Biden declares Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ during address in Poland; Russian missile reportedly hits Lviv: Live updates – USA TODAY

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In a sweeping and forceful speech concluding a four-day trip to Europe, President Joe Biden cast the war in Ukraine on Saturday as part of an ongoing battle for freedom and ended with a blunt call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be stopped.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, in his strongest comments to date about his desire to see Putin gone.

Shortly after the speech, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity said Biden was not calling for Putin to be removed from office.

“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” the official said. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that “it’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”

“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Peskov said. 

Biden’s remarks came just a few hours after he bluntly described the Russian leader as “a butcher” while meeting with Ukrainian refugees who had fled to Poland to escape the war in their homeland.

Biden appealed to ordinary Russians, first telling them – “if you’re able to listen” – that “you … are not our enemy.”

Biden spoke in the packed courtyard of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, where American and Polish flags fluttered in the background and the building was bathed in white, red, blue and yellow lights, the colors of Poland and Ukraine.

He said what Russians experienced at the hands of invaders in World War II is exactly what is happening to Ukrainians by the Russian military.

“These are not the actions of a great nation,” Biden said of the bombings of hospitals, schools and maternity wards. “This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.”

Biden said Putin’s aggressions have cut his people off from the rest of the world and taken Russia back to the 19th century.

But Biden promised that the United States “will stand with you and the brave people of Ukraine who want peace.”

Biden’s speech was delivered hours after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda during a historic visit Saturday where the allies presented a united front against Russian aggression and reaffirmed their commitment to the NATO alliance.

The U.S. considers its commitment to defend other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “a sacred obligation,” Biden told Duda during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.

Biden later met with Ukrainian refugees, including children who asked him to “say a prayer for my dad or my grandfather or my brother. He’s back there fighting.”

Biden’s visit comes as Moscow appears to be recalibrating its military strategies in Ukraine, even as several media outlets reported a Russian missile struck a fuel depot in the western Ukraine city of Lviv which has largely escaped the devastation other parts of the nation have suffered.

Russia’s military goals in Ukraine have been hazy since it began its invasion more than a month ago, and new statements suggest Moscow may consider claiming victory without completely overthrowing the Ukrainian government or capturing Kyiv. 

Western analysts and leaders were skeptical of the Friday statements, where the deputy chief of the Russian general staff said his forces had largely achieved the “main objectives” of a first phase of the conflict. The power of the Ukrainian military has been  “considerably reduced,” freeing up troops to “focus on the main efforts to achieve the main goal, liberation of Donbas,” said Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi.

The implications of the statement are difficult to determine, according to Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who has studied U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“It’s plausible that they’re basically trying to ratchet their perceived war aims down to something they’ve already accomplished,” he said.

Before the invasion, portions of the Donbas in southeastern Ukraine were already controlled by Russian-backed forces. 

Similarly skeptical, French President Emmanuel Macron said “it’s too soon to say” whether the Russians have changed their approach.

But what does appear clear: In the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, the progress of Russian forces has largely stalled. Kyiv — while battered — remains under the control of the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis caused by the war continues. A Russian airstrike last week on a Mariupol theater that was being used as a shelter killed about 300 people, Ukrainian authorities said Friday. That would make it the deadliest known attack on civilians in the war yet.

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Latest developments

►In remarks from Warsaw, President Joe Biden slammed Russian President Vladimir  Putin as a “butcher” for the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and said the West “has never been sronger.” Earlier, he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The two NATO allies reaffirmed their commitment to each other against Russian aggression. Poland has been on the front lines of the refugee crisis, having accepted some 2 million Ukrainians fleeing the war.

►Several media outlets reported that the western city of Lviv, largely spared from the bombardments in other parts of the nation was struck by a Russian missile Saturday. The mayor of the city says one of the targets was a fuel depot.

►The U.N. human rights office said it has been challenging to confirm fatalities in Mariupol given the organization’s strict methodology for counting the number of civilian deaths in conflict. The office says at least 1,035 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,650 injured, but acknowledges that is an undercount.

