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Russia-Ukraine war live updates: McConnell leads GOP visit to Kyiv; Mariupol rescue talks ‘difficult’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/14/2022 Julian Duplain, Amy Cheng, Andrew Jeong, Tobi Raji, Ellen Francis, Victoria Bisset, Marisa Iati, Timothy Bella
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky poses for a picture with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in Kyiv. © Ukrainian Presidential Press Ser/Via Reuters Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky poses for a picture with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed a delegation of Republican senators led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to Kyiv on Saturday, praising the visit as “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.”

The other GOP senators visible in a video, which shows Zelensky greeting them on a Kyiv street, were John Barrasso (Wyo.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Cornyn (Tex.). Though the Senate has been delayed in approving nearly $40 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, Zelensky said he was looking forward to “the United States’ support for further sanctions.”

Russia’s foreign minister, meanwhile, characterized Western support for Ukraine as a “total hybrid war” against Moscow. The wide-ranging sanctions directed against Russia would have long-lasting consequences, Sergei Lavrov said in a speech.

In Mariupol, another round of evacuees left the city after waiting for three days. The Azovstal steel plant continues to be bombarded, Ukrainian fighters said, as Ukrainian officials negotiate with Russia to evacuate 60 medics and “seriously wounded” people. Zelensky described the negotiations as “very difficult” late Friday.

Here’s what else to know

  • Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Vladimir Putin on Saturday that Russia’s “massive invasion of Ukraine” and its demands late last year that NATO deny membership to former Soviet states “have altered the security environment of Finland.”
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Berlin to join a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting attended by Sweden and Finland after both countries’ leaders indicated they wanted to join the military alliance.
  • The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed that Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” adding that the Kremlin has “likely decided to withdraw fully” from its positions around the city amid spirited Ukrainian counterattacks and limited reinforcements.
  • Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said 32 billion hryvnias, or more than $1 billion, was needed to help rebuild the hospitals damaged or destroyed by Russia during the invasion.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.

3:54 PM: Ukraine bans pro-Russian political parties

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law Saturday banning pro-Russian political parties amid the Russian invasion.

The legislation is the latest effort by the Ukrainian government to limit the involvement of politicians favoring the invaders. In March, Zelensky announced a ban on 11 political parties with ties to Russia, including the Opposition Platform-For Life, led by Viktor Medvedchuk, a businessman with personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The law expands the grounds for banning a political party to include calling the invasion of Ukraine a civil conflict and glorifying Russian aggression against Ukraine.

By: Meryl Kornfield

3:33 PM: Russia denies that the war is contributing to global food crisis

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gestures as she attends Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's annual roundup news conference on Jan. 17, 2020, in Moscow. © Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gestures as she attends Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's annual roundup news conference on Jan. 17, 2020, in Moscow.

After German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock blamed Russia for contributing to the global hunger crisis, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded on Saturday by blaming the historic sanctions on Russia for rising food prices.

In a Telegram post, Zakharova claimed without evidence that the food crisis stems from the collapse of statehood of Ukraine, one of the world’s most important grain producers. The collapse is also something the Kremlin official said the West was responsible for.

“If you don’t understand that, it’s either a sign of stupidity or deliberately misleading the public,” she wrote to Baerbock.

The Russian official’s comments came as Group of Seven leaders warned Saturday that the war is fueling a food crisis affecting poor countries. Baerbock, who called the situation a “global crisis,” said that up to 50 million people, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, would face a significant food shortage unless there was a way to release the grain from Ukraine to the world. The G-7 echoed her sentiments in a statement.

“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” the group said.

By: Timothy Bella

2:27 PM: More than $1B needed to rebuild hospitals, Ukrainian official says

Destruction at Mariupol children’s hospital on March 9, 2022. © Ukraine Military/Via Reuters Destruction at Mariupol children’s hospital on March 9, 2022.

Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said Saturday that 32 billion hryvnias, or more than $1 billion, was needed to help rebuild the hospitals damaged or destroyed by Russia during the invasion.

More than 600 medical institutions in Ukraine have been damaged by Russian forces since late February, Lyashko said at a telethon, including 101 facilities that were destroyed. He added that 375 pharmacies in the country had been destroyed, according to Interfax.

“Therefore, according to preliminary estimates, 32 billion hryvnias are needed to restore these hospitals,” he said.

The health minister vowed that Ukraine would rebuild a medical system “that meets European requirements to ensure access to health care for all at their place of residence.” He said that “expert and political level of discussions” on how to rebuild medical institutions in the Kyiv region had been completed and that other discussions on restoring the institutions in Sumy and Chernihiv Oblasts were underway, Interfax reported.

“We are determining which hospitals in a certain district should be, which departments they should have, what material and technical base they should have, and we will equip and restore them immediately in this direction,” he said.

By: Timothy Bella

1:58 PM: Turkey proposes evacuation plan for wounded fighters at Azovstal plant

Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser, speaks during an interview with Reuters on Saturday in Istanbul. © Murad Sezer/Reuters Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser, speaks during an interview with Reuters on Saturday in Istanbul.

Turkey has proposed carrying out evacuations of hundreds of wounded fighters trapped in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, told Reuters that an evacuation plan he recently discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “on the table.” As part of the plan, which he said Russia has not agreed to, evacuees from the steel plant would be transported to the port of Berdyansk and then picked up by a Turkish vessel that would take them to Istanbul.

