Ukraine-Russia War Updates: Breaking News

KRAKOW, Poland — Ukrainian troops, emboldened by sophisticated weaponry and long-range artillery supplied by the West, launched the offensive on Friday against Russian forces in the northeast, seeking to push them back from two key towns then as the war sank deeper into a grinding, town-to-town battle.

After weeks of intense fighting along a 300-mile-long front, neither side was able to achieve a major breakthrough, with an army taking a few villages one day, only to lose as many the following days. In its latest push to reclaim territory, Ukraine’s military said “fierce battles” were underway as it fought to retake Russian-held areas around Kharkiv in the northeast and Izium in ballast.

The intensified fight came as the White House announced on Friday that President Biden would meet virtually Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and leaders of the G7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the United States. Italy, Japan and the United States. States.

Additionally, President Biden is sending a new security package to Ukraine worth $150 million, according to an administration official, who says it will include 25,000 artillery shells, radar counter-artillery, jamming equipment and other field equipment.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, noted that the leaders would gather as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin prepares to celebrate the annual VE Day holiday on Monday with military parades and speeches commemorating the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany.

The holiday has heightened fears in Ukraine and some Western capitals that Mr Putin could use the opportunity to expand his February 24 invasion, after his initial campaign failed to rout the Ukrainian military and to overthrow the government.

“While he was expecting to march through the streets of Kyiv, that’s actually not what will happen,” Ms Psaki said. She called the G7 meeting “not only an opportunity to show how united the West is in the face of President Putin’s aggression and invasion, but also to show that unity takes work.”

Ukraine on Friday urged civilians to prepare for more violent assaults ahead of VE Day in Russia, warning them to avoid large gatherings and implementing new curfews from Ivano-Frankivsk to Russia. west to Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Ukrainian police forces have also been placed on heightened alert ahead of the holiday, which will be commemorated in Russia with military parades in Moscow and hundreds of other cities.

Vadym Denysenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, warned civilians that they could risk their lives by gathering in crowded places.

“We all remember what happened at Kramatorsk station,” Denysenko said on Telegram, referring to a devastating missile strike in the eastern city last month that killed dozens. as they crowded the station platforms, trying to flee the invasion.

“Be vigilant,” Mr. Denysenko said. “That’s the most important thing.”

The regional governor of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Sergei Haidai, has warned that Russian forces are preparing for a “major offensive” in the coming days against two eastern towns, Severodonetsk and Popsana. He denounced what he called “the continuing horror” in the area, where he said the latest Russian bombings had killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes.

The pace of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine has intensified in recent days as Moscow tries to slow the flow of Western weapons through the country. But as with so many aspects of the war, the uncertainty about Mr. Putin’s intentions runs deep.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

There is rampant speculation that he could use the upcoming holidays to convert what he calls a “special military operation” into all-out war, which would justify a massive mobilization of Russian troops and pave the way for a wider – going conflict. Kremlin officials have denied such plans. But they had also denied plans to invade Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have said a military project in Russia could provoke a backlash among its citizens, many of whom, according to polls, still see the war as a largely distant conflict filtered through the convoluted and sometimes contradictory accounts provided by the media. controlled by the state.

“The general mobilization in Russia is beneficial to us,” said Oleksei Arestovych, adviser to Mr. Zelensky’s chief of staff, in an interview on Ukrainian television this week. “It can lead to a revolution.”

Some Western analysts believe Mr Putin may instead point to territory Moscow has already seized in eastern Ukraine to support his false claims that Russia is liberating the region from the Nazis.

The Pentagon, for its part, has avoided fueling speculation about Mr. Putin’s plans for VE Day.

“What they plan to do or say on VE Day is really up to them,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said. said Thursday. “I don’t think we have a perfect sense.”

Fears that Russia could step up its assault emerged as the United Nations Security Council adopted a statement on Friday supporting UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ efforts to broker a diplomatic resolution to the war.

The statement, initiated by Mexico and Norway, was the first action regarding Ukraine that the council had unanimously approved since the invasion began. Russia backed the statement, which did not refer to the conflict as “war”, a term banned by the Kremlin.

Mr Zelensky insisted on Friday that peace talks could not resume until Russian forces retreated to where they were before the invasion. Still, he did not rule out the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“Not all bridges are destroyed,” he said, speaking remotely at a virtual event hosted by Chatham House, a UK research organization.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexey Zaitsev said on Friday that talks between Russia and Ukraine were “in a state of stagnation”, Russian state media reported.

Mr Zaitsev blamed NATO countries for prolonging the war by shipping billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine, even as those countries urged Mr Putin to withdraw his troops.

“This leads to an extension of hostilities, more destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties,” he said.

Mr Zelensky said Russian propagandists had spent years stoking the ‘hate’ that drove Russian soldiers to ‘hunt’ civilians, destroy towns and carry out the kind of atrocities seen in the beleaguered southern port from Mariupol. Much of the city, once home to more than 400,000 people, has been razed to the ground and has become a potent symbol of the devastation Russia has wrought in Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky said Russia’s determination to destroy the last Ukrainian fighters holed up with desperate civilians in bunkers under the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol only underscored the “cruelty” that defined the invasion.

“It’s terrorism and hate,” he said.

About 50 women, children and elderly people trapped under the Azovstal plant in Mariupol were evacuated in a humanitarian convoy on Friday, according to a senior Ukrainian official and Russian state media. The official, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk, said the evacuation had been “extremely slow” because Russian troops violated a ceasefire.

Nearly 500 people have managed to leave the factory in Azovstal, Mariupol and surrounding areas in recent days with the help of the United Nations and the Red Cross, according to Guterres.

As the fighting drags on, concerns grow that the war could exacerbate a global hunger crisis.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The United Nations said on Friday there was mounting evidence that Russian troops looted tons of Ukrainian grain and destroyed grain storage facilities, adding to an export disruption that has already sparked a spike in world prices, with devastating consequences for poor countries.

Meanwhile, the organization’s hunger relief agency, the World Food Programme, has called for the reopening of ports in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine so that food produced in this war-torn country can move freely to the rest of the world. Ukraine, a major grain producer, had about 14 million tonnes in stock available for export, but Russia’s blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports prevented distribution.

“Right now Ukraine’s grain silos are full,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, as “44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation.”

Marc Santora and Cora Engelbrecht reported from Krakow, and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was provided by Dan Bilefsky from Montreal, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Rick Gladstone from Eastham, Mass., Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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