► The governor of the Kyiv region says that Russian forces have entered the city of Slavutych in northern Ukraine and seized a hospital there.

► Britain has seized two jet aircraft belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler as Western governments put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin by targeting the luxury lifestyles of his closest supporters. The Times of London described the aircraft as a $45 million Bombardier Global 6500 and a $13 million Cessna Citation Latitude.

Kremlin responds to Biden’s condemnation of Putin

A spokesperson for the Kremlin on Saturday said President Joe Biden’s statement that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” was “extremely negative” for U.S. relations with Russia.

“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press. “And of course it is unbecoming for the president of the U.S. to make such statements.”

The White House walked back Biden’s initial statements in Poland, claiming the president was not endorsing regime change, but meant that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”

Peskov said that with Biden’s statements, he was “narrowing the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current administration.”

US giving $100 million for civilian security assistance in Ukraine

The U.S. will give Ukraine an additional $100 million in civilian security assistance, the State Department announced Saturday.

The funding will help pay for field gear, medical supplies, armored vehicles and other equipment for Ukraine’s police and border guards.

Ukrainian law enforcement officers are playing a key role in rescuing civilians, protecting convoys of fleeing refugees and providing security to civilian areas torn apart by Russia’s invasion, according to the State Department.

The administration repeated past warnings that it is helping document war crimes so those responsible can be held accountable.

– Maureen Groppe

Biden: Autocracy ‘no match’ for liberty

President Joe Biden said he arrived in Europe with a message for NATO, the European Union and all freedom-loving nations: “We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul.”

“We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after and for the years and decades to come,” he said.

“It will not be easy. There will be cost, but it’s a price we have to pay Because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty.”

– Michael Collins

Biden to Russians: ‘These are not the actions of a great nation’

Biden appealed to ordinary Russians, first telling them – “if you’re able to listen” – that “you … are not our enemy.”

The president said what they experienced at the hands of invaders in World War II is exactly what is happening to Ukrainians by the Russian military.

“These are not the actions of a great nation,” Biden said of the bombings of hospitals, schools and maternity wards. “This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.”

Biden said Putin’s aggressions have cut his people off from the rest of the world and taken Russia back to the 19th century.

But Biden promised that the United States “will stand with you and the brave people of Ukraine who want peace.”

“For God’s sake,” Biden said at the end of his speech, Putin “cannot remain in power.”

– Maureen Groppe

Biden: War in Ukraine ‘strategic failure’ for Putin

President Joe Biden said Saturday the war in Ukraine has been “a strategic failure” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin thought Ukrainians would “roll over and not fight,” Biden said.

“Instead, Russian forces have met their match with brave and stiff Ukrainian resistance,” he said.

Russia’s actions have also strengthened NATO’s resolve instead of pulling the alliance apart, Biden said.

“The west is now stronger, more united than it has ever been,” he said.

– Michael Collins

Biden: The ruble is turning into rubble

Biden said the sanctions imposed on Russia are having an impact.

“The ruble has almost immediately reduced to rubble,” he said.

More: ‘It will be a lot harder on people.’ How sanctions will impact ordinary Russians

Russia’s economy is on track to be cut in half in the coming years and will no longer be among the 20 largest, he predicted.

That’s sapping Russia’s strength and ability to reject power, Biden continued.

“It is Vladimir Putin who is to blame. Period,” he said.

— Maureen Groppe

Biden warns against ‘forces of autocracy’

President Joe Biden warned Saturday that the battle for democracy did not end with the Cold War.

“Over the last 30 years, the forces of autocracy have lived all across the globe,” Biden said in remarks from the steps of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland.

Today, Russia has “strangled” democracy, and Vladimir Putin has sought to do so elsewhere – not only in his homeland but by invalidating neighboring nations, Biden said.

“Let us resolve to put the strength of democracies into action to thwart the designs of autocracy,” he said. “Let us remember that the test of this moment is the test of all time.”

– Michael Collins

Biden to Ukraine: ‘We stand with you. Period.’