“If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. We are ready,” Kalin said. “In fact our ship is ready to go and bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey.”

Turkey has been evaluating the plan since last month, when Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the country was exerting “significant efforts for the evacuation of all civilians struggling in Ukraine, including Turkish citizens,” according to the pro-Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah.

Ukrainian officials are continuing to negotiate with Russia to evacuate 60 medics and “seriously wounded” people from the besieged Azovstal steel plant, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday.

Kalin’s remarks came one day after Erdogan voiced skepticism about Sweden and Finland potentially joining the NATO defense alliance, a sign of dissension in efforts to revamp Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

By: Timothy Bella

1:28 PM: How to watch Eurovision Song Contest and the Ukrainian band favored to win

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine arrives for the final dress rehearsal at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) © Luca Bruno/AP Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine arrives for the final dress rehearsal at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

As Europe prepares for the final of its most popular song contest on Saturday, a Ukrainian folk-rap group may give Ukraine a reason to celebrate amid the Russian invasion.

When Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra takes the stage in Turin, Italy, its members will have more eyeballs than ever on them at a time when the war back home has reached 80 days. Oddsmakers have placed the group as the favorite to come out on top.

Ukrainian song favored to win Eurovision as war rages

For fans in the United States hoping to catch up on the excitement, the grand final starts at 3 p.m. Eastern time Saturday on the streaming service Peacock. Johnny Weir, one of NBC’s lead figure skating analysts and a media darling during the Winter Olympics, will be providing commentary.

“Sing along, enjoy the show,” Weir said in a Twitter video hours before the grand final. “I can’t wait!”

By: Timothy Bella

1:00 PM: The West has declared ‘total hybrid war’ on Russia, Lavrov claims

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses reporters after a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on May 13, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses reporters after a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on May 13, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Saturday that the West has declared a “total hybrid war” against Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech on the 80th day of the invasion, Lavrov said the support given to Ukraine by Western powers, and the historic, wide-ranging sanctions leveled against Russia, would have a lasting impact on the world.

“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us, and it is hard to predict how long all this will last, but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception,” he said. “We have done everything we can to avoid a direct clash, but the challenge has been thrown to us, so we accepted it. We have always been under sanctions, so we are used to them.”

Lavrov made the remarks a day after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged Group of Seven countries to turn over seized Russian assets to Kyiv to help pay for the reconstruction of the billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure that Moscow has destroyed.

Acknowledging Ukraine’s support from the global community, Lavrov claimed Saturday that Ukraine was “an instrument or tool to constrain Russia’s peaceful development.”

By: Timothy Bella

12:38 PM: Another batch of civilians evacuated from Mariupol

Local residents stand near damaged buildings during heavy fighting Friday in Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP) Local residents stand near damaged buildings during heavy fighting Friday in Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP)

Hundreds of cars filled with evacuees have left Mariupol, bound for another city about 140 miles northwest after days of disruption, an official in the embattled port city said.

“A huge convoy of cars with Mariupol residents (from 500 to 1,000 cars), who had been waiting for more than three days, was finally allowed to head to Zaporizhzhia,” wrote Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor.

The evacuation of civilians has been fraught, with Ukrainian officials frequently accusing Russian forces of interfering with the humanitarian corridors the evacuees are meant to use to reach safety. A steelworks plant serving as Ukrainians’ last holdout in the city continues to face bombardment, according to the Azov Regiment defending the complex.

About 600 injured people are still at the Azovstal steel complex, without water, food or medicine, a Donetsk regional police officer told the Mariupol site mrpl.city. Most are sleeping on the floor, and conditions are unsanitary, the officer said.

By: Marisa Iati and David L. Stern

12:19 PM: India bans wheat exports as war in Ukraine sends global prices soaring

A farmer carries wheat after harvest at Ganeshpur village, in India's Uttar Pradesh state, in April 2021. © Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP A farmer carries wheat after harvest at Ganeshpur village, in India's Uttar Pradesh state, in April 2021.

NEW DELHI — After Russia invaded Ukraine — two countries that together accounted for nearly a third of the world’s wheat supply — this year and sent food prices to record highs, India was supposed to step in to fill the void. Not anymore.

The world’s second-largest wheat producer on Friday banned exports of the grain amid its own food security concerns, potentially exacerbating the steep rise in global food prices that is affecting billions of people and threatening food security around the world.

In a commerce ministry order, Indian officials said they made the decision after considering India’s own needs and those of its neighboring countries. India’s food security was “at risk” due to surging international prices, the ministry said.

The announcement marked an abrupt reversal weeks after Indian officials and international analysts talked up the possibility of India significantly ratcheting up exports to fill the gap created partly by the war in Ukraine. International food prices have soared to record highs in recent months, putting pressure on billions of people, particularly the world’s poorest, United Nations officials have warned.

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By: Gerry Shih and Niha Masih

11:52 AM: Turkey ‘not closing the door’ to Sweden, Finland in NATO, official says

Turkey does not firmly oppose granting NATO membership to Sweden and Finland but wants the suppression of what it characterizes as terrorist activities in the Nordic nations, the Turkish president’s spokesman told Reuters.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told the news agency.

