Zelenskyy: only ‘diplomacy’ can end war – Ukraine live updates – USA TODAY

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Russia should be financially responsible for the destruction it has inflicted during its invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy contends.

Speaking on the third anniversary of his inauguration, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Friday that Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys.

Zelenskyy urged allies to seize Russian properties under their jurisdictions and use them to create a fund for the Ukrainian victims of the war.

“That would be fair,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia would feel the true weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell that it has fired at us.”

On Friday, a Russian strike destroyed a Ukrainian cultural center in Lozova, injuring seven people. Zelenskyy called the attack “absolute evil.”

“What is in the minds of people who choose such targets? Absolute evil, absolute stupidity,” he said.

A hidden horror of the Ukraine invasion:the sex trafficking of women and children

Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion: See where Russian forces are moving within Ukraine

Latest developments:

►Some 29,000 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to Ukraine in the last week, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.

►President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine after Congress OK’d the legislation earlier this week.

►Delegates from the United States and four other nations staged a walkout Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. 

►Russia cut off Finland’s supply of natural gas on Saturday after the Finns refused to pay for it in rubles. Company executives at Finland’s state-owned utility Gaum said the move wouldn’t create disruptions for customers during the summer.

►President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation providing $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine while traveling in Asia, according to Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser.

►The Group of Seven leading economies agreed Friday to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine to help keep tight finances from hindering its ability to defend itself from Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine established 2 new land routes for food exports, official says

Two new land routes to deliver food exports from Ukraine have been established, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Saturday.

“Russia puts millions of people at risk of hunger by blocking our ports,” Kuleba said. “Together with partners, Ukraine has established two alternative land routes to deliver food exports and save Africa and other regions from hunger. Russia must end its blockade to allow full and free export.”

Ukraine exported over $4 billion in goods to Africa in 2020, much of which was food, according to the International Political Sociology journal.

President Joe Biden said earlier this month in Kankakee, Ilinois, that America is fighting on “two fronts,” one of which is helping Ukrainians defend democracy and ensuring other nations don’t starve due to slowing exports of Ukrainian crops, according to CNN.

“If those tons don’t get to market, an awful lot of people in Africa are going to starve to death because they are the sole supplier of a number of African countries,” Biden said.

– Ella Lee

Topless woman storms film festival red carpet to protest rapes in Ukraine

A topless woman stormed the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet Friday to protest the alleged rapes of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers, according to reports.  

The words “stop raping us” were painted across her bare chest on top of Ukraine’s national colors, and red paint mimicking blood covered a white pair of underwear, Insider and the BBC reported.

Though the woman has not yet been identified, the French feminist group SCUM wrote on Twitter that she belongs to their group. They said she was there to “denounce the sexual violence inflicted on Ukrainian women in the context of the war.”

Ukraine’s official ombudswoman for human rights has received hundreds of reports of sexual violence, including rape, from women and girls since the war began.

– Ella Lee

A hidden horror of the Ukraine war: Sex trafficking of women and children

Russia bans more than 900 Americans, including Biden, Harris

More than 900 American public servants, researchers and activists have been permanently banned from entering Russia in response to the United States’ sanctions on the nation and its support for Ukraine.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday released a list of 963 Americans who can no longer enter the country. It includes President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a number of other current and former senior White House officials, like former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Affairs and a senior advisor to the president.

Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI who oversaw the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, was banned as well, plus a number of researchers and activists from groups like the Atlantic Council, the Wilson Center and the National Democratic Institute.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is also on the list. While at least 200 Republican lawmakers are listed, former President Donald Trump is not. 

– Ella Lee

Russia cuts off gas exports to Finland

Russia halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move that came just days after the Nordic country announced it wanted to join NATO and marked a likely end to Finland’s nearly 50 years of importing natural gas from Russia.

The measure taken by the Russian energy giant Gazprom was in line with an earlier announcement following Helsinki’s refusal to pay for the gas in rubles as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European countries do since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

– Jari Tanner, Associated Press

Ukraine received 29,000 tons of humanitarian aid last week, official says

Some 29,000 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to Ukraine in the last week, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.

The aid spanned from food, clothing and medicine to furniture, cars and generators, Tymoshekno said at a briefing Friday, later shared to his Telegram page.

The total aid imported to Ukraine amounts to about 360 thousand tons, he said. Kyiv, the nation’s capital, and the Lviv region have received the most aid.

– Ella Lee

Zelenskyy: Only ‘diplomacy’ can end war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes the war between Russia and Ukraine can be solved with diplomacy, despite stalled peace talks.