Biden praised the brave resistance of Ukrainians and said he was there to deliver a message.

“We stand with you. Period,” Biden said.

Biden spoke in the packed courtyard of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland where American and Polish flags waved in the background. When the president said he suspected Ukrainians were in the audience, a cheer went up.

Biden said Ukrainians’ resistance is part of a larger fight for essential democratic principles. Those principles, he said, have always been under siege and every generation has to had to fight democracy’s mortal foes.

– Maureen Groppe

Biden in Warsaw: ‘Be not afraid’

In remarks concluding his four-day trip to Europe, President Joe Biden stood on the steps of the Royal Castle in Warsaw on Saturday and recalled the words of Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid.”

The White House billed Biden’s speech as a major address in which he would address efforts of the free world to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine.

“In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed,” Biden said. “This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.”

– Michael Collins and Maureen Groppe

Russian missile strikes Lviv fuel depot

LVIV, Ukraine — Air raid sirens sounded Saturday afternoon in the western city of Lviv, and governor of the region Maxym Kozytsky reported “three powerful explosions near Lviv” without giving details of what was hit. Footage shot by The Associated Press showed thick plumes of smoke rising above the city.

The mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadoviy, tweeted that one of missiles struck an industrial area that include a fuel storage depot, but that there was no indication residences were hit.

“All emergency services are working on the location,” he tweeted. “Please stay in the shelters until the air alarm goes off.”

Lviv, a city of over 700,000 roughly 70 kilometers (43 miles) east of Ukraine’s border with Poland, has been largely spared from major Russian attacks in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, the Russian forces fired missiles on a military training center near Lviv, which at the time was the most westward target, and killed 35 people.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Lviv has become a safe harbor for some 200,000 displaced Ukrainians.

The explosions Saturday came as U.S. President Joe Biden was wrapping up a visit to neighboring NATO ally Poland in which he told Poland’s president that “ your freedom is ours.”

– Associated Press

Biden on Ukrainian refugees: ‘You just want to hug them’

President Joe Biden got a glimpse of the human toll of the war in Ukraine on Saturday when he visited with a group of Ukrainian refugees whose resilience he said demonstrated “the depth and strength of the human spirit.”

“They’re an amazing group of people,” he said.

Biden mingled for several minutes with refugees and humanitarian officials who are providing assistance to them at a national stadium in Warsaw. The stadium serves as a processing center where refugees are issued identification cards allowing them to work, live, go to school and get social benefits.

Biden stopped in a courtyard that is serving as a distribution site for the World Central Kitchen, the non-profit organization founded by Chef José Andrés. The group has set up a mobile kitchen and is providing hot meals to the refugees.

Biden chatted briefly with Andrés before walking over to a corner where families were gathered around tables with plates of hamburgers, fries, sausages and other food. Wearing a face mask and accompanied by an interpreter, the president picked up a small girl wearing a pink jacket and held her in his arms for several minutes.

“It’s so incredible to see all of those little children,” Biden told reporters. “You just want to hug them.”

Biden said each of the children he spoke with asked him to “say a prayer for my dad or my grandfather or my brother. He’s back there fighting.”

“I remember what it’s like when you have someone in a war zone,” said Biden, whose late son, Beau, was a veteran of the war in Iraq. “Every morning, you get up and you wonder. You just pray you don’t get that phone call.”

Asked what his visit with the refugees made him think of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden responded: “He’s a butcher.”

– Michael Collins

Biden stresses ‘sacred obligation’ to defend NATO allies

President Joe Biden sought Saturday to reassure Poland that the U.S. would come to its defense if it should come under attack by Russia in an escalation of the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. considers its commitment to defend other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “a sacred obligation,” Biden told Polish President Andrzej Duda during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.

“You can count on that,” Biden said.

The U.S. has sent thousands of forces to Poland to shore up NATO’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden visited with members of the 82nd Airborne Division on Friday during a stop in Rzeszów, Poland, about 60 miles from the border of Ukraine.

