50 pm
First Russian soldier indicted for allegedly shooting, killing Ukrainian civilian
The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has brought its first indictment against a Russian soldier for allegedly shooting and killing a Ukrainian civilian.
Vadim Shishimarinov, a 21-year-old soldier in Russia’s 4th Armored Division, allegedly fired his AK-47 at a car driven by a 62-year-old Ukrainian man, killing him at the scene, Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said.
He could face a life sentence if convicted of the shooting, which unfolded on Feb. 28 in the village of Chupakhivka.
-ABC News’ Tomek Rolski
May 11, 7:52 am
Fighting continues between Ukrainian and Russian forces on Snake Island, UK says
Fighting has continued on Ukraine’s Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, “with Russia repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison located there,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in an intelligence update.
“If Russia consolidates its position on Zmiinyi Island with strategic air defence and coastal defence cruise missiles, they could dominate the north-western Black Sea,” the ministry warned.
The island is strategically located, as it provides access to Ukraine’s major port cities, including Odesa, the country’s largest seaport and one of the largest in the Black Sea basin, serving as a major gateway for grain shipments and other key exports.
Ukraine, however, has managed to successfully strike Russian air defenses and resupply vessels with drones, according to the ministry.
“Russia’s resupply vessels have minimum protection in the western Black Sea, following the Russian Navy’s retreat to Crimea after the loss of the Moskva,” the ministry added.
May 11, 6:57 am
Zelenskyy thanks House for aid, as Russia denies responsibility for Ukrainian deaths
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday thanked the U.S. House of Representatives for its approval of a nearly $40 billion package of humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine in a bill passed on Tuesday.
“We are looking forward to the consideration of this important document for us by the Senate,” Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet expressing gratitude to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Joe Biden and “all friends of Ukraine” in the House.
Earlier on Tuesday, two senators unveiled a resolution calling on the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D.-Conn., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., said the designation, which could result in further sanctions for Russia, is warranted by Russia’s war on Ukraine and conduct elsewhere under President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is a thug, and a bully, and he will continue being an increasing threat to Europe and the world unless he is stopped,” Blumenthal said at a press conference, adding, “If there’s anybody who embodies terrorism, totalitarianism and tyranny, it’s Putin.”
The resolution was originally requested by the Ukrainian parliament, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far declined to add Russia to the list of countries — Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria — considered to be state sponsors.
Russia’s Ministry of Health sent the World Health Organization a letter in which it “strongly rejects” its responsibility for the rising death toll in Ukraine.
“The health emergency in Ukraine and neighboring countries is caused by the unconstitutional coup that took place in this country in 2014, and by the subsequent military aggression of the Kyiv regime against the population of Donbass in the period of 2014–2022,” Andrey Plutnitsky, Russia’s envoy to the WHO, wrote in the letter.
Plutnitsky called on WHO member states to pay “special attention” to “the military biological activities undertaken by a number of countries on the territory of Ukraine, which represent a significant danger to the region.”
Members of the Russian military are trying to hide their involvement in some hostilities in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s intelligence service said on Wednesday.
Russian troops, including some from the air and space forces, have demanded that the command keep their involvement in the invasion secret in order to avoid further possible responsibility for war crimes, the Ukrainian intelligence claimed.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that 89 of the 90 M777 Howitzers promised to Ukraine have been handed over to the Ukrainian military.
Of the total count of 184,000 rounds of ammunition committed to Ukraine, “65 percent, so almost 120,000 rounds, are in [Ukraine],” a senior defense official said at a background briefing on Tuesday. The Russians added two battalion tactical groups to their force in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, the official added, bringing the new count of operational Russian BGTs up to 99.
May 10, 11:18 pm
House approves $40 billion in Ukraine aid, sending measure to Senate
The House on Tuesday approved a nearly $40 billion package of humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, the latest tranche of relief to the country the U.S. is aggressively backing in its fight against Russia.
The bill, which was finalized earlier Tuesday and includes nearly $7 billion more funding than requested by the Biden administration, was approved in a 368-57 vote, with all Democrats backing the bill and all opposition coming from Republicans.
