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Ukraine live briefing: Russian missile strike wrecks Dnipro hospital, Zelensky says; Kyiv faces barrage

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/26/2023 Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, Isobel Koshiw

A Russian missile strike wrecked a hospital in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement. Rescue operations were ongoing, he added, and emergency services were at the scene. The strike killed at least two people and injured 30, including two children, Dnipro regional governor Serhi Lysak said on Telegram. He said the three-story hospital was partially destroyed, with flames engulfing a neighboring building.

Ukraine’s capital also faced a barrage of missile strikes early Friday — the 13th such attack since the start of May — regional officials said. No casualties or hits were recorded, according to a statement from Kyiv’s new regional governor, Ruslan Kravchenko.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Key developments

  • Zelensky condemned the hospital attack, saying it showed how Russian “terrorists” were willing to attack “everything humane and honest.” Dnipro was considered a relatively safe region at the start of the war but has since been targeted by Russia. An attack on a residential building there in January killed at least 46 people. A coalition of human rights and health-care groups has reported more than 700 attacks on hospitals, health workers and medical infrastructure in Ukraine since the war began.
  • The Ukrainian defense ministry’s military intelligence service alleged that Russia was planning a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in a Telegram post Friday. The service, known as the HUR, wrote on Telegram that after the attack, Russia “will announce the leakage of the radioactive substances. They obviously will blame Ukraine.” In dueling statements, both sides accused the other of disrupting a Friday monitoring mission by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. The U.N. Security Council plans to meet Tuesday to discuss plans to secure the safety of the power plant.
  • Lawyers for U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich on Friday appealed a Moscow court’s decision earlier this week to extend his pretrial detention by three months. He was arrested in March on accusations of spying that he, rights groups and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, strenuously deny. The United States considers him “wrongfully detained.” Kremlin-backed news agency RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian official on Friday threatening the Wall Street Journal. The paper should change the tune of its Russia coverage if its editors are “interested in the fate of Gershkovich,” the official reportedly said.
  • U.S. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Friday that he had visited Kyiv to meet with Zelensky, as well as Kyiv’s mayor and Ukrainian defense officials. “It is clear to me that the Russians have been bloodied and weakened,” Graham tweeted. “We must provide cluster munitions and additional long-range artillery to make the counteroffensive a success.”
  • European nations led by Denmark and the Netherlands have agreed to form a coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16 pilot training and maintenance, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He said the United States will also take part in the training program to be held in Europe. The Biden administration last week removed restrictions prohibiting countries from supplying Ukraine with American-made F-16s, though U.S. officials reiterated that Washington would not be sending its own.
  • The war could go on for “decades,” said outspoken Kremlin supporter Dmitry Medvedev. The former Russian prime minister and president told state media Friday: “This conflict is for a long time, for decades, maybe. It is a new reality, new living conditions.” He is a staunch critic of Kyiv’s leadership and has dismissed peace negotiations, predicting instead that there could be “three years of truce, two years of conflict and then everything will go over again.”
  • Japan announced new economic sanctions Friday on Russia. The announcement followed a Group of Seven summit that Japan hosted last week and that was attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Japan’s Foreign Ministry said it would freeze assets of 78 Russian groups and 17 individuals, including army officials, and ban exports to 80 Russian entities, Reuters reported.
  • Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement allowing for the storage of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Thursday news briefing that Washington does not see any indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons, but she called it another example of Moscow “making irresponsible and provocative choices.”

Battleground updates

  • Ukraine’s interior minister said the country is preparing legislation to punish Ukrainian men eligible for military service who have left the country illegally, local media reported. Ukraine declared a state of war after Russia’s invasion in February last year, barring men ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country unless they hold an exemption from military service.
  • Russia is experiencing a “proliferation” of paramilitary groups, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry. The groups are not part of the country’s “regular armed forces,” it said Friday, although most have been given “some semiofficial status as reserve units of the regular army.” The ministry added, “This ‘paramilitarisation’ has dramatically accelerated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is particularly important in the Crimean Peninsula.”
  • Wagner Group mercenaries began handing over their positions in the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to Russia’s regular military. The group’s head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, said in a video Thursday that “most of the [Wagner] units will rebase to camps in the rear” by June 1. The Washington Post could not verify the statement.
  • Explosions were reported in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar early Friday. Regional governor Veniamin Kondratiev said the central area was attacked by two drones but that no causalities were reported. He said an office building and a house were damaged and that the incident is being investigated.
  • The Shebekinsky city district in Russia was under fire Friday, the governor of Belgorod said on Telegram. One person was injured; several homes, cars and pieces of gas and electrical infrastructure were damaged as well.
  • Ukraine’s air force said it destroyed 10 cruise missiles and 23 Iranian Shahed drones overnight, mostly in the eastern Kharkiv and Dnipro regions. The Washington Post could not independently verify these claims. The regional governor of Kyiv said air defenses destroyed an unspecified number of incoming Russian missiles but that seven homes in the region were slightly damaged by falling debris.
A rescuer works at a site of a hospital destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine, May 26, 2023. © Reuters A rescuer works at a site of a hospital destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine, May 26, 2023.

Global impact

  • National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that the United States does not want Ukraine using American-made equipment to attack Russia on Russian soil. “We’ve made it very clear to the Ukrainians what our expectations are,” he said in an interview with CNN. The U.S. military is trying to determine whether anti-government Russians used U.S. military materiel in a cross-border attack from Ukraine into Russia earlier this week.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Sweden, Norway and Finland to discuss the war in Ukraine, among other subjects. The trip will go from May 29 to June 2.
  • The European Union will suspend restrictions on Ukrainian imports until June 2024, renewing a policy that the E.U. said demonstrates “unwavering political and economic support for Ukraine.” The move comes after farmers in E.U. countries protested the low prices of Ukrainian imports, which they said were threatening local agriculture.
  • A Russian blogger said he was fired after an interview with Wagner’s leader calling out Moscow’s invasion and warning of a revolution in Russia, The Post reported. The blogger, Konstantin Dolgov, worked for the Telega Online video project, an alternative to YouTube. The video was deleted from the channel.

From our correspondents

Sunny weather in southern Ukraine suggests new fighting season has begun: Spring has finally sprung in southern Ukraine. And with temperatures hitting a high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend, expectations of a long-awaited counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces are in full bloom, Adam Taylor and Anastacia Galouchka report.

A Ukrainian soldier on an armored vehicle holds up an ice cream cone, in the Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post) A Ukrainian soldier on an armored vehicle holds up an ice cream cone, in the Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

Conditions are nearly optimal for the much-anticipated counterattack, which Zelensky and others have described as a make-or-break chance to show Western backers that Ukraine is capable of taking back its land. Although there have not yet been any dramatic troop movements, the counteroffensive may already be underway — quietly.

Amar Nadhir contributed to this report.


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