Erdogan has expressed concern about Sweden’s willingness to host members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought an insurrection against Turkey for decades. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.

By: Marisa Iati

11:19 AM: Austin asks Russian defense minister for cease-fire in Ukraine

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies on Capitol Hill earlier this week. © Jose Luis Magana/AP Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged his Russian counterpart Friday to consider a cease-fire in Ukraine during the first discussion between the two leaders since the Russian invasion began nearly three months ago, the Pentagon said.

Austin had not connected with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since Feb. 18 — six days before Russia commenced its assault on Ukraine — despite repeated attempts by U.S. officials to do so, said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. The two men spoke for about an hour, and the official characterized their conversation as “professional” but declined to detail what was said.

“It wasn’t for lack of trying that we hadn’t been able to establish” communications, the official said. “We’ve been consistently asking for this conversation, and Minister Shoigu assented for a call this week. But what motivated them to change their minds and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure.”

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By: Dan Lamothe and Karoun Demirjian

10:54 AM: Turkey’s Erdogan voices skepticism on Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Soldiers training in Kankaanpaa, Finland, this month. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AP) © Lehtikuva/Via Reuters Soldiers training in Kankaanpaa, Finland, this month. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced skepticism Friday about Sweden and Finland potentially joining the NATO defense alliance, a sign of dissension in efforts to revamp Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Turkish warning came a day after a landmark recommendation from Finland’s leaders that the country join NATO and as Swedish leaders appeared ready to follow their lead this weekend — a geopolitical earthquake after decades in which the countries resolutely stayed neutral.

At a minimum, Erdogan’s remarks appeared to signal a desire to extract concessions from Sweden over its willingness to host members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group that has fought a decades-long insurrection against Turkey and is considered a terrorist movement by Ankara and the United States.

“We are following the developments with Sweden and Finland, but we don’t have favorable thoughts,” Erdogan told reporters Friday.

NATO requires unanimity to approve new members, meaning Erdogan’s resistance could be a significant roadblock. Russia has threatened “retaliatory steps” against Finland and Sweden if they join.

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By: Michael Birnbaum, Victoria Bisset, Andrea Salcedo and John Hudson

10:28 AM: Finland’s president to Putin: Ukraine invasion prompted NATO bid

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Vladimir Putin on Saturday that Russia’s “massive invasion of Ukraine” and its demands late last year that NATO deny membership to former Soviet states “have altered the security environment of Finland.”

He was speaking in a phone call with the Russian president to inform him directly of Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership in the coming days, according to a news release from the Finnish presidency. The alliance has indicated it will accept membership bids from Finland and Sweden.

In the run-up to Russia’s invasion in February, Moscow repeatedly declared that any NATO expansion would threaten Russia’s own security and used this purported menace as a rationale for marching into Ukraine.

“By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility,” Niinisto said. At the same time, “Finland wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner.”

Putin warned the Finnish president that Findland’s “abandoning its long-held policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland’s security,” the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. Such a change could damage the “spirit of good neighborliness and partnership cooperation” between the two countries, Putin is reported to have said.

Niinisto also repeated to Putin his “deep concern over the human suffering” caused by the war in Ukraine, while Putin stated that talks between Russia and Ukraine have been “effectively suspended” by Kyiv, which he said “is not interested in a constructive dialogue.”

The phone call, whose tone both sides characterized as “direct,” was initiated by Finland.

By: Julian Duplain

10:07 AM: McConnell leads Senate GOP delegation to Kyiv, meets Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in Kyiv. (Ukrainian President Press Service/Reuters) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in Kyiv. (Ukrainian President Press Service/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with a U.S. Senate delegation led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday in Kyiv, calling the visit “a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the U.S. Congress and the American people,” his presidential office said.

In a video posted by Politico journalist Christopher Miller, McConnell and fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), John Barrasso (Wyo.) and John Cornyn (Tex.) were greeted by Zelensky on a Kyiv street.

“Russia is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people,” Zelensky said in a news release announcing the senators’ visit. “Europe has not seen such crimes since World War II.”

He noted “the special role of the United States” in ramping up sanctions on Russia and said he looked forward to further sanctions on Russia’s banking sector. “In addition, we believe that Russia should be officially recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelensky said.

He also expressed hope that the U.S. Senate would quickly approve a nearly $40 billion package of additional funding for Ukraine. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul, McConnell’s fellow Kentucky Republican in the chamber, delayed passage of the bill; he was the lone holdout on a motion to quickly pass the measure. The bill will be up for full Senate debate in the coming week.

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By: David L. Stern and William Branigin

9:33 AM: Ukraine foreign minister urges G-7 to hand over seized Russian assets

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefs the media at the G-7 foreign ministers meeting in Wangels, Germany on May 13. © Georg Wendt/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefs the media at the G-7 foreign ministers meeting in Wangels, Germany on May 13.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters Friday that Group of Seven countries should turn over seized Russian assets to Kyiv to help pay for the reconstruction of the billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure that Moscow has destroyed.

He made the remarks as the foreign ministers of the G-7 countries gathered in Germany with guest attendees Kuleba and the Moldovan foreign minister. “Russia must pay, politically, economically, but also financially,” Kuleba said.