With the vote, Congress has now directed more than $50 billion to support Ukraine in the war with Russia. The House voted 36-169 on March 9 on a $13.6 billion package for Ukraine and other key European allies.
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure in the coming days.
The package includes $6 billion to help train, equip and support the Ukrainian armed forces, and more than $9 billion to replenish the U.S. stockpiles of military equipment and ammunition in the U.S. and abroad that have been tapped to re-arm Ukraine.
The measure would also help fund and support U.S. troops stationed in Europe and the operation of a Patriot air defense missile system in Europe, and it includes more than $900 million to support Ukranian refugees with housing, counseling and English language classes, as well as helping process and screen those traveling to the United States.
Additionally, the bill directs the inspector general of the Defense Department to provide a written report to the House and Senate defense committees reviewing the Ukraine program spending within 120 days of the law’s enactment.
May 10, 6:46 pm
State Department calls on Congress to pass additional aid
The State Department is urging Congress to quickly move on passing additional funding for Ukraine, calling the aid “vital” and warning the administration’s other means of financing military support were quickly running out.
“Our assistance to Ukraine has been just as we promised: massive,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during his daily briefing Tuesday. “We have provided $4.5 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine since the start of this administration, some $3.8 billion worth of security assistance since the invasion began. These are supplies — weapons — precisely what Ukraine needs to defend itself.”
But, he said, maintaining that support depends on lawmakers fulfilling the White House’s request for another $40 billion in funding.
“The fact, however, is that right now, our coffers in terms of drawdown funding — they’re dwindling,” he said. “We now have less than $100 million left and we will exhaust those funds within the next week.”
Price said the new tranche of funding would “help our Ukrainian partners and also our NATO allies do precisely what we feel it is imperative that they be positioned to do at this moment.”
Pressed on whether the administration had a limit in mind when it came to sending lethal aid to Ukraine, Price said the focus was on fulfilling its promises to “provide Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to defend itself” and ensuring “our allies — especially our allies on the eastern flank — had what they needed to deter and potentially even respond to Russian aggression.”
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
May 10, 5:32 pm
Nominee for US ambassador to Ukraine testifies in confirmation hearing
Amid a three-year vacancy and with Ukraine in the grips of a brutal war, the U.S. Senate took its first major step towards confirming an American ambassador to Ukraine on Tuesday with a hearing in its Foreign Relations Committee for President Joe Biden’s nominee, Bridget Brink.
Brink — a veteran diplomat with 25 years of experience and the current U.S. ambassador to Slovakia — acknowledged the great difficulties that would come with the post but said it would be the “honor of a lifetime.”
“We face the biggest threat to peace and security in Europe in decades,” she said during her opening statements. “If confirmed, I pledge to work with you to continue our commitment to a sovereign, democratic and independent Ukraine — free to choose its own future.”
Brink has bipartisan support and her path to confirmation appears to be a smooth one, though Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the committee, foretold “a lot scrutiny from Washington” when it comes to moving the U.S. embassy back to Kyiv and “helping to shepherd U.S. military, humanitarian and financial aid in the right places.”
“I think it’s really important for us to be there in person and present,” Brink responded when questioned on plans to reopen the embassy in Kyiv. “I don’t know exactly how fast we will be able to do this process, but I know we are trying to do it as fast as possible and it is certainly my hope and plan, if confirmed, to be able to start my mission in Kyiv.”
She later added: “It’s necessary for us to be there on the ground.”
The nominee was also asked about the need for the aid package currently working its way through Congress.
“It is incredibly important that the supplemental move fast,” Brink said. “The needs are large.”
Brink also promised to work to assist Ukraine in holding Russia accountable for alleged war crimes.
“We are going to use every tool at our disposal,” she said. “I can tell you it’s a personal priority of mine.”
-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
May 10, 3:23 pm
House expected to vote on nearly $40 billion Ukraine aid package
The House will vote on a new roughly $40 billion Ukraine aid package Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced.
The request includes funding for “critically needed resources, including military aid, support for the Ukrainian economy, and humanitarian assistance for food security to address the worldwide hunger crisis.”