The conflict between the two nations “will be bloody,” Zelenskyy said, but “the end will definitely be in diplomacy.”

“I’m sure of that,” he added.

Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine paused Tuesday, with each side placing blame on the other, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy suggested reaching a peace agreement would be challenging because “we want to return everything, and the Russian Federation wants not to give everything – in other words, not to give anything.”

– Ella Lee

War in Ukraine is driving sex trafficking of women and children

Human trafficking, often in the form of commercially exploiting women and children for sex, is one of the largely hidden tragedies of Russia’s war in Ukraine, authorities and experts told USA TODAY.

The scope of the problem is unknown, in part due to the clandestine nature of sex trafficking and the unprecedented flow of people from Ukraine to as far away as Asia and the United States. But there has been a skyrocketing increase in all forms of illegal trafficking of women and girls in the region – and also boys – including forced sex and labor, prostitution, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, authorities and experts said.

“Collectively, the international community is starting to see indications that traffickers are preying on or attempting to prey on Ukrainians, and others that are fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine,” Kari Johnstone, the State Department’s top anti-human trafficking official, said in an exclusive interview. Read more here.

– Josh Meyer

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Ambassador hopes EU will release billions of euros to Poland

Ukraine’s ambassador to neighboring Poland says his nation is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainian refugees, but he hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that the assistance does not come “at the cost of the Polish people.”

Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia said that while there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, he worries they could appear in the future given the large extent of Polish help.

The government has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80% of them are being housed in private Polish homes. 

– Associated Press

Biden signs $40B Ukraine aid bill

President Joe Biden has signed a bill to provide $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine after Congress OK’d the legislation earlier in the week.

The Senate cleared the measure Thursday, to avoid a gap in funding. The final drawdown of $100 million of previously approved funding occurred Thursday, according to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.

The package includes more than $20 billion for the Pentagon to provide weapons, intelligence and training, and nearly $14 billion for the State Department for food aid, refugee assistance and other diplomatic programs.

Biden is on a trip through Asia, where he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and toured a Samsung facility.

– Sean Rossman, Bart Jansen and Merdie Nzanga

Biden in South Korea: US, South Korea could expand military exercises as deterrence to North Korea, leaders announce

US delegates stage walkout of Russian representative’s remarks

Delegates from the United States and four other nations staged a walkout Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in the Thai capital of Bangkok, officials said.

A Japanese official said Japan’s Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada walked out of the meeting to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A U.S. official in Bangkok confirmed the walkout but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is diplomatic sensitivity over speaking about the incident because the proceedings were held in closed session. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is representing Washington at the meeting.

– Associated Press

Russia claims it has full control of Mariupol steel mill

Russian officials on Friday claimed their forces have “completely liberated” the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces, in what would be its biggest victory yet in its war with Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia now has full control of Mariupol. 

The last 531 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to Russian forces on Friday, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti. A Russian state TV correspondent said on Telegram that among those surrendering Friday was Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment.

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Prokopenko said earlier Friday that the defenders of Mariupol received an order to “cease the defense of the city” in order to “save lives and health of the servicemen of the garrison.”

The Russian claims were not confirmed by Ukrainian officials.

Russia steps up attacks on key site in Donbas region

For weeks, Russian forces have been trying to seize Severodonetsk, a key site in the Donbas that’s outside the territory separatists have held for several years. They stepped up attacks there and in Lysychansk on Friday.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Friday that Russian forces now have control of 90% of the Severodonetsk region.

Three adults were killed in a Friday attack on a school where about 200 people, including many children, were taking shelter in Severodonetsk, Haidai said on Telegram. In another attack, 60 houses were destroyed and 12 people killed, Hadai said. But, Hadai also said that the “the Russians suffered personnel losses and retreated.”

Haidai said on Telegram that Russian forces “just want to destroy the city.”

‘We don’t want to live in Russia’: What now for Kherson, the first major city to fall in Ukraine?

Putin: Western cyberattacks against Russia ‘an outright aggression’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has faced a barrage of cyberattacks from the West amid the invasion of Ukraine but has successfully fended them off.

Speaking Friday to members of Russia’s Security Council, Putin noted that “the challenges in this area have become even more pressing, serious and extensive.”

He charged that “an outright aggression has been unleashed against Russia, a war has been waged in the information space.”

Putin added that “the cyber-aggression against us, the same as the attack on Russia by sanctions in general, has failed.”

He ordered officials to “perfect and enhance the mechanisms of ensuring information security at critically important industrial facilities which have a direct bearing on our country’s defensive capability, and the stable development of the economic and social spheres.”

Contributing: The Associated Press