The U.S. Treasury Department has frozen “hundreds of millions of dollars of assets” belonging to Russian elites that were in U.S. bank accounts, the White House said last month. European Union nations — including G-7 members France, Germany and Italy — have frozen more than $30 billion in assets, according to the White House.

But the cost of damage to Ukrainian infrastructure is far more, according to estimates by the Kyiv School of Economics. The country has suffered more than $90 billion worth of damage to residential buildings, roads and factories, the university said this week.

Total losses to Ukraine’s economy have surpassed $500 billion so far, it said. That calculation includes indirect losses such as the cessation of foreign investment, the outflow of labor and reductions to domestic production.

By: Andrew Jeong

9:08 AM: Kharkiv governor warns residents not to go home despite Russian retreat

A boy plays on his phone while sheltering in a metro station. © Nicole Tung for The Washington Post A boy plays on his phone while sheltering in a metro station.

The governor of Kharkiv warned displaced residents Saturday that it was too early to return home, as Ukrainian forces said their counterattacks reversed Russian advances in the northeastern region.

“Our armed forces are pushing back the enemy, and the inhabitants are beginning to return to their homes,” Oleh Synyehubov wrote on Telegram. “It’s still too dangerous!”

He accused Russian forces of mining “absolutely everything,” including courtyards and roads from which they had retreated, and he said mine removal and infrastructure repairs were underway. Overnight, shelling hit some parts of the Kharkiv region farther from the main city of the same name, Synyehubov said. He urged residents to heed air raid sirens. “This indicates that it is too early to relax,” he said.

The governor said heavy fighting still grips the city of Izyum. In an update Saturday, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces were withdrawing from around the city of Kharkiv — the country’s second-largest — and were focused on maintaining their positions and supply routes in the region. Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops shot down Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles and intercepted rockets from a multiple-launch system, including in the Kharkiv region.

David L. Stern contributed to this report.

By: Ellen Francis

9:02 AM: Flood of weapons to Ukraine raises fear of arms smuggling

Ukrainian soldiers train with U.S. Javelin missiles during military exercises in December. © Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP Ukrainian soldiers train with U.S. Javelin missiles during military exercises in December.

President Biden is expected to sign in the coming days a $40 billion security-assistance package that will supercharge the flow of missiles, rockets, artillery and drones to a war-torn Ukraine.

But what remains unclear is Washington’s ability to keep track of the powerful weapons as they enter one of the largest trafficking hubs in Europe.

Ukraine’s illicit arms market has ballooned since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, buttressed by a surplus of loose weapons and limited controls on their use.

This uncomfortable reality for the United States and its allies adds complexity to urgent pleas from President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide artillery needed to counter Russian forces in the country’s east and south. The Ukrainian leader’s appeals are credited with uniting House lawmakers behind the latest funding request in a bipartisan 368-to-57 vote Tuesday. But the unprecedented influx of arms has prompted fears that some equipment could fall into the hands of adversaries of the West or reemerge in faraway conflicts — for decades to come.

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By: John Hudson

8:58 AM: G-7 urges China not to help Russia or undermine sanctions

G-7 Foreign Ministers sit around a table prior to a meeting in Wangels, northern Germany, on May 13, 2022. © Kay Nietfeld/AFP/Getty Images G-7 Foreign Ministers sit around a table prior to a meeting in Wangels, northern Germany, on May 13, 2022.

The Group of Seven leading industrial nations have called on China not to assist Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Russia’s unjustifiable, unprovoked and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” the group said in a statement released at the end of a three-day meeting of foreign ministers in Germany.

The G-7 - which is made up of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan - urged Beijing to avoid justifying the Russian invasion or undermining sanctions against Moscow, "and to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimise Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The statement also addressed the global food and energy crisis unleashed by the war, with the ministers stressing their commitment to reducing and ending reliance on Russian fuel and energy supplies.

“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” the ministers said. They noted that sanctions against Russia would not be implemented against essential food exports to developing countries and pledged to address the causes and consequences of the disruption to food supplies.

“We call on Russia to cease immediately its attacks on key transport infrastructure in Ukraine, including ports, so that they can be used for exporting Ukrainian agricultural products,” they added.

By: Victoria Bisset

8:30 AM: U.S. warns foreign banks not to help Russia evade sanctions

Foreign banks that help Russian oligarchs and businesses evade sanctions could lose access to markets in the United States and Europe, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official warned representatives of international banks in private meetings Friday.

“If you provide material support to a sanctioned individual or a sanctioned entity, we can extend our sanctions regime to you and use our tools to go after you as well,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo said in an interview with the New York Times. He said he wanted to make it “very clear” to institutions in countries that have not adopted sanctions against Russia: “The United States and our allies and partners are prepared to act if they do things that violate our sanctions.”

By: Tobi Raji

8:11 AM: Russia vows to respond if NATO moves nuclear arms near its borders

Russia would take precautionary measures if NATO were to move nuclear weapons closer to its borders, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Saturday, according to the Interfax news agency.

He told reporters it was too early to discuss the possibility of deploying Russian nuclear forces in the Baltic region. The Interfax report quoted him as adding that in case nuclear weapons are transferred closer to Russia’s borders, “it will be necessary to respond … by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence.”