The White House had initially requested $33 billion in assistance for Ukraine, but congressional leaders decided to tack on an additional $7 billion for more military and humanitarian assistance.
“This package, which builds on the robust support already secured by Congress, will be pivotal in helping Ukraine defend not only its nation but democracy for the world. Time is of the essence – and we cannot afford to wait,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. “With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won.”
The bill is expected to pass in the House, after which it would head to the Senate.
-ABC News’ Mariam Khan
May 10, 3:10 pm
Pelosi, lawmakers to brief Biden on trip to Ukraine
President Joe Biden will host House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress in the Situation Room on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the lawmakers’ recent trip to Ukraine, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden previously spoke with Pelosi over the phone about her trip but wanted a more thorough discussion in person, Psaki said.
Expected to attend are: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass.; and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.
-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson and Mariam Khan
May 10, 2:59 pm
Putin has goals beyond Donbas, US says
Russian President Vladimir Putin “is preparing for prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
“The next month or two of fighting will be significant as the Russians attempt to reinvigorate their efforts. But even if they are successful, we are not confident that the fight in the Donbas will effectively end the war,” Haines told senators at an Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
For now, Putin’s goal is to take control of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and encircle Ukrainian forces from the north and south of the Donbas “in order to crush the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces who are fighting to hold the line in the East,” Haines said.
Putin also hopes to “consolidate control of the land bridge Russia has established from Crimea to the Donbas, occupy Kherson, and control the water source for Crimea,” Haines said. The U.S. sees indications his military wants to extend that land bridge to Transnistria in Moldova, she added.
Haines said Russia might be capable of achieving “most” of those goals in the coming months. However, “We believe that they will not be able to extend control over a land bridge that stretches to Transnistria and includes Odessa without launching some form of mobilization. And it is increasingly unlikely that they will be able to establish control over both oblasts and the buffer zone they desire in the coming weeks,” she said.
Sanctions from the West are having a “pretty significant” impact on Russia, according to Haines.
“Among the indicators that one might look at are, for example, the fact that we’re seeing close to about, we predict, approximately 20% inflation in Russia; that we expect that their GDP will fall about 10%, possibly even more over the course of the year,” she said.
The fighting itself has also worn on Russia’s capabilities.
“The ground combat forces have been degraded considerably. It’s going to take them years … to rebuild that,” she said.
But that could drive Putin to other means of exerting force. Haines said, “They may rely more on things like cyber, nuclear, precision, etc. … Putin would probably only authorize the use of nuclear weapons if he perceived an existential threat to the Russian state or regime.”
Haines warned, “The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives as the conflict drags on, or if he perceives Russia is losing in Ukraine.”
“The most likely flashpoints for escalation in the coming weeks are around increasing Russian attempts to interdict Western security assistance, retaliation for Western economic sanctions or threats to the regime at home. We believe that Moscow continues to use nuclear rhetoric to deter the United States and the West from increasing lethal aid to Ukraine and to respond to public comments that the U.S. and NATO allies that suggest expanded Western goals in the conflict,” she said. “If Putin perceives that the United States is ignoring his threats, he may try to signal to Washington the heightened danger of its support to Ukraine by authorizing another large nuclear exercise involving a major dispersal of mobile intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers, strategic submarines.”
-ABC News’ Matt Seyler
May 10, 11:29 am
Russia has lost 8 to 10 generals so far, US believes
The U.S. believes eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told senators on Tuesday at an Armed Services Committee hearing.
This is slightly below the estimate from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, which said up to 12 Russian generals have been killed.
-ABC News’ Matt Seyler
May 10, 8:18 am
Ukrainian police probe over 10,000 cases of suspected war crimes
The national police chief of Ukraine, Gen. Igor Klimenko, told ABC News on Tuesday that his officers are currently investigating 10,800 cases of suspected war crimes across the country, in areas that were previously occupied by Russian forces.
In the Kyiv region alone, police said they have so far recovered 1,262 bodies of slain civilians. The head of Kyiv police, Andriy Nebytov, told ABC News on Tuesday that his officers are currently working to identify 258 of those bodies.