In Warsaw, Biden and Duda sat across from each other at a long table beneath a crystal chandelier as the two leaders prepared to discuss the humanitarian crisis sparked by the month-old war. More than 2 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland to escape the war.

Speaking in Polish, Duda said Biden’s visit strengthened the bond between the two countries.

Russia’s invasion has created “a huge tragedy” for the Ukrainian people and “a great sense of threat” for the Polish people, Duda said.

“We know what Russian imperialism stands for, and we know what it means to be attacked by Russian armed forces,” Duda said.

Biden stressed that stability in Europe “is critically important to the United States” and said the most important criterion is that NATO stay “absolutely, completely, thoroughly united” and that there be “no separation in our points of view.”

– Michael Collins

Ukraine official: Russia destroyed 4,500 houses, 400 educational institutions

During a briefing at the Ukraine Media Center, Ukraine’s development minister said Russian forces have destroyed about 4,500 houses and almost 400 education institutions since the war began last month, according to the Ukrainian news outlet Pravda. 

“These figures are growing every day, and perhaps every hour,” said Oleksiy Chernyshov, Ukraine’s minister of development of communities and territories, according to the report. “At this time, when we say the bombing is going on, people are dying, infrastructure is being destroyed.”  

He added that about 100 factories and enterprises and 150 health care facilities were also destroyed and noted that not all damage can be assessed until the conflict has ceased.

The price tag on the damage could reach “tens of billions” of dollars, he said. 

– Ella Lee

European nuclear group severing ties with Russia and Belarus

The European Council for Nuclear Research is suspending work in Belarus and Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday the 23 member states of CERN Council agreed to halt all events in Russia and Belarus and all scientists in all scientific committees of institutions in Russia and Belarus.

In the announcement Friday, the CERN Council said the restrictions were agreed upon and implemented in an act of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Earlier this month, the CERN Council condemned the military invasion and agreed not to engage in new collaborations with Russia. At the council’s June session the group said they will consider more sanctions on Russia and Belarus.

– Ana Faguy

Biden arrives for meeting with Duda

With pomp and fanfare, President Joe Biden arrived at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Saturday for a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on how allies are responding to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Biden’s limousine pulled into the palace courtyard shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time.

Duda greeted the president as he stepped out of the car. The two chatted briefly, shook hands with a line of dignitaries and then participated in a formal arrival ceremony that included the playing of each country’s national anthem and a military procession.

– Michael Collins

Holocaust memorial damaged by Russian forces

Russian invaders fired on and damaged Drobytsky Yar, a Holocaust Memorial outside Kharkiv.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense announced the attack on the memorial, which first opened in 2002, via Twitter.

“The Nazis have returned,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense tweeted. “Exactly 80 years later.”

The memorial was created in honor of the 16,000 people killed after Nazi troops invaded the town in 1941.

-Ana Faguy

Ukraine: Women perform significant role in military resistance to Russia

Women make up 15% of Ukraine’s military, with nearly 7,000 women serving in its Air Force alone, a top Ukrainian official said Saturday. Ukraine’s military has 250,000 active-duty troops.

“Women are the heart of the resilience of local communities,” People’s Deputy Lesia Vasylenko said in a tweet. “Heroic mothers and their inspiring daughters. This is the (Ukrainian) resistance.”

The figure is on par with other nations worldwide, many of which have significantly larger militaries. 

About 16.5% of the active-duty U.S. military are women, according to a 2020 Government Accountability Office report. Some branches of the military are more gender diverse than others – roughly 21% of the Air Force is comprised of women compared to 9% of Marines – a 2021 Department of Defense report shows.

About 11% of the United Kingdom Regular Armed Forces are women, according to a 2021 report. The Center for Strategic & International Studies calculated that roughly 4% of the Russian military was women in 2020. The percentage of women in the other reporting NATO nations’ militaries range from 0.3% (Turkey) to 20% (Hungary), a 2020 NATO report shows. 