Moscow’s response to a NATO enlargement would depend on the nature of military assets and infrastructure that the Western defense alliance deployed near Russia’s borders, Grushko also said. Russia has “no hostile intentions” toward Finland or Sweden, but their moves to join NATO would not benefit regional security, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Grushko as saying.

Russia has described a possible NATO expansion as a threat as Sweden debates joining the alliance. A Swedish parliamentary report Friday outlined the benefits of accession while noting the risk of Russian retaliation. The review followed a recommendation by the leaders of Finland, another Nordic nation with a history of military nonalignment, who said the country must “apply for NATO membership without delay.”

By: Ellen Francis

7:49 AM: Russian politician visits occupied Kherson

A senior member of Russia’s lower house of parliament has visited the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in Ukraine, Russian state media reported Saturday

Anna Kuznetsova, a deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma, met with local officials backed by Moscow and visited a hospital in the city, the state news agency RIA Novosti said. The Post has not been able to verify the news.

Kherson, a port city on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the invasion began on Feb. 24.

Russian state news agencies reported Wednesday that the Kherson region plans to ask President Vladimir Putin to allow it formally to become part of Russia. Late last month, Russian officials announced plans to replace Ukraine’s currency with the Russian ruble in the region.

The British Defense Ministry previously warned that Russia was planning to hold a staged referendum to justify its control in Kherson, as it did after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

“The fact that Russia has only succeeded in imposing a pro-Russian local leadership in Kherson highlights the failure of Russia’s invasion to make progress towards its political objectives in Ukraine,” the ministry said in an intelligence update Saturday.

By: Victoria Bisset

7:20 AM: Ukraine favored to win Eurovision song contest at Saturday final

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine rehearsing ahead of the Grand Final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, in Turin, Italy, on May 13, 2022. © Yara Nardi/Reuters Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine rehearsing ahead of the Grand Final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, in Turin, Italy, on May 13, 2022.

The musicians needed special permission to bypass martial law, and the commentator is presenting from a bunker. But as Europe gears up for its most popular song contest, the Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra made it to the grand final on Saturday.

And this year’s Eurovision, a flamboyant performance watched by nearly 200 million people, may give Ukraine a reason to celebrate.

The Ukrainian folk-rap mash-up, “Stefania,” is favored by bookmakers to win Eurovision 2022, the world’s longest-running televised music competition, which draws on votes from viewers and helped launch Abba. The Ukrainian contender is one of 25 acts that will compete in the last round in Turin, Italy, after becoming the most-watched on YouTube among this year’s 40 national entries.

For frontman Oleh Psiuk, the song has become a tribute to Ukraine, and the stage a platform to remind people of Russia’s war against his country.

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By: Ellen Francis

7:00 AM: ‘Finland can cope without Russian electricity,’ says state operator

Finnish electricity supply remains “normal” after Russia suspended deliveries to the country early Saturday, citing nonpayment, Finland’s state-owned transmission system operator said.

“Finland can cope without Russian electricity, now and even next winter, when the consumption will be higher,” Reima Paivinen, senior vice president at Fingrid, told The Post on Saturday. Until recently, Russian supplies had provided around 10 percent of Finland’s electricity consumption, he added.

RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of Russian energy company Inter RAO, announced Friday it would halt the import of electricity from Russia to Finland due to nonpayment.

“This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history,” the company said in a statement, adding that it hoped the situation would be resolved so trade could resume. The announcement came a day after Finnish leaders said the country should seek immediate membership in NATO.

Finland cut its electricity imports from Russia last month in anticipation of possible disruptions, and Fingrid has previously said the loss of Russian electricity would be made up by generating more electricity in Finland and importing more from Sweden.

Paivinen previously said that RAO Nordic sold directly to Europe’s Nord Pool power exchange, which would have been responsible for any nonpayment.

Nord Pool said it would not comment on its customers’ behavior or any messages that they publish.

“Nord Pool always settles trades undertaken on its markets,” added Stina Johansen, a spokeswoman for the company.

Separately on Friday, Finland’s national broadcaster reported that energy companies in the southeast of the country have told households and businesses to prepare in case Russia cuts off gas supplies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, denied any plans to halt gas deliveries to Finland, telling a news conference: “Gazprom supplies gas to various consumers in Europe, including countries that are members of NATO.”

By: Victoria Bisset and Marisa Iati

6:32 AM: Former separatist leader blames Russian defense chief for setbacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

A former commander for Moscow-backed separatist forces in Ukraine on Friday accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of “criminal negligence” over Moscow’s stop-start military campaign in Ukraine.

“I have no grounds to accuse [Shoigu] of treason, but I would suspect it,” said Igor Girkin, who went by Igor Strelkov when he led pro-Russian forces eight years ago in the breakaway region of Donetsk, in a video interview.

Girkin warned last month that Russia faces a drawn-out conflict with high casualties and possible defeat if the authorities in Moscow do not scale up mobilization. Russia’s future depends on winning the war, he said at the time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have wreaked havoc on Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion. But they have so far failed to topple the government in Kyiv or capture major cities. These battlefield setbacks may be creeping up on Shoigu, a longtime Putin ally. While there are no public signs of fracturing between the leaders, Shoigu faces pressure at home to save face and strengthen Russia’s influence in the eastern Donbas region.

Zina Posen contributed to this report.