Local police said five bodies were recovered on Monday, including three men who were lying in a mass grave. Police said the men had been shot in the head.
Local officers in the Kyiv region said they have found so many dead bodies of people killed when Russian forces occupied the area that they do not have the capacity to store them all in morgues. Instead, DNA samples will be taken before the bodies are buried while the process of identifying the victims is carried out.
Once the DNA process is complete, the graves of the deceased can be properly marked, according to local police.
French police officers are also in Ukraine to help with the identity process. According to Ukrainian police, technology available to their French counterparts can finish the DNA identification process within 24 hours — something which would normally take Ukrainian police three to four days.
May 10, 6:47 am
Russia paying the price for underestimating Ukrainian resistance, UK says
Russia is paying the price for underestimating Ukrainian resistance, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Tuesday in an intelligence update.
“Russia’s invasion plan is highly likely to have been based on the mistaken assumption that it would encounter limited resistance and would be able to encircle and bypass population centres rapidly,” the ministry said Tuesday in an intelligence update. “This assumption led Russian forces to attempt to carry out the opening phase of the operation with a light, precise approach intended to achieve a rapid victory with minimal cost.”
“This miscalculation led to unsustainable losses and a subsequent reduction in Russia’s operational focus,” the ministry added.
According to the ministry, these “demonstrable operational failings” prevented Russian President Vladimir Putin from announcing significant military success at Monday’s Victory Day parade in Moscow.
Although he showed no signs of backing down, Putin did not make any declarations of war or victory in his annual speech for Victory Day, a national holiday in Russia commemorating the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Instead, he drew parallels between Soviet soldiers battling Nazi troops and the Russian forces fighting now in Ukraine, as he has vowed to “de-Nazify” the former Soviet republic.
“You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of the Second World War,” Putin said Monday during a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
May 10, 6:30 am
US suspends tariffs on Ukrainian steel
The U.S. will temporarily suspend 232 tariffs on Ukrainian steel for one year, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced Monday.
Ukraine’s steel industry is one of the foundations of the country’s economy, employing 1 in 13 Ukrainians, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Some of Ukraine’s largest steel communities have been among those “hardest hit by Putin’s barbarism,” the U.S. Department of Commerce said in a press release, and the steel mill in Mariupol has become a “lasting symbol of Ukraine’s determination to resist Russia’s aggression.”
“Steelworkers are among the world’s most resilient — whether they live in Youngstown or Mariupol,” Raimondo said.
The pledge to slash tariffs “is a signal to the Ukrainian people that we are committed to helping them thrive in the face of Putin’s aggression,” she said, “and that their work will create a stronger Ukraine, both today and in the future.”
Ukraine is currently losing about $170 million every day due to blocked ports and the country’s export potential has fallen by more than half, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmysal said on Monday.
Ukraine also submitted a several-thousand-page questionnaire, the second part of the answers, that must be completed by countries aspiring to join the European Union, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday during his nightly address.
“It usually takes months. But we did everything in a few weeks,” Zelenskyy said.
The Ukrainian president held talks with EU leaders on Monday and claimed Ukraine could be granted EU candidate status as early as June.
Russia running out of missiles
Russia has used up about half of its existing missiles during its invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Monday. But the Russians still maintain the capacity and a certain supply of components to replenish some of their depleted arsenal, Malyar added.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense also stated in its Monday intelligence update that Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided munitions “has likely been heavily depleted.” Instead, the Russian military is now using “readily available but ageing munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted.”
Russia will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended, the ministry said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted Monday that he has “never been more certain that Ukraine will win,” adding that Britain will stand “shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Fighting continued on May 9 at the Azovstal steel plant while “some occupiers were walking along the streets” of the surrounding city of Mariupol parading with flags and Ribbons of Saint George, a traditional Russian military symbol, said Petro Andriushchenko, the Mariupol mayor’s advisor. Russian forces on Monday tried to blow up the bridge used to evacuate people from the steel plant, trying to “cut off our defenders from the possibility to exit,” Andriushchenko said.
There are still more than 100 civilians trapped in Azovstal, Pavlo Kyrylenko, who heads the Donetsk military administration, told local media.
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