Follow here for the latest updates and news from Thursday, April 14, as Russia’s invasion continues.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for almost an hour Wednesday, one day after Zelenskyy praised Biden for accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of “genocide.”
Biden said in a statement that he has authorized an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including weapons and ammunition.
“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect,” Biden said. “As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself.”
Zelenskyy tweeted that he and Biden discussed the new weapons shipment, enhanced sanctions against the Russians and seeking justice for their war crimes. In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy said he’s “sincerely thankful” for the new U.S. military aid.
Also Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that China and other nations declining to sanction Russia could face future economic fallout for failing to help end Russia’s “heinous war” in Ukraine. “Let’s be clear, the unified coalition of sanctioning countries will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions,” Yellen said.
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►French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, a nationalist with long ties to Russia who will face President Emmanuel Macron in a April 24 runoff, warned against sending any more weapons to Ukraine and called for a rapprochement between NATO and Russia once the war in Ukraine winds down.
►Pope Francis’ decision to have a Russian woman and a Ukrainian woman carry the cross together during a Good Friday procession that will be presided over by the pontiff has drawn criticism from some Ukrainian officials, with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv calling it “inopportune and ambiguous.”
►Cyprus said it is moving to revoke citizenship for four Russians and 17 of their family members included among those sanctioned by the European Union.
►Russia has forcibly deported more than 500,000 Ukrainians to the Russian Federation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
►More than 720 people have been killed in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs that were occupied by Russian troops and more than 200 are considered missing, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The frayed relations between Ukraine and Germany may have taken a turn for the worse Wednesday when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his aggravation over a diplomatic snub and said he has no intention to travel to Kyiv anytime soon.
Scholz told German radio station RBB it was “somewhat irritating, to put it politely,” that Ukraine had reportedly rejected a visit by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose role is mostly ceremonial, because of his past close relations with Russia. Scholz also pointed out Steinmeier has strongly criticized Russia’s invasion, though Steinmeier also admitted to mistakes in Germany’s policy toward Moscow.
The flap comes amid a discussion within Scholz’s governing coalition about whether Germany should authorize sending heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine as that nation prepares to face a stepped-up Russian offensive in the east. Germany broke with tradition after Russia’s invasion to supply arms to Ukraine but has faced criticism from Kyiv for perceived hesitancy and slowness in providing material.
Kyiv has gained a valuable pawn in its negotiations with Russia in fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s whose arrest has incited anger in Moscow.
Medvedchuk was detained Tuesday by Ukraine’s state security service, or the SBU. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed trading his freedom for the release of Ukrainians being held captive by the Kremlin.
Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party, escaped from house arrest days before the Russian invasion and is facing 15 years to life in prison on charges of treason and aiding the separatist movement in the Donetsk territory in eastern Ukraine.
“The friendly relations between Putin and Medvedchuk turn him into a valuable trophy for Kyiv, and in the Kremlin they spark fury and a dangerous desire for revenge,” Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Penta Center, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “The fate of Medvedchuk will undoubtedly become a subject of bargaining and one of the points of undercover agreements between Kyiv and Moscow.”
Authorities in the east-central Ukraine city of Dnipro say they are willing to help return to Russia the bodies of more than 1,500 Russian soldiers now in city morgues.
“We already have four refrigerators full of bodies of Russian soldiers,” Deputy Mayor Mykhailo Lysenko said. “No matter what, these are someone’s children.”
The city’s airport and some infrastructure were destroyed by rocket attacks just days ago. Military analysts say Russia’s new focus on eastern Ukraine could include Dnipro, a city of 1 million people in the Donbas region, where Russian separatists have battled Ukraine troops since 2014.
Russia continues shipping additional helicopters, artillery and troops for a renewed push into eastern Ukraine, a senior Defense official said Wednesday. A miles-long Russian convoy remains headed toward the strategic town of Izyum, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe intelligence assessments. The convoy had been about 35 miles north of Izyum on Tuesday. It’s unclear how much it has progressed toward the town. South of Izyum, the Russians are seeking to improve their movement inside Ukraine, including the building of a temporary bridge.
The Russian focus in eastern Ukraine points toward a new offensive after retreating from the country’s north, the official said. Russian airstrikes have concentrated on targets in the eastern Donbas region and the besieged city of Mariupol, the official said.
– Tom Vanden Brook
The head of the World Health Organization slammed the global community Wednesday for turning a blind eye on crises outside Ukraine. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus questioned whether “the world really gives equal attention to Black and white lives,” citing dire issues of war, disease and famine in countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria. He said the Horn of Africa nations are at high risk of famine and many people are “already starving or food insecure and increasingly on the move.”
“I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said. “Some are more equal than others.”
Thousands of Finns have signed up with training associations to sharpen their military skills or learn new ones, an interest fueled by anxiety over Finland’s geographic proximity to Russia. For the first time in Finland’s history, a majority of Finns are in favor of joining NATO. Finland, with 5.5 million people, remains one of the few European nations with mandatory military service, primarily because of its 830-mile border with Russia. Read more here.
“Many people say they are alarmed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they want to keep their military capabilities up to date, they want to learn new things, they want maybe to make up for mandatory service they didn’t take very seriously at the time,” said Ossi Hietala, training officer for the National Defense Training Association of Finland. “They want to make sure they are prepared for the worst.”
Sweden, which like Finland has remained militarily non-aligned, has also shown a stronger inclination to join NATO after Russia’s invasion.
– Tami Abdollah
King is personally donating $50,000 to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, the United States Tennis Association is donating 10% of ticket revenue from the event, and local sponsors have also pledged donations based on ticket sales.
– James Crabtree-Hannigan, Asheville Citizen Times
Russia has violated international law and some Russians have committed war crimes in Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe claimed in a report released Wednesday. The report, coming one day after President Joe Biden accused Russia of “genocide,” found that if Russia had “respected their (international law) obligations in terms of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack and concerning specially protected objects such as hospitals, the number of civilians killed or injured would have remained much lower. “
Fewer homes, hospitals, cultural properties, schools, residential buildings and infrastructure systems also would have been damaged or destroyed, according to the report from the Austria-based agency that includes 57 nations in Europe, North America and Asia.
Ukraine did not escape the agency’s review. Some “violations and problems” were also identified regarding practices of the Ukraine military, including treating captured Russian soldiers as criminals instead of prisoners of war.
The report notes that a “detailed assessment of most allegations of International Humanitarian Law violations and the identification of war crimes concerning particular incidents has not been possible.”
Contributing: The Associated Press