By: Amy Cheng

6:14 AM: Top U.N. official urges abortion access for Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Volunteers at the Help Ukraine Center in Lublin, a southeastern Polish city, have worked to relocate an influx of Ukrainian refugees since late February. © Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Volunteers at the Help Ukraine Center in Lublin, a southeastern Polish city, have worked to relocate an influx of Ukrainian refugees since late February.

Women who have fled the war in Ukraine for safety in Poland — by far the most popular destination among refugees — must have their reproductive rights preserved, including safe access to abortion, a top U.N. refugee agency official said Friday. Stories of rape allegedly committed by invading Russian soldiers have emerged in the past month, and the United Nations has called for these reports to be investigated.

Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner for protection at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Friday that victims of sexual violence must receive counseling and assistance, Reuters reported. She also voiced concern that certain reproductive health policies enacted by the Polish government fail to meet international standards, adding that her agency will work to ensure that women could get abortions either in Poland or elsewhere.

Poland, where the Catholic Church wields immense influence, has one of the most restrictive laws in Europe governing abortion access. Led by the right-wing Law and Justice party, the country has banned the procedure in nearly all cases except for rape or incest, and if the woman’s life or health is at risk.

Sammy Westfall contributed to this report.

By: Amy Cheng

5:45 AM: Over 10,000 U.S. troops heading to Europe as others cycle out

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13 in Arlington, Va. © Alex Wong/Getty Images Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13 in Arlington, Va.

The Pentagon is sending 10,500 U.S. troops to Europe in the coming months to replace personnel that are currently deployed — “one to one unit replacements” that will keep the U.S. military footprint in the region unchanged at 100,000 strong, according to spokesman John Kirby.

The planned rotations will “go into the summer,” he added, and involve a number of different units. About 4,200 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., will be sent to replace those from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, currently operating in Poland. Meanwhile, 4,200 soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Tex., will be sent to Germany to replace the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division troops who have been stationed there.

Another 500 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell will be deployed to replace members of the 82nd Airborne Division across the area of responsibility for U.S. European Command. The Pentagon said 1,800 troops from the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Bliss, Tex., will also be sent to replace the outgoing 1st Air Cavalry Brigade tasked to Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The deployments “are not permanent moves,” Kirby said. “These moves are designed to respond to the current security environment.”

He acknowledged, however, that “we’re going to have to take a look at the permanent footprint in Europe and make an assessment about that in the future.”

“These forces are not going to fight in Ukraine,” Kirby added. “They are going to support the robust defense of NATO allies.”

By: Karoun Demirjian

5:18 AM: Ukraine in talks to evacuate 60 ‘seriously wounded’ from Azovstal plant

MUKACHEVO, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials are negotiating with Russia to evacuate an initial group of 60 “seriously wounded” people and medics from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday.

“There are several hundred wounded. They must be rescued first of all, because the Russians do not agree on all of them at once,” Vereshchuk told the Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne, as reported on its website. “So, at first are the seriously wounded and medics. There are really 60 of them.”

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “very difficult negotiations” were underway to evacuate wounded fighters and medics, but he did not give any details or numbers. Zelensky also said the Ukrainian government was “doing everything to evacuate everyone else, each of our defenders.”

Vereshchuk also said in a Telegram post Friday evening that in the end, the result of the talks “may not satisfy everyone” but the goal was to get “everyone out, alive.”

“There are no miracles in war. There are harsh realities. Therefore, only a sober and pragmatic approach works,” she said. The fighters at Azovstal, said to number up to 1,000, include members of the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian army, the national guard, border guards, SBU (Security Service of Ukraine), police and territorial defense units, Vereshchuk said.

On Friday, the regional governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said Russian forces continued to shell and drop high-explosive and vacuum bombs from aircraft on the Azovstal plant. (A vacuum bomb uses oxygen present in the air to produce a high-temperature explosion.)

By: David L. Stern

5:00 AM: Senegal sees opportunity and ‘hypocrisy’ in Europe’s search for gas

Stack towers at the under-construction Dangote Industries Ltd. oil refinery and fertilizer plant site in the Ibeju Lekki district, outside of Lagos, Nigeria, on March 6, 2020. (Tom Saater/Bloomberg) Stack towers at the under-construction Dangote Industries Ltd. oil refinery and fertilizer plant site in the Ibeju Lekki district, outside of Lagos, Nigeria, on March 6, 2020. (Tom Saater/Bloomberg)

DAKAR, Senegal — Only months ago, world leaders pledged to stop financing new fossil fuel projects around the globe in a “historic” move against climate change. Now some of those leaders, desperate for energy as Russian flows dwindle, are turning to African nations with burgeoning reserves of oil and natural gas.

“You see the hypocrisy,” said Mamadou Fall Kane, deputy secretary of Senegal’s natural resource management agency. “Right now, Europe is really knocking on our door.”

The European Union’s energy czar visited his office in February. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected later this month. Senegal is billing itself as a replacement for Russia, which covered 39 percent of Europe’s natural gas needs before the invasion of Ukraine upended the global power map and triggered an energy crisis.

“The war has changed everything,” Kane said.