– Ella Lee

Russia conducted 60 cyberattacks against Ukraine, information protection agency says

Ukraine’s information protection agency on Friday said that, between March 15-22, Russia conducted 60 cyberattacks against the nation’s “critical infrastructure and government organizations,” but that most were limited in impact.

“The number of attacks is growing, but most of them are unsuccessful,” Viktor Zhora, deputy head of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communication and Protection of Information, said in a March 23 briefing, according to the agency’s Telegram post. “Even those that are successful do not affect the operation of critical information infrastructure.”

Zhora added that the current activity is less serious than the activity tracked by the agency earlier this year. 

– Ella Lee

Russian troops enter city of Slavutych, seize hospital

LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of the Kyiv region says that Russian forces have entered the city of Slavutych and seized a hospital there.

Slavutych is located north of Kyiv and west of Chernihiv, outside the exclusion zone that was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 disaster. It is home to workers at the Chernobyl site.

Governor Oleksandr Pavlyuk said Saturday that the Russians also kidnapped the city’s mayor, but some media reported later in the day that the mayor was released swiftly. Neither claim could be verified independently .

The governor said that residents of Slavutych took to the streets with Ukrainian flags to protest the Russian invasion.

“The Russians opened fire into the air. They threw flash-bang grenades into the crowd. But the residents did not disperse, on the contrary, more of them showed up,” Pavlyuk said.

– Associated Press

Death toll of children reaches 136

In the month since the Russian invasion began, 136 children have been killed.

Reuters reported that 64 of the children were killed in the Kyiv region and 50 were killed in the Donetsk region. An additional 199 children have been wounded.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Thursday, the civilian death toll in Ukraine has exceeded 1,000 since the start of the war.

– Ana Faguy

Top Ukrainian officials to attend Biden speech in Warsaw

A pair of top Ukrainian officials will be on hand in Warsaw Saturday when President Joe Biden delivers a speech on holding Russia accountable for its month-long war against Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a message on Twitter that he and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will attend the president’s address.

Biden started the final day of his four-day trip to Europe by dropping by a meeting between Reznikov and Kuleba and their U.S. counterparts – Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Reznikov tweeted a photo of the meeting – sans Biden – and said they were discussing “current issues & cooperation in political & defense directions.”

“In the evening we’ll also be present at @POTUS speech on the Russian war against Ukraine,” Reznikov wrote.

Biden will deliver his remarks at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

– Michael Collins

100,000-plus flee Ukraine on Friday

More than 100,00 people left Ukraine Friday, the State Border Guard Service Ukraine said.

Two-thirds of those who left crossed Ukraine’s western borders with EU countries as well as Moldova. The State Border Guard Service estimated 45,000 left Friday night alone.

Meanwhile, many men are returning to Ukraine to defend the country, the Ukrainian government said. 21,000 people arrived in Ukraine Friday night. The State Border Guard Service said more than 420,000 Ukrainians have returned since Russia first invaded.

The United Nations estimates that 10 million people have fled Ukraine since the conflict began last month. Friday’s flow of refugees was significantly higher than in recent days. On Wednesday, about 43,000 fled and around 62,000 fled Thursday, according to government figures.

– Ana Faguy

Ukraine president Zelenskyy makes surprise appearance at Doha Forum

DOHA, Qatar — Ukraine’s president made a surprise video appearance Saturday at Qatar’s Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich nation and others to boost their production to counteract the loss of Russian energy supplies.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid, as he has in a series of other addresses given around the world since the start of the war Feb. 24. He compared Russia’s destruction of the port city of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction wrought on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war.

“They are destroying our ports,” Zelenskyy said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”

The loss of Ukrainian wheat already has worried Mideast nations like Egypt, which relies on those exports.

Zelenskyy called on countries to increase their exports of energy — something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas.

Zelenskyy criticized Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons, raising the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield.

“Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet,” Zelenskyy said.

He also noted that Muslims in Ukraine would have to fight during the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“We have to ensure this sacred month of Ramadan is not overshadowed by the misery of people in Ukraine,” he said.

