Russia should be financially responsible for the destruction it has inflicted during its invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy contends.
Speaking on the third anniversary of his inauguration, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Friday that Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys.
Zelenskyy urged allies to seize Russian properties under their jurisdictions and use them to create a fund for the Ukrainian victims of the war.
“That would be fair,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia would feel the true weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell that it has fired at us.”
On Friday, a Russian strike destroyed a Ukrainian cultural center in Lozova, injuring seven people. Zelenskyy called the attack “absolute evil.”
“What is in the minds of people who choose such targets? Absolute evil, absolute stupidity,” he said.
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►President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine after Congress OK’d the legislation earlier this week.
►Delegates from the United States and four other nations staged a walkout Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.
►Russia is set to cut off Finland’s supply of natural gas on Saturday after the Finns refused to pay for it in rubles, according to Finland’s state-owned utility Gasum. Company executives said the move wouldn’t create disruptions for customers during the summer.
►President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation providing $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine while traveling in Asia, according to Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser.
►The Group of Seven leading economies agreed Friday to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine to help keep tight finances from hindering its ability to defend itself from Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine received 29,000 tons of humanitarian aid last week, official says
Some 29,000 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to Ukraine in the last week, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
The aid spanned from food, clothing and medicine to furniture, cars and generators, Tymoshekno said at a briefing Friday, later shared to his Telegram page.
The total aid imported to Ukraine amounts to about 360 thousand tons, he said. Kyiv, the nation’s capital, and the Lviv region have received the most aid.
– Ella Lee
Zelenskyy: Only ‘diplomacy’ can end war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes the war between Russia and Ukraine can be solved with diplomacy, despite stalled peace talks.
The conflict between the two nations “will be bloody,” Zelenskyy said, but “the end will definitely be in diplomacy.”
“I’m sure of that,” he added.
Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine paused Tuesday, with each side placing blame on the other, Reuters reported.
Zelenskyy suggested reaching a peace agreement would be challenging because “we want to return everything, and the Russian Federation wants not to give everything – in other words, not to give anything.”
– Ella Lee
War in Ukraine is driving sex trafficking of women and children
Human trafficking, often in the form of commercially exploiting women and children for sex, is one of the largely hidden tragedies of Russia’s war in Ukraine, authorities and experts told USA TODAY.
The scope of the problem is unknown, in part due to the clandestine nature of sex trafficking and the unprecedented flow of people from Ukraine to as far away as Asia and the United States. But there has been a skyrocketing increase in all forms of illegal trafficking of women and girls in the region – and also boys – including forced sex and labor, prostitution, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, authorities and experts said.
“Collectively, the international community is starting to see indications that traffickers are preying on or attempting to prey on Ukrainians, and others that are fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine,” Kari Johnstone, the State Department’s top anti-human trafficking official, said in an exclusive interview. Read more here.
– Josh Meyer
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Ambassador hopes EU will release billions of euros to Poland
Ukraine’s ambassador to neighboring Poland says his nation is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainian refugees, but he hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that the assistance does not come “at the cost of the Polish people.”
Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia said that while there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, he worries they could appear in the future given the large extent of Polish help.
The government has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80% of them are being housed in private Polish homes.
– Associated Press
Biden signs $40B Ukraine aid bill
President Joe Biden has signed a bill to provide $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine after Congress OK’d the legislation earlier in the week.
The Senate cleared the measure Thursday, to avoid a gap in funding. The final drawdown of $100 million of previously approved funding occurred Thursday, according to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.
The package includes more than $20 billion for the Pentagon to provide weapons, intelligence and training, and nearly $14 billion for the State Department for food aid, refugee assistance and other diplomatic programs.
Biden is on a trip through Asia, where he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and toured a Samsung facility.
– Sean Rossman, Bart Jansen and Merdie Nzanga
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US delegates stage walkout of Russian representative’s remarks
Delegates from the United States and four other nations staged a walkout Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in the Thai capital of Bangkok, officials said.
A Japanese official said Japan’s Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada walked out of the meeting to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A U.S. official in Bangkok confirmed the walkout but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is diplomatic sensitivity over speaking about the incident because the proceedings were held in closed session. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is representing Washington at the meeting.
– Associated Press
Russia claims it has full control of Mariupol steel mill
Russian officials on Friday claimed their forces have “completely liberated” the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces, in what would be its biggest victory yet in its war with Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia now has full control of Mariupol.
The last 531 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to Russian forces on Friday, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti. A Russian state TV correspondent said on Telegram that among those surrendering Friday was Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment.
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Prokopenko said earlier Friday that the defenders of Mariupol received an order to “cease the defense of the city” in order to “save lives and health of the servicemen of the garrison.”
The Russian claims were not confirmed by Ukrainian officials.
Russia steps up attacks on key site in Donbas region
For weeks, Russian forces have been trying to seize Severodonetsk, a key site in the Donbas that’s outside the territory separatists have held for several years. They stepped up attacks there and in Lysychansk on Friday.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Friday that Russian forces now have control of 90% of the Severodonetsk region.
Three adults were killed in a Friday attack on a school where about 200 people, including many children, were taking shelter in Severodonetsk, Haidai said on Telegram. In another attack, 60 houses were destroyed and 12 people killed, Hadai said. But, Hadai also said that the “the Russians suffered personnel losses and retreated.”
Haidai said on Telegram that Russian forces “just want to destroy the city.”
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Putin: Western cyberattacks against Russia ‘an outright aggression’
Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has faced a barrage of cyberattacks from the West amid the invasion of Ukraine but has successfully fended them off.
Speaking Friday to members of Russia’s Security Council, Putin noted that “the challenges in this area have become even more pressing, serious and extensive.”
He charged that “an outright aggression has been unleashed against Russia, a war has been waged in the information space.”
Putin added that “the cyber-aggression against us, the same as the attack on Russia by sanctions in general, has failed.”
He ordered officials to “perfect and enhance the mechanisms of ensuring information security at critically important industrial facilities which have a direct bearing on our country’s defensive capability, and the stable development of the economic and social spheres.”
Contributing: The Associated Press