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By: Danielle Paquette and Evan Halper

4:42 AM: From nonaligned to NATO: How Finland, Sweden shifted over Russia’s invasion

Soldiers of NATO and allied countries cross the Vistula River as part of the international military exercise Defender Europe 2022 near the town of Golab near Pulawy, Poland, on May 13. (Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) Soldiers of NATO and allied countries cross the Vistula River as part of the international military exercise Defender Europe 2022 near the town of Golab near Pulawy, Poland, on May 13. (Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

When NATO was founded in 1949, governments in Western Europe and North America viewed it as a means of collective security against the military might of the Soviet Union and its allies. But throughout the Cold War, there were two notable countries that bucked calls to join: Sweden and Finland.

Instead, these countries pursued a different method for ensuring their security: a carefully maintained official policy of nonalignment and neutrality.

Now, almost three-quarters of a century later, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has prompted both Swedish and Finnish governments to openly move toward NATO membership after decades without it.

The accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO would mark one of the biggest changes to the alliance in decades and a stark turnaround for both nations’ position on the international stage.

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By: Adam Taylor

3:59 AM: Ukraine reclaims settlements from Russia as embassies return to Kyiv, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a meeting with foreign affairs ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on Friday in Kyiv. © Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a meeting with foreign affairs ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on Friday in Kyiv.

Ukrainian forces drove out Russian troops from six more settlements in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his nightly address on Friday, bringing the total number of what he calls “de-occupied” settlements to 1,015.

The Ukrainian leader said “difficult negotiations” are still underway to secure the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian service members from Mariupol and the Azovstal steel plant. Though Russia controls most of Mariupol after weeks of fighting, Ukrainian troops there are refusing to surrender and are holed up inside the plant.

Zelensky also confirmed that 37 foreign missions have now resumed operations in Kyiv, up from 27 in late April. India on Friday became one of the latest countries to announce plans to return its embassy to the Ukrainian capital.

By: Andrew Jeong

3:46 AM: Ukraine is readying 41 war crimes cases, prosecutor general says

Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin, center, attends a court hearing during Ukraine's first war crimes trial amid the Russian invasion. © Tanya Gordienko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin, center, attends a court hearing during Ukraine's first war crimes trial amid the Russian invasion.

Ukraine is preparing 41 war crimes cases against Russian soldiers, the country’s prosecutor general said Friday evening.

“We have 41 suspects in cases with which we will be ready to go to court,” Iryna Venediktova announced during a live briefing on Ukrainian TV. “All of them concern Article 438 of the [Ukrainian] criminal code on war crimes, but different types of war crimes. There is the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape and looting.”

The announcement follows the first war crime prosecution of a Russian soldier following the invasion. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is accused of killing an unarmed civilian in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine during the early days of the conflict.

He faces 10 to 15 years, or life in prison, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

By: Tobi Raji

3:20 AM: Ukrainian lawmaker calls front lines ‘hell,’ appeals for air assets

A Ukrainian lawmaker has urged Congress and the Biden administration to provide air defense systems and fighter jets, citing a “far worse” battlefield situation than at the start of the war.

The situation on the front lines “is hell,” Ukrainian parliament member Oleksandra Ustinova told reporters during a German Marshall Fund roundtable in Washington, as reported by CNN. “We keep losing many more men now than it was at the beginning of the war.”

Earlier, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, warned of a “new, long phase of the war.” Analysts predict that Russia’s forces are preparing for a siege in the east, and Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be prepared for a “prolonged” conflict in Ukraine, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Senate is expected to approve an additional $40 billion of aid for Ukraine next week. The package includes nearly $15 billion for military equipment, training, intelligence support and Ukrainian defense force salaries.

By: Tobi Raji

3:02 AM: Britain places sanctions on Putin’s alleged girlfriend, ex-wife, cousins

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with member of his Security Council on May 13. © Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with member of his Security Council on May 13.

LONDON — Britain announced a new wave of sanctions Friday, targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intimate circle of family and childhood friends, including his ex-wife, his first cousins and a woman widely identified as his girlfriend, the former gymnast Alina Kabaeva.

British officials said the 12 people in the latest tranche of sanctions were not brand-name, jet-setting oligarchs who own soccer teams or vast oil and gas positions but trusted fixers, relatives and childhood friends who help the Russian leader hide and spend his vast wealth.

Britain is the first country to impose sanctions on the 39-year-old Kabaeva, an Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics and past cover model for the Russian edition of Vogue magazine. Putin is 69 years old.

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By: William Booth

2:44 AM: Ukrainian defense minister predicts long war ahead

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, left, at an April meeting of the Ukraine Security Consultative Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. © Michael Probst/Associated Press Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, left, at an April meeting of the Ukraine Security Consultative Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany.

Ukraine is entering a “new, long phase of the war” as weapons supplies from Western allies gradually increase, the country’s defense minister said Friday.

Oleksii Reznikov said the Kremlin had failed to overthrow the Ukrainian government by Russia’s Victory Day on May 9 and was forced to scale back its goals. Ukraine is anticipating a strategic breakthrough, he said, but it will take time.

“Extremely tough weeks are ahead,” Reznikov wrote on Facebook. “No one can say for sure how many of them there will be.”

Ukraine has recently experienced a “tectonic shift” in Western aid, including the delivery of American howitzers, Reznikov said. He cited an April 26 meeting in Germany of defense ministers from more than 40 countries, saying they set a joint goal of not just stopping, but defeating the Kremlin. More than 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers are training or will soon train on new equipment from Ukraine’s allies as the country also invests in its own weaponry, Reznikov said.