– Associated Press

President Biden to meet with refugees, deliver speech

President Joe Biden on Saturday will cap his European trip talking to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and delivering a speech on holding Russia accountable for its invasion and upholding democratic values.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, previewed Biden’s remarks as a major address that will “speak to the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression.”

Biden will also put the war in historical context and describe where he sees it going from here, Sullivan said.

Before delivering those remarks at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace

“The suffering that is taking place now is at your doorstep,” Biden told Duda on Friday at a meeting in Rzeszów, where the influx of refugees is the largest. “You’re the ones who are risking, in some cases, your lives and risking all you know to try to help. And the American people are proud to support your efforts.”

On Thursday, Biden announced the U.S. will take in up to 100,000 Ukrainians and provide more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.

Poland has taken in more than 2 million refugees, and the numbers continue to grow.

“We have never experienced anything like that throughout our history,” Duda told Biden.

On Saturday, Biden will meet with refugees at the National Stadium in Warsaw. The stadium is a processing center where refugees are issued identification cards allowing them to work, live, go to school and get social benefits.

“I’m here in Poland to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis,” Biden said Friday, expressing his disappointment that he can’t cross the border into Ukraine for security reasons.

Biden has been in Europe since Wednesday, meeting with NATO allies and other European and world leaders. 

The U.S. and its allies announced new sanctions on Russia, additional help for Ukraine, and discussed beefing up force presence in Eastern Europe in the near and longer-term.

– Maureen Groppe

 UK sees Russians reluctant to enter urban war

LONDON — Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.

A daily update says Russian forces are proving reluctant to engage in large scale urban infantry operations, rather preferring to rely on the indiscriminate use of air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to demoralize defending forces.

The assessment says it is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.

– Associated Press

Zelenskyy: Ukraine will not cede territory to end Russian invasion 

Zelenskyy has again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but says Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

In his nightly video address to the nation Friday, Zelenskyy appeared to be responding to Col. Gen Sergei Rudskoi, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, who said Russian forces would now focus on “the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.”

Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2014, and Russian forces have been battling to seize more of the region from Ukraine, including the besieged city of Mariupol.

Rudskoi’s statement also was a suggestion that Russia may be backing away from trying to take Kyiv and other major cities where its offensive has stalled. Zelenskyy noted that Russian forces have lost thousands of troops but still haven’t been able to take Kyiv or Kharkiv, the second-largest city.

Ukraine destroys Russian vessel; Moscow taps troops in Georgia

Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian transport ship in the port city of Berdyansk that appeared to be on a resupply mission, a senior Defense official said Friday.

The attack on Thursday blew up a tank-landing ship at its pier, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments. The Russians have 22 warships in the Black Sea.

Russian combat power in Ukraine, which dipped below 90% for the first time this week, is now between 85% and 90%, the official said. For the first time, Russia appears to be drawing reinforcements from its troops based in Georgia. Combat power includes troops, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, warplanes, warships and ballistic missiles.

Russia has also drawn down its stockpile of precision-guided weapons and is relying more on so-called dumb bombs to bombard cities, the official said. Russia has used about 50% of its air-launched cruise missiles. Russia’s cruise missiles have at times failed to launch or hit their targets.

– Tom Vanden Brook

Poll shows Americans support Russian sanctions, think Biden should be tougher

A majority of Americans are supportive of the harsh sanctions on Russia but believe Biden needs to be tougher on the Kremlin after its invasion of Ukraine, according to a poll commissioned by the Associated Press and NORC released Thursday. 

The poll, which surveyed 1,082 U.S. adults from Thursday to Monday, found 56% of Americans believe Biden’s response to Russia hasn’t been tough enough, including a majority of 53% of Democrats. A very small percent, about 6%, said they thought Biden had been “too tough,” the poll shows. 

Across the board, Americans of both political parties were supportive of the harsh economic blows to Russia. The poll showed 68% were supportive of economic sanctions in general with 70% saying they supported the recent banning of oil imported from Russia, which in turn caused gas prices to rise. 

— Christal Hayes

Contributing: The Associated Press