Live Updates | Putin sends message to Moscow-backed rebels

In a congratulatory message to the self-proclaimed leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s determination to seize separatist-held territory from Ukraine.

Russia has supported separatists for years and recognized their independence on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine.

“I am confident that through our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Luhansk Republic,” Putin said in a Kremlin statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the leader of Luhansk’s self-proclaimed republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said on Thursday that it would never return to Ukrainian control and that most of its residents wanted it to become part of Russia.

Russian immigration authorities also reported that 15,000 people entered Russia’s Rostov region from Ukraine’s Donbas region in 24 hours, according to Russian state news agency TASS. This figure cannot be verified, and the situation at the border crossing is unclear.


The main developments of the Russian-Ukrainian war:

– Ukraine proposes prisoner exchange for wounded Mariupol fighters

– Fast Senate confirms House passage of $40B aid to Ukraine

– Wife of Mariupol defender to Pope: “You are our last hope”

– Giving birth in wartime amid air raid sirens in Ukrainian hospital

– Follow all AP coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine at


Other developments:

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian forces are continuing their airstrikes on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and advancing towards towns in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said.

Russian troops also fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops in the direction of Zaporozhye, an area that has been a haven for civilians fleeing Mariupol, the Ukrainian military general staff said in a statement of operations on the 78th day of the war. Place.

It did not detail the latest actions surrounding Azovstal.

Russian troops also opened fire on Ukrainian forces north of the northeastern city of Kharkiv, the military said, and reported Russian attacks in the northern Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, the site of ongoing fighting since the start of the war, the Ukrainian military noted that the Russian advance was “partially successful”. It said Ukrainian forces repelled nine Russian attacks and destroyed several drones and military vehicles. This information cannot be independently verified.


Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian troops have blocked all evacuation routes in the city, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol said Wednesday.

Consultant Petro Andriushchenko said after weeks of bombing, there were few habitable apartment buildings and little food or drinking water.

Andriushchenko said some residents who remained in the city were cooperating with the Russian occupying forces in exchange for food.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereschuk said Ukraine had offered to release Russian prisoners of war if Russia allowed the evacuation of seriously wounded fighters from the Mariupol steel plant.

Russian troops surrounded the factory, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city.

Vereshchuk said no deal has been reached, but talks are ongoing. The fighters trapped in the factory refused to surrender to the Russians, saying they feared being tortured or killed.


WASHINGTON — U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said a ban on the sale of semiconductors and other technology to Russia by the United States and its allies had serious implications for Russia’s ability to make military equipment.

“We had reports from Ukrainians that when they found Russian equipment, military equipment on the ground, they were full of semiconductors that they had taken from dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. She added that she had met with the Ukrainian prime minister a few weeks ago.

Two tank factories in Russia have closed, and many automakers have furloughed workers and closed, Raimondo said.

“So the point is, we’re having a very serious impact,” she said. “In order to continue this, what we need to do is enforce, enforce, enforce.”

Raimondo said U.S. technology exports to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 percent since late February when the Biden administration coordinated with European and Asian allies to impose sanctions and export controls on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.


WASHINGTON — The final approval of a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill by Congress appears to be assured within days, according to some lawmakers.

Senior Senate Republicans said on Wednesday they expected Republicans to strongly support the House-passed bill. It would mark a stronger bipartisan commitment to helping thwart Russia’s bloody invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly video address Wednesday that funding from the aid bill would allow Ukraine to obtain more weapons and equipment and help investigate Russian war crimes.

The bill would also help regional allies, replenish the Pentagon’s arms shipments overseas, and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages as the war disrupted Ukraine’s often-robust production of many crops.

The new measures include $6 billion to arm and train Ukrainian troops, $8.7 billion to restore U.S. arms stockpiles destined for Ukraine, and $3.9 billion to deploy U.S. troops to the region.

Also provided $8.8 billion in economic support for Ukraine, $4 billion to help Ukraine and allies buy weapons and equipment, and $900 million to provide housing, education, and other assistance for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.


BERLIN – After Russia occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the plant has once again received remote data from Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the United Nations nuclear energy agency said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said late Wednesday that its inspectors and technicians re-established the data transfer following a visit in April by Russian troops.

The agency said it was the first time in two months that it had received remote data from all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage facilities, which have monitoring systems in place.

Its head, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said it was “a very important step for the IAEA to continue implementing safeguards in Ukraine”.

However, Grossi warned that the on-site verification of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant “continues to face challenges due to the presence of Russian military and Roscosmos personnel on site,” calling the situation “unsustainable.”

Grossi said he proposed to lead an expert visit to Zaporozhye “as soon as possible after the necessary consultations”.


MOSCOW — At least one civilian was killed and six others were injured when Ukraine shelled a village near the border, the governor of a Russian region near Ukraine said.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the village of Solokhi came under artillery fire from the Ukrainian side late Wednesday. Residents of the village will be evacuated, he said.

Gladkov’s account could not be independently verified. Russian authorities in the vicinity of Ukraine have repeatedly reported incidents of Ukrainian shelling along the border.


Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign ministry has accused Russia of stealing the country’s grain and trying to sell some of it on the global market.

The theft of Ukrainian grain amounts to robbery, the ministry said in comments on Wednesday.

It warned countries buying Russian grain that some of its shipments could contain grain stolen from Ukraine, making its buyers potentially complicit.

Citing official estimates, the ministry indicated that Russia may have stolen 400,000-500,000 metric tons of grain, worth more than $100 million. It alleges that “nearly all the ships that left Sevastopol with grain were carrying grain stolen from Ukraine.”

It urged the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia.


TURIN, Italy — A Ukrainian band participating in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest rallied with dozens of compatriots in a Turin park to show solidarity with their war-torn homeland.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s game, the Karush Orchestra took a group photo with about 50 Ukrainians living in Italy.

Every participant in the rally put their hands on their hearts to show their loyalty to Ukraine.

This week the Kalush Orchestra is one of the finalists for the popular annual European song festival, the winner of which will be decided on Saturday.

Ukrainians rallied behind a stage, and a number of musical groups from 35 countries gave free concerts every night between actual competitions.

Kalush Orchestra’s upbeat entry to the competition was a song written by the band’s lead singer as a tribute to his mother.

But the song “Stefania” has been turned into a national anthem dedicated to Ukraine, which was invaded by its powerful neighbor Russia on February 24.

The song quickly became an emotional favorite among many Eurovision fans.

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