For now, Reznikov said time is passing “unspeakably slowly” as Ukrainians in occupied areas are tortured and killed.

“That is why we are doing everything possible and impossible to speed up the liberation of our land,” he wrote.

By: Marisa Iati

2:15 AM: Ukraine ‘appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,’ think tank says

A damaged Russian tank near Kharkiv on Friday. © Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock A damaged Russian tank near Kharkiv on Friday.

Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said Friday, pointing to reports from Western officials and a video from an officer fighting with pro-Russian separatist forces that indicate the Kremlin is preparing a withdrawal from the region.

“The Russian military has likely decided to withdraw fully from its positions around Kharkiv City in the face of Ukrainian counteroffensives and the limited availability of reinforcements,” the ISW said.

Kharkiv, located some 20 miles from the Russian border, was Ukraine’s second-most populous city before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. The Kremlin’s forces have sought to encircle, then seize, the city since the beginning of the war. Ukrainian forces, however, have been pushing back Russian troops from the area in recent days, the country’s military has said.

By: Andrew Jeong

1:46 AM: Ukraine thwarts Russia’s efforts to cross Seversky Donets river

Ukraine significantly damaged a Russian convoy as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

Aerial photos and videos captured the scene earlier this week when Ukrainian forces bombed pontoon bridges over the Seversky Donets river, where Russian forces were repositioning amid fierce fighting on Ukraine’s eastern front. While the number of soldiers injured or killed was not confirmed, images showed extensive damage, including several burned-out husks of Russian tanks along the river’s shore.

Russian forces sought to “consolidate their forces” by crossing the river, but Ukraine’s military has “frustrated” those attempts, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the Pentagon.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky (maneuver) and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the British Defense Ministry said in a Friday update.

By: Meryl Kornfield and Karoun Demirjian

1:22 AM: Congress must pass Ukraine aid bill by Thursday to avoid interruptions

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13. © Alex Wong/Getty Images Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13.

Congress must “act as quickly as possible” to approve a bill that would send an additional $39.8 billion in economic, humanitarian and defense aid to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday, or risk interrupting the United States’ ability to provide aid to the war-torn nation.

If the bill is not passed by May 19, “it’s possible that there could be a bubble, a period of time in which there’s just nothing moving. And we want to make sure we avoid that,” Kirby said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday blocked the aid package’s advancement, which requires unanimous consent, and requested that an inspector general be appointed to oversee the funding. The move frustrated Senate leaders, who offered to hold an amendment vote on his provision, which Paul declined.

“Again, all he will accomplish with his actions here today is to delay that aid, not to stop it,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “It’s aid desperately needed by a valiant people fighting against authoritarianism and defending democracy.”

Congress will vote on the package next week.

In a letter to lawmakers earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that the United States’ remaining authorized funds to support Ukraine — about $100 million — would run out by May 19.

By: Tobi Raji

12:59 AM: Sweden report outlines dangers of NATO accession

A parliamentary report released Friday, titled “Deterioration of the security environment — implications for Sweden,” refrained from casting judgment on whether Sweden should join NATO but noted that the country’s security would be “adversely impacted” if Finland were to join and leave Sweden as the only nonmember in the Nordic and Baltic regions.

The invasion of Ukraine, which is a NATO partner but not a member, had shown the dangers of remaining outside the alliance’s collective defense structure, the report said.

The report also outlined the dangers of accession to NATO, acknowledging that Russia would “react negatively” to any such step. The most probable response would include “various types of influence activities” against the general public or Swedish decision-makers, it said, underlining the importance of obtaining security assurances from countries within the alliance during any transition period before Sweden gained full membership.

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By: Michael Birnbaum

12:40 AM: Updates from key cities: Shelling continues as Russian forces prepare for siege in east

Ukrainian troops appear to have forced a Russian retreat in Kharkiv, but analysts warn that Moscow’s forces are regrouping and preparing for a siege in the east. Meanwhile, shelling across the country continues to claim lives and destroy infrastructure. On Friday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, warned of a “new, long phase of the war.”

Here are updates from key battlegrounds:

Kharkiv: Ukrainian forces have mounted an effective counterattack in the area around this northeastern city, pushing Russian troops to withdraw, but shelling continues. In Derhachi, two people died and four were wounded after shelling damaged a humanitarian organization, a registry office, part of a clinic and an ambulance building, Kharkiv’s governor Oleg Synegubov said Friday on Telegram.

Luhansk: West of Severodonetsk, a Russian battalion crossing the Donets river was decimated after Ukrainian forces blew up the river’s pontoon bridges this week, the British defense ministry confirmed Friday. It is not clear how many Russian soldiers died.

Donetsk: Russian strikes killed one civilian and injured a dozen others, the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said Friday. In the center of Donetsk, a stronghold for Russian occupying forces, invading forces have shelled the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, the largest coke producer in Ukraine.

Mariupol: In the Russian-held port city, occupying forces continue bombing the Azovstal steel plant, where the last holdouts from the Ukraine army have sheltered. Ukrainian officials say they are negotiating with the Russians to release more than three dozen wounded fighters.

By: Reis Thebault and Meryl Kornfield

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